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no one but you (got me feeling this way)

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They arrive at Krypton late in the afternoon.

 

Lena awakens from her nap to the feel of gentle fingers running through her hair, and she blearily looks up at Kara’s smiling face.

“Hey, sleepyhead,” comes Kara’s honey-sweet voice, “come on up.”

Sleep still covers Lena’s mind like a film, and thinking past Kara’s warmth against her feels like wading across a stream, but she does as she’s told. She sits up, rubs at her eyes as if to remove the traces of slumber. “Are we there yet?”

Kara’s smile grows even wider, and that alone is enough to shock Lena’s system into functioning condition—she’s sure that even if she were on the brink of death itself, Kara’s smile would have been more than enough to revive her. “Yes,” Kara answers, coating the word with so clear a cheerfulness that it bleeds right into Lena’s skin, settling softly like a love-worn blanket, “we’re here.”

 

And Kara need not say the unspoken words, for Lena can hear them as clear as day:

 

This is home.

 

                                                               

 

It has been about a month, and Lena has yet to meet her roommate. They exchange notes here and there, and she gleans a certain cheerfulness in the girl’s personality, if her words and doodles are any indication. It will doubtless make things . . . interesting.

See, Lena is not someone people call friendly. She has been called emotionless, aloof, and icy—and those are the more polite words associated with her. It’s not really a surprise, nor is it something that bothers her, at least not anymore. It’s just something that she’s come to expect. She is a Luthor, after all, and that means presenting an unerring façade of indifference to the world. She’s learned not to flinch when she hears people whisper about her nor to display any sort of weakness under any circumstances.

She’s not someone with a lot of friends, either, and that’s okay. For the most part, people who seek her out want something the Luthor name has to offer, looking past her and her own merits. It used to sting a lot—the realisation that people in her life are more like business acquaintances than legitimate friends—until she’s taught herself how to block it out, and now it hardly registers as anything other than a minor annoyance.

“Everything is a business deal, Lena,” her mother told her —when she was a young girl with wide eyes and scraped knees, dirt smudged on her cheeks and her heart lodged in her throat. “It would do you well to start treating that silly thing you call friendship as such.”

And so Lena has.

 

                                                               

 

“I should tell you before we alight,” Kara says, trying and failing to sound relaxed, “that the regent is most likely waiting for us.”

It is enough to stop Lena in her movements, wrapping around her neck the crimson scarf Kara got from Tala’s shop. “What?” She hopes she doesn’t sound too strangled, but that is honestly too big a wish right now. Her heart feels like a jackhammer, and her palms are most certainly sweating.

“I’m so sorry,” Kara apologises, grimacing, “I totally forgot to mention that, didn’t I? I was supposed to tell you after we settled in for the flight, but, uhm, I kind of sort of got distracted, because you’re very distracting—not that I’m blaming you though! Because it’s not your fault that you’re distracting! It’s that you’re really very pretty, and I felt like I was dying each second I wasn’t kissing you, because I like doing that a lot, and I should really stop speaking. Right now. This second.”

Kara does clamp her lips shut, then, looking like a reprimanded child, her cheeks flushing so visibly that it couldn’t be healthy. (Lena wonders if they are as warm as they look, with all that blood).

Despite the anxiety now flooding through her, Lena is helpless to smile, as endeared as she ever was with Kara’s rambling. “Darling,” she soothes, cupping Kara’s cheek (and yes, it is indeed as warm as it looks), “though some sort of earlier warning would have been nice, it’s okay. I’ll deal with it somehow.”

Or, well, she desperately wishes she can deal with it.

She needs a drink, or perhaps ten, just for courage.

Though . . . no. Being anything less than sober would most definitely not be in her best interest.

Mostly though, she just hopes she does all right, because she doesn’t want to ever disappoint Kara. This regent—Diana Prince, she recalls Alex telling her during that afternoon when she gave Lena a crash course on all things Kryptonian, goes by Diana Ze on official Kryptonian business, to differentiate from her post as an aristocrat from Themyscira—is the second most powerful person in Krypton. Her authority is next only to Kara herself, and she’s someone whose respect Kara deeply treasures.

And for Kara and Kara alone, Lena will rally her last remaining willpower to go through this in one piece.

 

                                                               

 

Samantha Arias is like the tide that ebbs and crashes against the shore, tireless and perpetual. She’s Lena’s first real friend, Lex aside, and Lena’s pretty sure she would have lost her sanity long ago without her.

(They met in boarding school, when Lena’s mother sent her all the way to Ireland so that the spotlight would be turned solely on Lex. Not that Lena’s complaining about that; it would be nice not to be under constant scrutiny. It just sucked that she’d have to be away from her brother, the one person who could make her feel better when their mom’s being a prick.

But well. She supposed she was also going to be away from their mother, so there was no need to make her feel better in the first place.

She focused on her studies, then; she’s to be CTO, once Lex took the reins as CEO of L-Corp, so she figured she’d better get started on preparing for the job. Though, to be fair, she’d been groomed for it since she was adopted, and sharpened even more when she was told that she was indeed a Luthor by blood.

Besides, there was nothing else to focus on when she was so far removed from the rest of the world. There’s a certain kind of peace that came with that awareness, and soon she’d even found it in herself to have some fun for her own sake. But it’s not until Sam insinuated herself into Lena’s life that she understood what it meant to have a real, actual friend. Someone to lean on when the going gets tough, no strings attached.)

They’ve been through a lot; Sam’s the first person Lena came out to, and Sam was the one holding her hand and hugging her and whispering assurances that “It’s totally okay, Lena, you’re still you, this just means I’m gonna have a far easier time giving the shovel talk ’cause I don’t think my muscles are too intimidating for men just yet, no matter how scrawny they are, though on second thought, maybe not, ’cause those girls in the dragonboat team can probably benchpress me and you.”

Lena’s the one Sam called in a panic when she found out she’s pregnant. Lena saw Sam on her bathroom floor, surrounded by five pregnancy kits, near hysterical as tears run down her face, and it’s Lena who promised to be there no matter what decision Sam wanted to make, and it’s Lena whose heart Sam trusted enough to be her kid’s godmother, because “You’re the best person I’ve ever known, Lena, regardless of whether you believe it or not, so suck it up because you’re a godmother now and Ruby’s gonna be the most spoiled baby ever.”

And so it seems fitting that it is Sam she calls now, after facing what is shaping up to be Lena’s own undoing.

Lena meets Kara Danvers on an unassuming Wednesday afternoon, and Lena will never be the same again. She’s golden hair that Lena wants to run her fingers through with an almost burning curiosity and bright blue eyes that Lena wants to map out and chart and an enchanting smile that could possibly move mountains with the sheer force of its magnetism.

And Kara says, “I don’t back down from challenges” in that tone that manages to be both playful and honest, and Lena near swallows her own damn tongue, wonders what type of challenge she can issue for Kara to look at her with those bright blue eyes and smile at her with that enchanting smile from today until the end of her days. There’s something in Kara’s gaze that she longs to pick and pull apart and put back together but she doesn’t know what, she doesn’t know how. All she knows is that Kara’s looking at her like that, and Lena wants her to never, ever stop.

When they finish watching Star Wars, trading stories and jokes in-between as if they’ve been doing it all their lives, she calls Sam to recount her tale of woe. And as it turns out, her friend is actually a merciless ass, because she merely laughs at her misfortune. Lena has half a mind to throw her phone away.

“I can’t believe you willingly ate pizza on your first meeting,” Sam says in between giggles, and Lena, not for the first time, is overcome with the urge to throttle her.

“Yes, I know what I did, Sam, I was there,” Lena retorts, running a hand down her face. “I don’t know what came over me.”

“Oh please, you and I both know you’re just really susceptible to cute girls.” Sam hums, and Lena can almost imagine her smirking down the line. “What happened to, ‘Pizza isn’t a first-date food, Sam, it can’t be eaten in any attractive way’?”

“Shut up.” Lena can’t tell her she’s been proven wrong on that account, because Kara Danvers did indeed manage to make the act of eating pizza attractive.

Incredibly so.

Lena bites back a pitiful sigh. Her dignity is suffering enough as it is.

“Can’t say for sure I’ve seen you swept off your feet before, and definitely not so fast. Usually, you’re the one doing the sweeping.”

“I wasn’t ‘swept off’ my feet,” Lena protests, though it sounds weak even to her own ears.

“Sure, sweetie.”

“I don’t sweep people off theirs either.”

“Ah, you’ve never been a liar, Lena, so don’t start now.” Sam chuckles at her offended grumble. “I’ve seen you flirt with people in like, seven languages. Successfully, I might add, if the trail of broken hearts you left is any indication.”

Lena scowls, though it’s more because of stubbornness than any opposition. It’s true enough that she flirts as easily as she breathes, and Sam’s right too that she’s never been so off-balance before. She’s never been off-balance at all. She’s the one who does the off-balancing! She flirts because it’s fun and uncomplicated, without the threat of anything real attaching her to other people. She knows what makes them tick, what makes them interested, what hooks them in, and she knows how far she could go before she has to make a clean cut without causing any trouble—at least not for her.

But Kara . . . Kara makes her feel like she’s just walked down the stairs and missed the last step, or hit the brake too late whilst riding a bike, or spun one beat ahead during a waltz. Her laughter might as well be a nuclear warhead for all the ways it renders Lena defenseless, dropping right past her walls without a second of warning. Her smile makes Lena feel like gravity on earth is suspended, or like the laws of physics don’t apply anymore, which is just—terribly impractical, because Lena’s spent like all her life studying those stupid laws, and to see them rendered irrelevant right before her very eyes is really messing with her perception of reality.

The feeling is disconcerting, and thrilling, and completely new, and it’s like she’s standing on a precipice of something that will change her forever.

She can’t say all that out loud in any way that makes even the smallest amount of sense, and even if she could, she doubts Sam would get it. Or maybe she would, but she’d mock Lena to high heaven about it, and she can’t really give Sam any more ammunition against her. Ranting at her about her cute roommate is more than enough of that as it is.

So she just huffs and says nothing, and Sam takes her silence as reluctant concession. “How cute is she, again?”

“She’s so —” Lena makes a sound like she’s in pain. Probably because she is. She hears Sam laugh again at her expense, and she can’t even muster enough irritation because, “She’s so, so cute, Sam — I-I can’t. Very cute.”

“It hasn’t been a day and you’re already so whipped,” Sam says, and Lena would have denied that vehemently, but she finds that she can’t.

Because, well, it’s true, isn’t it?

 

(And yeah, okay. That should be telling.)

 

                                                               

 

Kara stands up as soon as the captain safely lands them, and Lena can clearly see the excitement she’s not trying to hide. The jet’s hatch opens, and Kara turns to her, her hand outstretched.

“Let’s go,” Kara says, her voice warm and bright, and Lena doesn’t hesitate at all.

“If it’s with you,” Lena says, taking Kara’s hand and entwining their fingers, “I’ll go anywhere.”

Kara beams at her, and Lena’s heart feels like it’s catching fire.

 

                               

 

Kara descends first, Lena following closely behind. A crowd of people are assembled waiting for them; less than what Lena expected for a returning royal, but then again, perhaps it’s been arranged that way. She notices armed guards, after all, and there are uniformed sentries lined up in a sort of ceremonial formation. An honour guard, Lena thinks; they are wearing scarlet tunics with dark-blue collars and cuffs, dark-blue trousers with a red stripe down the seam of each leg, and white leather belts. The hilts of their swords glimmer like brilliant red stones. Lena has a second of awe to recognise those stones as actual rubies.

A tall, elegantly striking woman leads a dozen of what appears to be high-ranking soldiers, each garbed in more elaborately styled uniforms than the previous guards.

Once they reach the bottom of the stairs, the woman goes forward to meet them.

“Welcome, Your Royal Highness,” the woman greets Kara, over whom she towers several inches. Though formal, her tone still manages to be light, her eyes warm and doting. She speaks with an accent Lena can’t place; it’s different from Kara’s when she is speaking Kryptonian, but still it’s pleasing to the ears. “Rao’s light be yours.”

“Aunt Diana!” Kara doesn’t care about propriety, it seems, for she merely throws her arms around the woman—Diana, the regent, oh (and Lena struggles to keep the panic off her face)—laughing when she’s then lifted a couple inches from the ground in a hearty embrace, as if she weighs nothing. “Rao’s light be yours!”

“I missed you, Little Star,” Diana says once she’s released Kara. She brushes away some wayward strands of Kara’s golden hair, and Lena cannot help but smile at the way Kara brightens at the contact, like a child so pleased with getting her guardian’s attention. (And Lena supposes that’s what Diana is, for all intents and purposes, at least on Krypton’s soil.) “How have you been?”

“Good. Wonderful.” Kara grins, wide and joyful and bright. “Never better, actually.” Then she turns to look at Lena, holding out her hand again, and Lena takes it without a second thought. “I want you to meet someone.”

Kara tugs her closer, and Lena doesn’t have it in her to even think about resisting the pull. Why would she, when Kara’s smiling at her like she’s the one who paints the dawn? “Lena, this is Diana Ze, my mother’s cousin. She stands as the regent, ruling over Krypton in my stead at the moment. Aunt Diana, this is Lena. She’s my beloved.” Lena cannot help but feel warm inside at the easy way Kara utters that last sentence, as if she’s saying that the sky is blue and that oceans are deep. And she fears she’s going to be a molten heap because of the way Kara is looking at her, awed and adoring and all-consuming.

No matter how besotted Lena is with Kara, however, she still notes that the words cause the regent’s eyebrows to quirk up in surprise.

“It’s nice to meet you, Regent,” Lena says, the words managing to tumble out her mouth by some kind of miracle, far more smoothly than she believed she’s capable of at that moment. She offers one hand to the regent, whose gaze is critical and calculating—far too cold, in dire contrast to how welcoming it was seconds before. Lena involuntarily gulps at the scrutiny, and she hopes no one notices.

But that hope is dashed, for the regent certainly notices her nerves, and she finally shakes Lena’s hand, an amused smile now playing on her lips. Lena cannot be sure whether that amusement is good for her own self or not. “The pleasure is mine, Lady Lena,” the regent says.

Lena has no time to correct her and say that she is not a noble in any way and thus she shan’t be called a lady because then the regent returns her attention to Kara.

“Your welcome banquet will be held on time for Yule. For now, Your Royal Highness”—she chuckles at Kara’s playful scoff—“and Lady Lena, please follow me.”

They do, passing between the honour guards who stood even straighter at attention as their liege finally returns. They are led to a silver sedan with heavily tinted windows and painted with what Lena assumes is the House of El coat of arms. Another guard opens the door before she has the chance to study it, and they get in. The regent goes to climb on the car in front of theirs, but not without a parting kiss to Kara’s forehead.

“I’ll see you in the castle for dinner later, yes?” Regent Ze says, to which Kara happily agrees.

As soon as they are settled in, Lena exhales a ragged breath.

“You all right?” Kara asks, an arm around Lena. There is a touch of concern in her voice.

Lena smiles. “Yes, darling.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, darling,” she repeats.

“Like, are you really sure?” Kara’s brows furrow. “You’re not just saying that to ease my mind or anything? ’Cause I get why you’d do that, but that isn’t necessary at all, because I car—”

Lena places a hand over Kara’s mouth to stop her rambling. “Kara.” She huffs, meeting Kara’s wide, questioning gaze. “I truly am okay. I think that meeting could have gone worse, my bar was set too low, so it’s actually an improvement. I’m okay.” She takes the hand off Kara’s mouth, taps Kara’s cheek playfully. “Is that enough?”

Kara nods, her eyes crinkling with her smile. “Yes. Cool.”

Lena grins. “Cool,” she echoes, before chuckling as Kara grips her closer, burrowing her nose against Lena’s hair, and Lena nuzzles further against her in contentment.

 

                                               

 

Lena gets distracted by the sights of Krypton out the window. The skies are getting darker now, but the dusk just lends Krypton more mystique. They are riding through the country, the car zipping past open fields. Snow glistens on tree branches. Lena is ever thankful that she’s worn her scarf.

They drive by a glittering fortress, and Lena cannot help but look on in awe, nearly pressing her face against the window like a child. She has grown up in Ireland, has gone backpacking through Europe to see glorious ancient castles, and yet this one is different from the rest. Far too different, really, and curious wonder blooms in her chest.

“That’s the Palace of Marriage,” comes Kara’s voice, soft and amused. “It’s where Kryptonian weddings have taken place for thousands of years.”  

“Thousands?” Lena asks, not masking her doubt. The structure, Lena assumes from the far-too-quick glimpse afforded by their passing by, is made from glass or something like it. The architectural style might seem patterned after medieval castles—it has turrets, Lena has noticed, though no moats—but still, it seems too contemporary to have been standing for more than two decades, let alone for thousands of years.

“You think it’s too modern, don’t you?”

Lena looks at Kara in surprise, but she doesn’t deny it.

Kara chuckles. “Alex told you, didn’t she? Krypton is advanced—more advanced than you think. You believe metallic glass is a recent invention, but we’ve been using it for millennia.” Kara waves a hand. “The Palace of Marriage was constructed from kryptium-based glass, way stronger and more resistant than the palladium-based one that most companies use nowadays.”

Lena is a scientist, first and foremost, and so there’s a lot that she wants to ask—from just how advanced Kara’s civilisation is, to how they managed to sequester themselves away from the rest of the world with that kind of technology. But she guesses that those questions would just lead to more questions (as all worthy endeavors do), and Lena figures she isn’t quite prepared for that. So instead she settles for the simplest one.

“What’s kryptium?” she asks, and she relaxes more comfortably against Kara, leaning her head on Kara’s shoulder.

“It’s the strongest metal in Krypton,” Kara answers, “twice as hard as diamond. Most of our supply we mine from Mount Mundro, in the west.”

Lena hums. “Most of it? You mean that’s not the only place where kryptium is available?”

“Yes. We don’t want to exhaust our resources, you know, so we’ve set a limit to how much we mine. There’s a threshold, per year and per site.”

“Smart, and responsible.”

Kara preens, winking at her. “We try.” Her voice is filled with quiet pride, and despite not being here for long, Lena thinks that pride is well-placed.

 

In the distance are city lights and the silhouettes of skyscrapers. Lena is arrested by the play of colours, how lively Krypton seem to be and yet still tranquil, somehow.

“We’re on the outskirts of Argo City, our capital,” Kara tells her in a low murmur. “I’ll take you on a proper tour one of these days.”

A certain sensation settles around them, now, light and bright but intimate, and Lena matches Kara’s tone. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. First tour will be around the family’s castle, of course. The gardens too. Then the woods, if you’re up for it.” Kara’s grip around her tightens. “I want you to see,” she says, and Lena hears what she means between the syllables, beneath the letters.

“Sounds good,” Lena says, because it does, and then she presses a smile against Kara’s waiting lips.

 

                                               

 

Rokyn Castle is the official residence of Krypton’s royal family, and it is unlike anything Lena has ever seen before. For one, it is mostly made of a truly astounding mix of stone, red reinforced glass, and gold, and everywhere Lena looks there’s a glitter of jewels in gilded arches and pillars.

Everything, basically, screams riches and royalty, and Lena is vaguely alarmed. The only thing keeping her from outright panicking is Kara’s hand holding her own.

A footman—an actual footman, complete with the scarlet liveries that Lena assumes are a mark of the El family’s household—is waiting for them by the gigantic doors. Another one gives them a low bow before hurrying over to the car to retrieve their luggage.

Lena has been teasing Kara about her wealth and status, and it has now come back to bite her in the ass. She herself is no stranger to an affluent lifestyle, but this?

This is beyond what she’s prepared for, regardless of the lessons and pointers Alex has given.

Wanting to at least seem like she’s not internally freaking out, if only to not alarm Kara, she eyes the elaborate entryway and asks in a low whisper, “Are these for real?”

“The gold?” Kara asks, bemused, and at Lena’s nod, she shrugs. “Yeah.”

“Isn’t that a bit excessive?”

“Not really, it’s just gold,” Kara says simply.

“Just . . . gold.” Lena frowns; she herself doesn’t particularly care for gold, or other precious metals for that matter, but Kara seems to be in another league of her own. “Quite a way of referring to a precious metal.”

Kara looks at her oddly, before a look of understanding passes over her face. “Oh.” Kara shrugs again, expression sheepish. “I keep forgetting it isn’t so in other places, but gold is pretty commonplace here.”

“Commonplace?” Lena isn’t feeling very smart right now, settling for repeating what’s being told to her. It’s not good for her confidence in her intellect, but, well, the things Kara are saying are making her question what she knows about the world itself.

“Yeah, it’s practically worthless, all things considered. The mountain ranges and even the valleys of Krypton are all teeming with gold. It’s what we mostly export; it basically comes at no cost for us, but we could trade it for a plenty of other necessary raw materials and products.”

Lena nods, understanding the enormous economic outcomes of that type of arrangement. She opens her mouth, tries to look for something clever to say, but settles for, “That’s a sweet deal.”

Kara snorts. “I know.”

“I’m really marrying well, huh.”

Kara blushes, laughing all the same. “Shut up.”

Geometric shapes feature largely in the designs of the castle, every façade smooth and sleek and shining. Bejeweled ornaments with intricate intaglios adorn every surface. But what arrests Lena’s attention the most is the recurring symbol S enclosed in a distinctive pentagon—displayed in every possible way, from the drapes to the banners to the badges of Kara’s household. She’s pretty sure it’s a part of their coat of arms too.

She isn’t given a chance to ask about it, however, because then she registers the presence of someone following them. She glances back, stopping when she realises there are four guards a few paces behind. She’s not sure, but given the uniforms they are wearing, they could have been part of the welcoming committee back at the airport.

Kara turns to see what’s holding her up, registering the presence of the guards as well. “Ah.”

The guards bow. “Your Royal Highness.”

“Yes, hi.” Kara winces, looking uncomfortable at the address. “Who are you?”

One steps forward, a fist pressed upon her chest, and replies, “We’re sent to be your temporary security details, Your Royal Highness. We are to accompany you within and outside the castle until a more suitable officer arrives.”

“Right.” Kara clears her throat, and her eyes are wide. Lena would have laughed at her face were she not in a state of confusion herself. “And who will that officer be?”

“Forgive us, Your Royal Highness. That is information that we don’t have.”

“Okay.” She turns to Lena, looking out of her depth, and Lena just shrugs because between the two of them, Kara’s the one who’s grown up expecting this kind of thing, and thus should be better versed with it. Or something. “So you’ll just follow us, right?”

“We won’t invade your space, Your Royal Highness. That, we promise.”

Lena clamps her lips to keep herself from commenting about how that’s a bit too late now, though by the way Kara’s eyebrows raise at her when she meets her gaze, she knows what Lena wants to say anyway.

Kara just mutters some vague acquiesce before squaring her shoulders and adjusting her grip on Lena’s hand. Soon enough she is leading them along a hallway, where there are displays of weapons and armors and paintings. She doesn’t stop until they are in front of a set of massive gilded doors, flanked by two more guards in deep-blue military tunics. They give Kara a crisp salute before pulling the doors open.

“Give us a moment,” Kara tells their security details, who readily agree and take their post beside the other guards. A quiet thanks is barely out of her mouth before she’s pulling Lena through and sagging in obvious relief once the doors close with a soft click.

“You okay?” Lena asks, stepping closer.

“Yeah, I just—” She sighs, shaking her head. “I forgot how stupidly suffocating all this is. The pomp and pageantry, the expectations and traditions.” Her smile is tremulous at the edges, needing respite, and Lena aches for her. There is something melancholy in Kara’s bearing, and Lena wants to help dispel it, as much as she’s able, until Kara’s ready to talk about it.

She tries to joke, “Not so different from how the freshmen follow you around back on campus, huh?”

The distraction works, for the most part. Kara huffs a laugh, mock-glaring at her. “Hey, don’t say it like that,” she defends. “They’re not following me.”

“I once was almost late for my class because they were blocking the hallway across a room you’re supposedly in,” Lena retorts, smirking. “I can only imagine how heartbroken those adoring fans of yours would be once they realise you’re going to be extending your break for a week.”

“They are not my adori— You know what, who are they even, you’re the one with that— that face, what about your fans?”

“I’m a Luthor, darling. I don’t have fans, I have minions.” She taps Kara’s cheek, a patronising look on her face. “There’s a difference.”

Kara half-heartedly swats her fingers away, groaning, though the smile on her face appears more relaxed. Lena’s glad. “You’re talking like one of those comic book villains, oh my god.”

“Think I can pull it off?”

Kara lifts their joined hands, kissing Lena’s knuckles. “I think you can do whatever you put your mind to, babe.” Her tone is joking, but there is a quiet candor beneath that tells Lena she means every word, and Lena loves her all the more for it.

“You say the sweetest things.” Lena presses a playful kiss to her cheek, giggling at her faux exasperated scoff, before turning around and studying the room they are in. It is resplendently decorated, and Lena can bet her Bentley (the newest one, at least, because the one before that is already with Sam) that the other rooms in the entire castle are as well. Huge chandeliers hang above, their light vivid and steady upon the wide space, glinting off the gold and rubies and sapphires interspersed across the vaulted ceiling. “Now tell me about this place.”

“Your wish is my command,” Kara says, amused. She shifts so her chin rests on Lena’s shoulder, one arm loosely wrapped around Lena’s waist. “That’s where the House of El’s members sit,” she begins, referring to the dais up front. Her breath is a warm tickle against Lena’s neck. “The lesser lords of Krypton traditionally occupy those tables below.” The tables mentioned are carved of marble and wood, long enough to accommodate 12 people on each side.

“Feasts are typically held here, as well as state banquets thrown for foreign dignitaries,” Kara continues. “I suppose this is where we’re going to eat for the Yule celebrations.”

“And for your welcome banquet?” Lena teases.

Kara laughs, the sound so close to Lena’s ear, washing over her like a secret promise. Lena’s toes curl at the sound. “More like our welcome banquet,” she corrects easily, and Lena’s heart grows three times in size. Really, she can’t be held accountable for her actions faced with such adoration; she promptly turns and grasps Kara by the nape and pulls her in for a kiss, which Kara eagerly returns.  

“Come on,” Kara says with a grin, once they break the kiss. She guides Lena to the dais; she sits on the middle chair, the largest and most ornate one, and she tugs Lena until she is seated on Kara’s lap. A strong arm bands around her waist, whilst Kara’s other hand falls on Lena’s knee. In this position Kara is almost cradling her, and she nestles closer, enjoying Kara’s solid warmth.

“My mother used to sit here,” Kara explains, “as Krypton’s queen in name. And it’s rightfully mine, and we’re going to kick my uncle’s butt so hard he’s not gonna even think to mess with me again.”

Lena laughs low in her throat. “I look forward to it, my love.”

She senses Kara’s reluctance to leave just yet and face the music once more, and Lena is more than happy to follow her lead. Anywhere with Kara is where she’d want to be, and whatever Kara needs—whether some sort of diversion or perhaps simply her presence—she’d willingly give.

So she allows Kara this reprieve, gives her the time to collect her thoughts. She understands how all the attention could get tiring; she may not be royalty, but she’s still a Luthor, after all, and that means growing up under a fair amount of scrutiny. There was a time when she could hardly get out to grab a drink without it being a hot news item come morning.

Kara is playing with her fingers, her expression solemn but calm. Lena lets herself the pleasure of just watching her, the way her brows furrow adorably, the way she bites her lip absently, the way her blue eyes shine with quiet intelligence.

The moment she met Kara and those blue eyes locked on her, Lena has been done for. Kara looked at her with amazement and a hint of wonder and something inexplicably earnest—like she’s found something she didn’t even know she’s looking for, and she’s not sure what to do—and Lena would gladly give anything and everything in her power so that Kara won’t ever stop looking.

She’s never stood a chance, really.

God, Lena loves her so much, she can almost feel her heart swelling with it.

Before she can even think about it, she’s already leaning forward, surprising Kara with a hard kiss.

The surprise doesn’t last long; the moment the contact registers, Lena feels Kara melt. The arms cradling her tighten their grip, and it makes her feel giddy, the way Kara seems to want to get closer—to get closer to her. She doesn’t think the knowledge that Kara chose her and is still choosing her is something that will ever stop making her feel lightheaded and strong in equal measure. Like she could move a mountain with a single finger. Like she could freeze entire oceans with a single breath.

It takes several minutes before their kisses taper off, and Lena rests her forehead against Kara’s. They settle in silence whilst Lena’s heartbeat slows down to an acceptable rhythm that doesn’t feel as if she’s going to spontaneously take flight.

Kara’s thumb is tracing patterns across the knuckles of Lena’s free hand. Soothing. “Lena,” she says.

“Hmm?” Her fingers play with the short hairs on Kara’s nape, and she smiles at Kara’s pleased hum.

“Nothing. I just really like saying your name.”

“That works out well for me, then.” Lena laughs, kissing Kara’s temple just because she can. “I really like hearing you say it.”

“You know,” Kara begins, “before I met you, back when I only knew your name, I did some research.”

This is new information. “On who I am?” Tension builds in her chest, but then Kara just smiles this soft smile that has Lena automatically relaxing.  

“No,” Kara says. “More on like, what your name means.”

There’s something incredibly tender in the way Kara’s eyes shine. “Do tell.”

“Did you know that Lena appears in many languages?” Kara asks, rhetorical, and her fingers start a mindless dance along Lena’s spine. Lena swallows against the heat suddenly expanding in her throat. “In Latin, it means ‘she that allures.’ In Arabic, it means ‘generous’ and ‘kind.’” Her fingers skid to a halt, and her hand splays across Lena’s back. Her touch burns past Lena’s clothes. “In Greek, it means ‘sunlight’ and ‘moonlight.’ The Persian meanings are along those lines, too, ‘light,’ ‘sunlight,’ or ‘pretty girl.’” Her eyes are deep and dark in this vibrant hall. “There’s one thing these meanings have in common, though.”

“And that is?”

“They all perfectly suit you,” Kara tells her, sincere and open and endlessly fond, and Lena’s heart seizes with the depth of her love.

Kara,” Lena says, powerless against the staggering surge of emotions cresting through her.

“You’re definitely a pretty girl, and you are alluring,” Kara continues, heedless of the blush Lena can feel growing on her own cheeks, “and sometimes I don’t think you even know how much irresistible you truly are. You are generous and kind, which sort of just makes you even more alluring, if that were possible.” She shoots her a grin. “And you are the light of my life.”

Lena can just roll her eyes at the line, though her blush intensifies with the frankness with which Kara delivered it. “Shut up.”

“I’m telling the truth though.” Lena has no doubt that she is, and that just makes it worse, because Lena’s sure she is about three seconds away from evaporating in Kara’s arms and dissipating into the ether, but with Kara still grinning at her like that, Lena thinks it’s just better.

“Where are you even getting this confidence?”

“Must be the home court advantage,” Kara answers with an easy shrug, and Lena can only lean in for another kiss that Kara happily accepts. They trade lazy kisses then, on the dais where Kara would rule over her nobles and aristocrats, and the only thing that matters to Lena is that they never stop.

 

                                                               

 

As soon as she escapes another egotistical board member who looks to be three feet away from perishing of old age and too much cigar, Lena sets out to find where Kara has disappeared to. She is about to enter one of the galleries when someone catches her by the arm, and she is halfway through an irritated snarl when she realises it’s just Lex.

“Chill,” her brother says, amused at her frustration. “No need to be so hostile.”

“What do you want?” she asks, snatching her arm away.

“Why are you so cross?”

“Just answer the question, Lex.”

“You’re not answering the question either.”

“I’m going to look for my girlfriend,” she retorts.

“You lost her already?” Lex teases, but the words whip at Lena’s heart like barbed wires, making her breath hitch.

Because that’s the thing, isn’t it?

She can’t lose Kara, because Kara isn’t even hers to lose in the first place.

This . . . Them . . . It’s all just an elaborate ruse.

And what makes it all the more tragic is that Lena so desperately wants it to be real.

But she can’t ask that of Kara, of course. So she will settle for whatever Kara has to offer, be it friendship or a fake relationship that will save her from a worse reality.

“Hey,” Lex says, frowning at Lena’s silence, “are you okay?”

“Yes,” she answers, injecting as much false cheeriness into the answer as she could. It’s not enough, it seems, for Lex’s frown just deepens.

“Did something happen?”

“No, I just—” Lena shrugs, crossing her arms and barely holding herself together. “I just want to find Kara.”

Lena is not sure if Lex hears something else, some hidden meaning beneath those syllables, but he pats her shoulder. “Okay,” he says simply, “go find your girl.”

And so Lena does.

 

                                                               

 

Dread begins to coil in the pit of Lena’s stomach the closer they get to the dining hall in one of Rokyn Castle’s many private apartments, which is where they are to eat with Regent Ze. It feels too much like a trial by fire, and the restricting presence of their guards isn’t helping, either. It is only her determination to not let Kara down that has her keeping her cool—or as much of it as she can gather.

Kara, for her part, never wavers in holding Lena’s hand, and she’s a tether of stability in this whole new territory. She distracts Lena by pointing out little details in the halls they pass by, offering anecdotes that deepen Lena’s understanding of where Kara came from.

“We’re going to eat in the Small Dining Room of the Hall of Venus,” Kara is telling her. “There’s like, eight grand halls that correspond to a planet each. Then there’s the principal throne room, called the Hall of Rao, after the sun.”

Wait. “Is this castle as old as the Palace of Marriage?”

Kara looks startled by the question. “Yes, or, well. Sort of older by a couple hundred of years, give or take. The foundations, at least. Subsequent rulers added their own thing so it’s not really the way it was when it was built.”

Lena frowns. Something’s not adding up. “How did your ancestors name the halls after the planets if the planets haven’t been discovered yet?”

“Oh.” Kara blinks. “Right.” She looks almost sheepish, and the dots connect almost mechanically in Lena’s mind. The implications are too great—They’re very advanced, Lena, she remembers Alex saying—and she just groans.

No.”

“It’s not my fault your people’s technology is too primitive!” Kara laughingly defends.

“Oh shut it,” she grouches. “It doesn’t even make any sense. Even if Kryptonians discovered the planets millennia before the rest of the world, the naming still wouldn’t have stuck.”

“Actually,” Kara says, in that tone Lena has learned portends something that will shake the foundations of her beliefs, “we did discover them way before the rest, thank you very much. And the naming’s not really that difficult to arrange. It’s just a matter of starting the trend with the Roman gods.” She shrugs. “That part’s easy too, because the scientists who publicly made the discoveries had Kryptonian blood, anyways.”

“But I thought you don’t concern yourselves with the rest of the world?”

“Sure,” Kara agrees, “but this happened like, super long ago. And we never really could help ourselves when it comes to astronomy.” A grin plays at her lips. “Did you know the guy who ‘discovered’ Uranus was an offshoot of the House of El itself?”

Lena wracks her mind for the name, and groans again. “Seriously?” she says. “Hersch-El?”

“I never said we’re brilliant with disguises,” Kara tells her cheerfully, just as they arrive in front of what could have been the dozenth set of gilded doors Lena has seen since arriving at Rokyn. The guards immediately salute and open the doors for them.

“Ready?” Kara asks, before they enter.

Lena takes a deep breath. “No,” she answers honestly, “but let’s go, anyway.”

Kara’s answering grin gives her enough strength to push through the fear, and Lena steels her nerves.

 

                               

 

Diana Ze is even more intimidating up close, without the pack of guards and soldiers. She commands the room she’s in with ease Lena’s only ever found in her own mother, but Lillian’s authority lacks the warmth and geniality that the regent’s has in spades.

Still Lena finds herself worrying over her every action, for there are obviously a hundred questions lurking behind the regent’s affable smile.

She stands as soon as Kara enters, a show of respect for the crown princess. The servants waiting to attend to them also dip into low curtsies. Kara looks a bit wary, and Lena thinks about how overwhelming it would have to be, for everyone to observe strict decorum when interacting with her. No wonder she has chosen to escape to National City, she muses, where anonymity is so easily granted and earned.

Well. Not complete anonymity; Kara has much too bright a spirit, and divesting the trappings of royalty off her person isn’t enough to dampen that in the least. Lena is not really kidding when she brings up Kara’s fans, after all.

“Hey, Aunt Diana,” Kara greets, and she sits down at the head of the table with practiced ease. Regent Ze follows suit, and after a pointed look from Kara, so does Lena.

“Good evening, Little Star,” the regent says. She nods at Lena. “Lady Lena.”

“Good evening, Regent,” Lena says too, proud that she doesn’t sound awkward. Or at least not that much.

The staff start serving up the food when Kara gives them a nod, and delicious smells waft through the room soon enough. Kara and the regent engage in small talk, mostly about Kara’s studies in NCU.

“She’s my roommate!” Kara tells her when asked about how they met.

Regent Ze also attentively prods, aiming questions at Lena that seem innocuous on the surface, but Lena has been through enough meetings with her mother and their company’s board to see through them. Credit where credit is due, however, for the regent looks genuinely intrigued, humming thoughtfully as Lena talks about her latest engineering project.

“There are several books in the Royal Archives,” Regent Ze says, “discussing perceptual illusions. There are some concepts there that might prove useful when applied to your nano tech, especially since they are tied to cognitive function.”

“Oh, I can take you this week!” Kara says, wide grin in place. Lena feels her excitement wash over her, and she grins back.

“Sure, darling,” she agrees.

“You’re going to love it! The Archives are like, huge, and even I haven’t read through all of the books there yet. Oh— The Family Histories are there too, along with the science bits! You can totally nerd it out!”

“Hey, I’m not a nerd—”

“You are,” Kara says, and she reaches out to brush some imaginary lint off Lena’s cardigan. “But that’s okay, because I accept you anyways.”

Lena scoffs, playfully batting her hand away, and the movement shows off the flamebird necklace that Kara has repeatedly and quite adamantly refused to take back.

The regent’s eyes dip down, and Lena sees the moment she recognises the necklace—clearly an heirloom of the House of El—previously hidden in the folds of her cardigan. Her eyes widen in surprise, and Lena watches with bated breath as comprehension races across the regent’s face. She regards Lena with a new flicker in her gaze and says, completely serious, and with a tip of her head, “Tynth of El.”

To her alarm, Lena feels herself blushing despite not knowing what the words mean. Something not good for her heart, perhaps, for when she looks over to her girlfriend, she sees her cheeks reddening as well. But before she could ask about it, the regent is speaking again.

“Forgive me, Little Star,” she says, still taken aback, “I did not know.”

“It’s okay.” Kara takes a deep breath, shooting Lena a reassuring smile. She turns to the servants still waiting for them. “May we have some privacy, please,” she says, and they all bow to her before filing out of the room.

“I take it this is the reason for the High Council meeting Kal El asked me to arrange.”

“Yes,” Kara confirms. “I wish to officially present Lena as my betrothed.”

The regent regards them both critically. “You haven’t known each other for long,” she points out.

“We haven’t,” Kara agrees, “but there’s no one else I’d rather spend the rest of my life with.”

“And this has nothing to do with whatever you have heard about your uncle?”

At that Kara falters, wide-eyed, before shaking her head. “No, not at all. Well, maybe at first, but no.” She reaches over and grasps Lena’s hand, and Lena reflexively twines their fingers together. “Lena is my beloved, Aunt Diana,” she declares, soft but assured, and Lena’s heart soars, “and I will never lie about that.”

The regent remains silent, then, studying them. Lena can feel Kara’s anxiety as they wait for what comes next, and she tries her best to comfort her, given the circumstances. She traces random patterns on the back of Kara’s hand with her thumb, and exhales in relief when the tension starts to bleed out of Kara’s shoulders.

After what felt like hours, the regent finally says, “Very well.”

Kara stares blankly. Lena is sure her own expression is somewhat similar. “What?”

The regent lifts her cup and takes a sip of wine. “Very well,” she repeats simply.

“T-That’s it?” Kara sounds so incredulous, and Lena can understand that. It seems that they have both been gearing up for a fight that won’t come.

The regent merely looks amused. “Little Star,” she says, “I am in no position to question your decisions. If you are sure about her, then so be it.” She looks at Lena then, raising her eyebrows. “As long as I’m right to assume that you feel the same way?”

Something like a challenge tinges the regent’s question, and that is something that Lena responds to, like an instinct she can’t fight against. “Of course, Regent Ze,” Lena says, “I love her.” She can’t help but smile at Kara’s dopey grin, and she squeezes her hand.

The regent stares at her intently before nodding. “Then that is settled.” She turns to Kara. “This seems like a good time as any to come clean, then. I have ordered for a background check on the Tynth of El beforehand.”

It takes a moment for Lena to realise that the regent is referring to her, and another for her to figure out the rest of the sentence at all. By the time it does, Kara has leaned forward on her seat, glaring at the regent.

“You did what?” Kara looks a bit too insulted on her behalf, but Lena just sighs.

“Darling,” she tells Kara, “it’s okay.”

Kara turns to her, scowling with offense. “It’s no— How can that be okay? You’re not s—”

“Kara,” she cuts her off gently, “you are a princess. It’s hardly unexpected that your court would make sure that the people you interact with won’t bring you harm.”

“T-That’s—” Kara splutters, but Lena just looks at Regent Ze.

“Thank you for telling us, at least.”

There is silent approval in the regent’s gaze. “Thank you for understanding,” she says, and Lena expels a worried breath.

“That is a breach of privacy,” Kara states, still upset.

“A necessary one,” Lena says. “Don’t worry, darling. I’m used to it.”

“With people doing background checks on you?”

“Not that specifically, but my family has such public lives that it’s easy for strangers to learn more than a couple of things about us with a simple Google search.” She smiles at Kara’s surly grumble. “It’s really okay.” This time she raises an eyebrow at Regent Ze. “So long as you come to me yourself if you have any other questions.”

“Of course, Tynth of El.”

There’s that address again, and this time Lena cannot help but blurt out, “What does that mean?”

The regent smirks as Kara fumbles with her glasses. “Shall I answer that, Little Star, or shall I leave you the honour?” she teases, and she laughs at Kara’s groan. To Lena she says, “It is the official address for a lady betrothed to the heir to the Crown. When you’re married, it will be elevated to Ak Var, signifying that you are the flamebird to Kara’s Van Zee, the nightwing, which is the title traditionally held by the bythgar or queen of Krypton.” She tilts her head. “And you two are sure about the marriage, are you not? You’re aware of what that entails?”

“Yes,” comes their answer as one, and Lena and Kara share a tender smile.

“That’s good.” She asks Lena, “Is your family informed about your betrothal yet?”

Lena hides a grimace, and it is Kara who answers, “We wanted to inform you and the High Council first.”

“I see.” Regent Ze shoots them a small smile, before turning serious. Lena straightens in her seat, and so does Kara. “The Luthors are old money,” she begins, “and they are obviously powerful and influential. An alliance with them, through marriage no less, will certainly help in the integration of Krypton back into world politics, just as you’re planning. I see no reason for the High Council to disapprove of this match, unless there’s something they are hiding.”

“I’m not marrying her because of politics, Aunt Diana,” Kara protests, indignant.

“I know, Your Royal Highness,” Regent Ze says, speaking carefully, “but I’m speaking as the regent now, not as your aunt.”

Ah, there’s the fight—quite a different one from what they were expecting but a fight nonetheless.

Your Royal Highness. The use of Kara’s title is deliberate, meant to drive a point, and drive a point it does. There’s regret in the regent’s eyes, Lena can at least see that much, but still Kara stiffens, the muscles of her neck near jumping with how tightly she’s clenching her jaw. “I see,” she says, and Lena’s eyes widen at Kara’s voice. Kara is the personification of the sun, warm and kind and bright, and to hear her sound so cold is unnerving.

Regent Ze winces, her shoulders slumping a little, and it is the first sign of fracture in the regent’s stoic veneer that Lena catches. “I’m sorry, Lit—” She cuts herself off, pinching the bridge of her nose. There’s a weariness to her that Lena hasn’t seen before, limited though her interaction with the regent has been. “The throne of Krypton comes first.”

“I know that,” Kara says. “I’ve always known that.”

“For what it’s worth,” the regent says gently, “I’m glad that you have found someone to love, wholly and honestly.”

Some of the frost in Kara’s voice thaws. “I’m glad too.” She sighs. “I’m sorry, Aunt Diana, I just—” Her lips press in a thin line, and Lena aches to soothe her, somehow. “Lena is important to me, and I have no wish for our betrothal to be a political farce.”

“And it won’t be,” the regent assures. “I’m just thinking of how best to avoid meddling from the High Council. Presenting the advantages of your match would quiet them down, surely, especially as the bond you two share is plain for the eyes to see.” To the both of them she says, “A contract would have to be drawn, right after your announcement.”

“I hate contracts.”

“I know, but they are necessary evils.” The regent smiles wryly. “You are going to drown in them once you take the crown.”

“Thank you for the reminder,” Kara glumly says.

The regent just shakes her head at Kara, and then tells Lena, “A formal invitation would be extended to your family to discuss the terms of the betrothal. Since Kara is the head of the House of El, she will have to do so herself, asking your head of house for permission to begin a formal courtship.”

Lena just stares at her, and the regent heaves a sigh. “Did Her Royal Highness not tell you any of this beforehand?”

“We haven’t gotten that far,” Lena admits, and watches as the regent sends the princess an exasperated glance. Kara, bless her heart, just shrugs, a contrite look on her face.

“Well, then,” the regent says, “we have work to do, it seems,” and she laughs at Kara’s petulant pout.

 

                                                               

 

“You’re so fucking in love,” Lex says when he catches Lena —yet again —watching Kara from across the room.

Lena merely shrugs, says “Yes, I am,” because she is, and after everything, there really is no reason for her to pretend otherwise.

“You’ve solved whatever the problem was?”

“Yes.”

“I’m glad.” Her brother looks at her with a gentleness Lena’s always remembered him having ever since they first met, that first night, when Lionel brought her home to the Luthor Manor. It makes her want to cry, though of course she will not let Lex know that. “You deserve someone like that.”

“Like what?”

Lex smiles, small and soft and genuine. “Someone who brightens up the skies,” he answers, truthfully, and he has the good grace to pretend he doesn’t notice the tears gather in Lena’s eyes.

 

                                                               

 

They receive a report from Kal El midway through planning Kara’s announcement to the High Council, and his findings proved useful to how Kara is going to assert her authority without fearing backlash. There are a lot of new things to consider, for it appears her uncle has been working hard behind the scenes, with influence far deeper than they have anticipated.

“Not a political farce, huh,” Lena comments wryly.

Kara rolls her eyes. “The betrothal will not be one,” she points out. “It just so happens that the High Council are apparently forgetting their place and must be reminded of it at the same time that I announce you’re to be my bride.”

By the time they have finished discussions, it is well past midnight.

The regent promises to have the High Council ready for a session by the eleventh bell, as well as make slight adjustments to the welcome banquet scheduled for Yule.

When she departs, Kara and Lena go back to Kara’s private chambers. The servants have prepared the suite adjacent, they are told, and Lena is expected to settle there as is proper. Still, though, Kara lingers in her open doorway, biting her lip, and Lena merely lifts an eyebrow as she makes her decision.

Then with a dismissive wave of her hand, the guards turn around and stand with their backs to them, and Kara strides into Lena’s suite, the doors clicking shut behind her.

Her hands automatically find purchase on Lena’s waist, pulling their bodies flush together, and Lena is ready when Kara kisses her, soft and slow and sweet. Lena cradles Kara’s face, sighing at the feel of them together at last, after a pleasant though very draining dinner.

A lot is hinging on how Kara will play up her part later to the High Council, and Lena knows the pressure must be crushing her. So she gives her this, a place of solace from the onus that comes with her birthright, and Lena hopes it at least helps ease some of her burden.

“I’m so tired,” Kara mumbles against Lena’s shoulder.

“Let’s get to bed then.” Lena hums, runs her fingers through golden strands. “Take off your clothes.”

Kara snorts. “Lena, I know we’re getting married anyway, but I want our first time to be at least romantic.”

She stills, and lets out a groan when Kara begins shaking with laughter in her arms. “You’re such an ass.”

“That’s no way to talk to a princess in her kingdom.”

“You’re such an ass, Your Royal Highness.”

“Your ass,” Kara says quickly, before straightening up, stammering, “wait, no, t-that’s not what I meant—”

Lena just laughs, and Kara kisses her to shut her up.

She doesn’t complain at all.

 

                               

 

When she wakes up, Lena feels a bit disoriented. Sunlight streams from large ornate windows and the bed she’s on smells different. It takes a few moments to place where she is, and when she does, she registers a warm body curled behind her. She blinks away the last remnants of sleep and carefully turns around.

Kara is still asleep, and she looks so beatific. The early rays of the sun cast her hair in a golden glow, and Lena can believe angels are real if they look like this. Her lips are curved in a slight smile, pink and delicate, and Lena wants nothing more than to spend her life waking up to this vision, to this miracle.

She doesn’t know how long she stays just watching her before Kara wakes up, and then she’s beaming at Lena, her eyes shining with a contentment Lena knows is mirrored in her own.

“Good morning,” Kara greets.

“Good morning.”

“Slept well?”

“I did. You?”

“Dreamt about you,” Kara murmurs, tracing Lena’s face with the softest touch, “but even that is nothing compared to waking up next to you.”

Lena’s chest constricts, equal parts delighted and embarrassed at Kara’s cheesiness. “Kara,” she says, “we’re already getting married. No need to woo me.”

Kara’s lips quirk up in a half-smile. “I’m going to marry you,” she says, almost absently. “That still hasn’t completely sunk, to be honest.”

Lena understands, for she’s in the same situation. And yes, it feels like it’s too soon, coming to this decision when they are not even out of college yet—and have been official girlfriends for less than two days but then it feels right. This is where Lena is supposed to be. This is what she is supposed to do. There’s something calming with that realisation, beyond the fear and worry. “Having second thoughts?”

“About spending the rest of my life with you?” Kara scoffs. “Never.”

And she smiles, heart-stopping in her radiance, and Lena wants to know how it tastes, and so she does.

 

                                                               

 

The first time Lena hears Kara sing, she finally understands the stories of sailors who were lured to their deaths by sirens. She feels lighter than ever, as if her insides are replaced with feathers, and if the price for this feeling is to drown in the sea, Lena would only be too willing to pay.

Kara’s eyes are seas of their own, anyway, and it is an easy choice to make.

 

                                                               

 

They have just finished getting dressed when a knock on the door resounds. Lena shoots Kara a questioning glance, and Kara just shrugs. Lena rolls her eyes and waves her off.

“Enter,” Kara says.

The door opens, and a soldier comes in. Given her attire, Lena assumes she is of higher rank than the four assigned to them yesterday; she is wearing a red military winter jacket with navy-blue piping details, with a dark-grey belt around her waist. Her army-green pants are neatly tucked into brushed-granite boots, and a crimson beret rests on her head.

“Rao’s light be yours, Your Royal Highness,” she greets Kara, a cheeky grin on her lips, in dire contrast to the rigidity of her stance.

Kara, for her part, merely grins back, her eyes shining brighter than ever. “Imra!” she says, before grabbing the woman’s—Imra’s—shoulders and yanking her into an embrace.

Imra can only gasp out a surprised “Hey!” before dissolving into hearty laughter, her arms immediately circling Kara with startling familiarity.

“I missed you so much!” Kara says once the embrace ends, though her hands are still on Imra’s shoulders. “Oh Rao, how are you? Did you get into more trouble since last summer? You went to Aunt Diana’s place, right? You met Aunt Antiope? She’s cool, isn’t she? Pretty sure I still have phantom bruises from when she trained me, I don’t want to repeat that but at the same time she’s so badass that I wanna learn even more from her but I haven’t the time and there’s too much happening an—”

“Yo, chill, Your Royal Highness,” Imra cuts her off, chuckling. “I understood like 30% of what you just said.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just been so long!”

“It has been,” Imra agrees, “but there’s time for catching up later. I’m just here to inform you that I am to be your security detail.”

“Oh, you’re the senior officer!” Kara’s grin widens. “Congratulations on the promotion.”

“Not sure if it’s really a promotion if I’m stuck on babysitting duty.”

“Hey!”

“Kidding,” Imra says. “Ensuring your security as the heiress of Krypton is the highest honour, and as a dear friend, the greatest pleasure.”

There is sincerity in her statement, as well as the unassailable loyalty Lena has begun to associate with Kryptonians with regards to their royals. It is obvious that Kara is adored here—the guards and the staff smile at her even through their curtsies, and Lena has heard them fondly murmur about how the  princess brings light with her—and not for the first time Lena wonders just how corrupted her uncle should have to be to even attempt his coup.

“Really glad to see you again, Imra,” Kara says.

“You as well, Your Royal Highness.” Imra turns to Lena then, who has remained silent throughout the exchange. She notices the flamebird necklace and immediately bows. “Tynth of El,” she greets.

“Hi,” Lena says, a bit unsure, and she glances at Kara.

Kara jumps back into action. “Right! Imra, I want you to meet my beloved!” She stirs Lena closer. “This is Lena, my girlfriend.”

“And betrothed,” Imra adds with a smile, gesturing to the necklace.

“Yes, of course,” Kara confirms easily with a grin. “Lena, this is Imra Ardeen, one of my oldest friends. She’s on the fast track to graduation in the Royal Military Academy the last time I heard, and now”—she looks at Imra’s uniform and the beret which has a badge of a black griffin—“a lieutenant of the Royal Guards and a member of the Harun El regiment, I see.”

Imra bows again. “It’s an honour to officially meet you, Tynth of El.”

“Likewise, Lieutenant Ardeen.”

“Oh Rao, that’s so cool, you have a proper rank now, maybe you can stop letting Kal El win during your jousts now,” says Kara.

“I do not let His Excellency win,” Imra dissents, though her smirk tells a different story, “he’s a very skilled jouster and accomplished warrior.”

“Yeah, sure, I’ll believe that when the sun turns red.”

“See,” Imra tells Lena conspiratorially, “this is why I managed to graduate early. It’s so much easier when there’s no royal who distracts the students and instructors alike.”

Kara yelps, indignant. “You know, one of these days, you’re gonna let me live that down.”

“Oh no, please, do share,” Lena says. “I figured she’s been causing trouble way before we met, but it’s always nice to be proven right with actual evidence.”

“Lena,” Kara whines, pouting, “you’re supposed to be on my side.”

Lena just laughs, winks at Imra. “I believe this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

 

                               

 

“She’s nice,” Lena tells Kara whilst Imra is speaking to her earpiece. They have just eaten breakfast, and Lena is drinking the last of her coffee. Kara is picking on a blueberry muffin.

“I know,” Kara says. “She and Alex used to go to the shooting range together, and they made these ridiculous bets based on who cleared more challenges or drew a better pattern on the target sheets. Pretty sure Alex still owes her like 50 dollars or something.”

“She’s a better shot than Alex?” Lena doesn’t think Kara’s sister takes well to losing, regardless of the stakes.

“Can’t answer that,” Kara says, eyes twinkling with mischief, “but I do know Lucy’s better than them both.”

“Your Royal Highness, Tynth of El,” Imra says, approaching them before Lena can ask about how skilled with a firearm lawyers have to be, “the High Council will be convening in a few minutes.”

Lena knows it’s coming, but she still feels worry climbing up her throat. Kara notices and takes her hand, pressing a kiss on her palm. “Let’s do this,” she says.

Lena takes a deep breath and nods.

 

                                                               

 

“That is like the most insane thing you’ve ever done,” Sam says, and even through the pixelated feed of Lena’s laptop, her judgment comes through loud and clear.

Lena just buries her face in her arms. “I know.”

“How the fuck are you even going to survive?”

“Beats me.”

“It’s going to go terribly.” Sam snickers. “No, wait, it’s already a disaster, and it’s just the beginning.”

Lena shifts to glare at her friend. “You’re supposed to be offering me advice, not making it worse,” she grouses.

“Oh right. Sorry.” Sam pauses. “But yeah, no, this is a mess, Lena. How are you going to fake not having a huge stupid crush on your roommate while faking being in a relationship?”

“Just shut up if you’re not gonna help.”

“Shit, you’re not even denying having the stupid crush!” Sam laughs, obviously thrilled, and Lena really wants to strangle her for what could have been the millionth time in the duration of their friendship. “And how do you think I could help you? I’ve never been in that kind of situation before!”

“Yeah, but like. I don’t know.” Lena huffs. “You’re supposed to be a functional human being.”

“Lena, I love you, and I love the faith you have in me, but even I can’t do anything about your big fat crush on your roommate if you continue to be a useless lesbian.” Sam hums thoughtfully. “Though, wait, you know what, we can spin this.”

“How?”

“Just act super in love, maybe she’d get to reciprocate. Come on, it’s not that hard, you’re already in too deep anyways.”

“What?”

“It’s like the, uh, what’s that psych concept? The one with the bell?”

Lena blinks, confused as to where Sam’s going with this. “Pavlov?”

“Yes!” Sam snaps her fingers. “Ten points to the gay genius. Anyway, as I was saying, just be super affectionate or something, maybe down the line she’d like, develop a Pavlovian response to how you’re giving her constant affection and then you can live happily ever after in a ranch somewhere.” And she sounds so proud of her idea that Lena chokes on a laugh.

“Oh my god.” Lena covers her face with both hands. “She’s not a dog.”

“I thought you said she’s like a puppy, that’s close enough.”

“You’re the absolute worst,” Lena says, and Sam just shrugs, stupid grin firmly on her face.

 

                                                               

 

Lena doesn’t know what to expect as Kara leads her to the Hall of Jupiter, where the High Council has assembled. According to Kara, they typically convene in the World Capitol Building, but this is a special summons from the royal family (or, well, from Kara), which is why they are meeting within Rokyn Castle instead.

When they arrive in front of yet another set of mighty gilded doors, with gold and crimson etched on the surface, Lena is just about ready to vibrate out of her skin.

The sentries swing the massive doors open, and she nearly lets her jaw drop open.

The Hall of Jupiter is equal in splendor as the banquet hall, maybe even more so. It looks like an enormous courtroom, with marble pews and bejeweled décor. Banners of crimson and gold hang from the domed ceiling, which is painted like the sky at dawn; its central part is made of glass, so sunlight falls like golden rain.

Lena starts to feel out of place, but Kara’s grip is sure in hers, and she shoots Lena that charming smile she knows is just for her.

There are eleven seats in the high table, all occupied except for the middle one, which is more like a throne. Lena assumes it is reserved for the monarch herself, as Regent Ze sits in a much simpler version located directly below it. Kal El is in the room too, seated on the side. He gives Lena a small wave and a grin, which Lena returns in kind.

Everyone stands up as soon as Kara enters and then lowers their head in a bow. “Rao’s light be yours, Your Royal Highness,” they greet, their voices echoing in the chamber.

Kara squeezes Lena’s hand once before releasing it. Then she turns fully to the High Council. “Rao’s light be yours.” She sounds just like she did, that afternoon when she defended Lena against Kal El. She waves her hand, and they take their seats while she remains standing.

“We have missed your presence here, Your Royal Highness,” one of the councilors say. “Choosing such a far place to get your education— well, it might not have been the best course of action.”

“Indeed,” another one pipes up. “And distance aside, the quality of education in that country is far below what Krypton has to offer. Even now I do not understand why you chose such an institution.”

“And the technology!” says yet another one. “They are too far behind!”

“As amusing as your criticisms are of the choices I have made,” says Kara, and Lena bites back her grin at the innate authority in her tone, “I did not call for this convention to hear them.”

Silence descends within the room, taut and cloying, as the councilors shift uneasily in their seats. This is a side of Kara that Lena has only seen once, and it is as breathtaking as the first. There is a certain kind of gravity, it seems, that emanates right from Kara’s bones, pulling everyone in who happens within her orbit and refusing to let go.

“Shall we get to business, then, Your Royal Highness?” the regent asks, an amused smile playing on her lips, and Lena swears she sends her a wink.

“Yes, Regent,” Kara answers. She glances at Lena, offering her hand, and just like always, Lena takes it. Kara smiles and pulls her closer so that they are standing shoulder to shoulder. She then addresses the High Council again. “I’m here to present to you Lena Luthor.” Her gaze is steady and her voice is strong. “She is my betrothed.”

The proclamation is followed by another beat of silence as they all stare at the necklace Lena is wearing, before it all explodes into a cacophony of questions and disputes and outraged exclamations.

“Your Royal Highness, surely there are other more appro—”

“But what about the boy fr—”

“Lord Kal, what is the meaning of th—”

“Lady Diana, did you know abou—”

“Lord Non already had—”

“There’s a prince in Daxam that has more—”

“This is insane, she’s not even Krypto—”

The councilors talk over each other, their voices ringing with agitation and surprise and things Lena can’t decipher, and Kara lets them have at it for several moments, simply watching and calculating before deciding that enough is enough.

Silence,” Kara commands, not raising her voice at all but it is filled with such power that they immediately shut up. “I am not asking for your permission, I am merely announcing it as fact. Lena is my intended bride, whether you approve of it or not.” She then turns to one of the dissenters, tilting her head in challenge. “And it would do you well, Lady Lar, to remember that Non has been stripped of all his titles years ago. To refer to him as if nothing has changed is a dishonour to the House of El, and if I ever hear it again, I shall make sure that your House and descendants too meet his fate.”

“I—” Lady Lar sputters, red in the face. “You are just a child, how dare you—”

“A child who still has more authority than you.” Kara’s eyes flash with such profound anger that Lena won’t be shocked if she blasts the woman to pieces where she sits with just her gaze. “And yes, I dare. Yes, I will defy you all if you continue to act as if the war did not happen at all and proceed to reap the benefits of not having a proper Kryptonian royal on the throne.”

“You think me a child,” Kara continues, her glare as sharp as glass, “not worthy of ruling, and yet you yourselves squabble like children upon the foundations that my family built. You sit there in your gilded chairs as if you earned it, but did you know what the farmers of Krypton were saying, when I visited them last summer? They had not seen rain in months and you refused to give them aid. You flaunt your authority as if it were absolute, but we all know the truth—it’s not, and you’re just desperate to cling to it all the same. I wasn’t expecting a lot from you, just a certain level of decency, but still you disappoint.”

She sneers, and Lena watches as they flinch at the magnitude of Kara’s fury. “Listening to the mad whispers of a man who has been found guilty of supporting the war that claimed the lives of your rulers,” Kara drawls. “Is that not enough ground for treason? What do you think, Regent Ze?”

The regent just tips her head, a clear show of subservience to the heiress. “To let the words of a traitor affect one’s judgment is enough sign that one foot has already stepped out of line.”

“I thought so too.” She turns to Kal El. “And, Cousin, do you not have news for me?”

“Yes, Your Royal Highness.” Kal El’s smile is grim, matching Kara’s, and it is the first time Lena truly sees the family resemblance. It is jarring, to say the least, to have done so in this context, surrounded by the pageantry of their heritage and rife with political turmoil. “I have uncovered evidence of a conspiracy. Several members of the High Council continued to exchange messages with the traitor Non after he sent an appeal regarding your claim to the throne. Some have vested interest in an alliance with Daxam, which is why they are adamant that a match be made.”

Kara scans the faces of the rapidly paling councilors. “These seats are meant to uphold the 11 Virtues of our girod. And yet I see no truth, for you listened to a peddler of lies. I see no justice, for you thought acknowledging a convicted criminal’s words is worth the time. And I see no altruism, for you are not even doing your jobs, taking care of Krypton’s people.” She exhales a harsh breath, her jaw clenching. Lena steps closer, pressing their bodies together as a way to ease, and she hides her relief when Kara loosens up, gathers her composure, and continues.

“So yes, I dare. I have no wish for my country to be ruled by hypocrites, especially ones who would sooner stab me in the back than let go of their control.”

She tells Imra, “Open the doors,” and then in comes a contingent of soldiers who all give Kara a salute. They spread out across the room and stand with a fist on their chest, waiting for orders.

“By the authority I am granted as the heiress of the House of El and princess of Krypton,” Kara begins, “I hereby sentence those who collaborated with the traitor Non to be stripped of their rights to sit in the High Council. Lady Vi Lar, Lord Mal Rom, Lady Kes Gor, Lady Hala Kin, Lord Keo Oz, you shall be tried before the Judicial Council for betraying the House of El. The rest of your punishments shall be decided then.” She nods at the soldiers. “Arrest them.”

“T-This shall not stand!” one of the councilors screams. “This is not our way!”

Kara coolly watches him. “Treason is not our way either, and yet here you are,” she says, and that shuts him up. The other councilors are too shell-shocked to offer resistance, and those left within their ranks are in no hurry to test Kara’s patience, it seems, for they don’t even think to oppose. Lena thinks one of them even hides a snicker behind a cough.

Kara turns to Regent Ze as the collaborators are led outside the Hall. “Regent, I move for the traitor Non to be transferred from the Tower of Juru to the maximum security prison Phantom Zone. He has done enough damage, and the Judicial Council has granted him mercy that he does not deserve.”

“I second the motion,” Kal El says. He catches the questioning glance from the councilors still with them and explains, “I do not have an official seat, but our constitution states than in cases when the High Council has missing ranks, the one who holds the duchy of Kandor can step up. So, those in favour of transferring the traitor Non to the Phantom Zone, say aye.”

Lena watches as the remaining councilors exchange glances, before shrugging. “Aye,” says one.

“Aye.”

“Aye.”

“Aye.”

“Aye.”

Kal El grins. “All in favour, Regent Ze.”

“Then let it be done,” the regent says, trying and failing to hide her amusement. “The traitor Non will be transferred to the Phantom Zone by the end of the day. I will personally report what happened here to the rest of the ministers in the World Capitol Building.”

One of the councilors laughs after the pronouncement, and she doesn’t shrink at the attention she gets. Her hair is nearly all silver, but Lena can see shrewdness in her gaze, not dulled one bit with age. She’s the first one who voted aye. “I always knew Your Royal Highness has the ability to undo the bindings that hold this Council together, but I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime. And with such flair!” She shakes her head. “King Jor El was right to call you his pride and joy.”

Kara’s lips quirk up in a smile. “Lady Dox,” she says, “thank you for your unerring loyalty to Krypton and your assistance to the House of El.”

“The House of El is Krypton, Your Royal Highness,” Lady Dox says, “and I’d rather end my line than have descendants who’d even think of betraying it.”

Kara tips her head in pleased acknowledgement.

“I knew there’s something going on when the traitor’s missive was brought to the Capitol,” says another councilor. “And to have it read in front of the entire parliament, well, he’s much too confident in his plan and it is his final downfall.”

“He’s had too much time in his hands, Lord Jaros,” one says. “He actually managed to dig up some obscure article in the constitution. That reeks of desperation too, some last-minute play.”

“Please, Lady Wilda”—Lady Dox snorts—“we all know the man’s a worm. Those fools in the Judicial Council should have sent him to the Phantom Zone the first time, but they’re too terrified of his connections to Zod.” She levels a gauging look at Kal El. “But then that threat has also been neutralised, so I suppose they’ll have the balls to do the right thing now, them useless lot.”

Lord Jaros nods. “Zod’s defeat at the Duke of Kandor’s hand put a damper on any plan the remaining conspirators may have had. Must be why they scrambled this half-cooked scheme, using the heiress herself as bait.”

“We apologise, Your Royal Highness,” says Lady Wilda. “We did not see the perversion that has tainted the High Council until it’s almost too late.”

“What’s done is done,” Kara says. “All I ask is that you remain steadfast in your oaths. Your loyalty to Krypton and her citizens is of the utmost importance to me. I know I am not a queen yet, but when I finally take my throne, I want the assurance that the High Council will serve the way it is meant to do.”

“We will do our best,” says another councilor. “But it’s important that these ranks be filled up too.”

“Lady Zavira is right,” says Lord Jaros. “The High Council cannot function with just the five of us. Even with support from the Duke of Kandor and the regent at the helm, the five pillars still will have to be replaced.”

“That may take a while. It’s half of the Council displaced at once,” says the regent.

“May I suggest something?”

“Yes, Lady Wilda?”

“Given that the High Council is currently in an unprecedented state of flux, I move to grant Her Royal Highness further authority as Grand Duchess of Lurvan and all municipalities within.”

“What?” Kara says, clearly not expecting that.

“Lurvan belongs to the House of El by rights in the first place,” Lady Wilda says, “and the estates dividing it up were granted to the House of Kin, the House of Rom, and the House of Gor by royal decree. With those heads of houses removed on charges of treason, their progenies wouldn’t think to accept their inheritances. So the titles will automatically return to Your Royal Highness anyway. By making you Grand Duchess it just becomes official, and in a much faster way.”

“True,” the final councilor says, “but that doesn’t solve the problem of the empty High Council seats.”

“No, Lady Fyhla,” says Lady Zavira, musingly, “but it does give Her Royal Highness free reign to grant the titles left behind as she sees fit. Meanwhile, we may focus on the High Council candidates without worrying about the estates.”

“Correct. Besides,” adds Lady Wilda, “Lurvan is large enough to create another duchy.” She sends Kara a motherly smile. “I reckon it will be needed so that the Tynth of El could have a title within Krypton’s court, when the time comes.”

The councilors ponder on Lady Wilda’s proposal, and it is Lady Fyhla who says, “That is as good an idea as any, I suppose. I thus second the motion, and those in favour of granting Her Royal Highness the grand duchy of Lurvan, say aye.”

“Aye.”

“Aye.”

“Aye.”

“Aye.”

“Fantastic.” The regent laughs and leans back in her seat. “Then let it be done. As regent of the throne of Krypton, acting on behalf of the Crown, I am pleased to return the grand duchy of Lurvan to the Royal House of El. As head of the House, Her Royal Highness the Princess Kara Zor-El shall be the Grand Duchess of Lurvan and thus is granted full authority over its municipalities and estates, as is stated in our laws.”

“I humbly accept,” Kara says.

The regent nods and looks at the councilors. “Are there any other pressing business we shall discuss, then?” Lady Dox raises her hand. “Yes, Lady Dox?”

The old councilor smiles at Kara and Lena. “I would just like to offer my sincerest congratulations on the betrothal of Your Royal Highness and to the Tynth of El, who seems to be a fine choice for a bride, keeping her head in such a delicate atmosphere.” She winks at Kara. “You chose well.”

And just like that the fully authoritative Kara Zor-El fumbles in a way Lena has seen a thousand times in Kara Danvers. “Oh, uhm, uh, thanks?” she squeaks. She clears her throat, throwing a dirty look at Kal El who chuckles behind a fist. “Thank you, Lady Dox,” she tries again.

“Right, we haven’t gotten the chance to greet you, Tynth of El,” says Lord Jaros. “Forgive our manners, arguing so unbecomingly.”

“It is quite all right,” Lena says, smiling, “it’s not so different from attending board meetings. Though I find this lot far more charming.”

The councilors laugh, and Lady Dox even chortles. “You’re a fine one, just as I said. I suppose the Tynth of El will accompany Her Royal Highness during Yule celebrations?”

“Yes,” Kara confirms, grinning at Lena. “We’ll take the opportunity to announce the betrothal to the rest of the country then.”

“Perfect timing too,” says Lady Fyhla. “It shall boost the people’s morale. By then news of what happened today would have already circulated.”

“Indeed,” adds Lady Zavira. “Something to look forward to.”

“I’m sure Her Royal Highness looks forward as well to discussing the terms of the betrothal with the Tynth of El’s head of house,” says Kal El, and his impish grin widens at Kara’s scowl and a mumbled shut up, Kal.

“Right,” the regent says, pressing a hand to her lips before collecting herself again. “Well, if that’s all?” They nod. “So be it. We shall work on the contract soon, but for now, this meeting of the High Council—or what’s remaining of it at least—is adjourned.”

 

                               

 

“Well.” Lena releases a long breath. “That was dramatic.”

“Were you expecting anything else?”

“I learned to expect the unexpected from you, so no.” She shakes her head. “Did your council just agree to grant me a title in your country?”

“Well. Yeah.” Kara shrugs. “It’s probably gonna be given to you halfway through the official courtship period. That’s usually what happens when the intended consort is not from Krypton.”

“And that’s not happening anytime soon if you don’t talk with your future in-laws first,” comes Kal El’s voice from behind them. He matches their pace, smiling at Imra who has returned to her post as Kara’s security.

Kara groans. “Shut up, Kal.”

“I’m just saying, there’s a chronology here, and you can’t skip steps just because you’re a princess.”

“Don’t you have some other things to do aside from annoy me?”

“Not really.”

“Go away.”

Lena laughs. “Don’t mind her, Your Excellency,” she tells him, “Her Royal Highness is just grumpy because she’s hungry.”

“Ah, should have figured.” Kal El nods sagely. “That’s never a good thing.”

“Can you two please not,” Kara says, a whine in her voice now. “That meeting was brutal and I just want lunch.”

“All right, all right,” Kal El says, “I’ll leave you alone soon enough. I’m really just here to say Alex called.”

“What?” Kara perks up at the mention of her sister. “Why didn’t you lead with that and be done with it?”

“Wow, I feel so wanted.”

“Ugh.” Kara rolls her eyes. “Why didn’t she call me herself?”

Kal El hesitates. “I think something happened. Nothing dangerous though!” he adds hastily when Kara’s eyes widen in panic. “She just asked me to delay her flight, so she won’t be arriving tomorrow as planned. She assured me she’s going to be here in time for Yule, though, and to tell you not to worry.”

“You all realise the more you tell me not to worry the more I’m likely to do it, right?” Kara asks dryly.

“Darling,” Lena says, “I’m sure Agent Danvers has her reasons. She’ll tell you if there’s a problem, and in her own time.”

Kara pouts, but shrugs all the same. “I guess.”

“Also,” Kal El tells her, “you won’t have time to mope anyway.” He waves his phone. “There’s a lot of messages waiting.”

Lena watches curiously as Kara blanches, all colour draining in a frankly frightening speed. “Messages?” she asks.

“Yes!” Kal El cheerfully says. “We have a group chat where Her Royal Highness mostly just rambles on about how pretty you are.”

Oh my god.” Kara hides her face with just one hand, because the other is still holding Lena’s, and neither of them really is inclined to let go. “Stop that.”

His blue eyes—and Lena really sees their shared blood now, with how they shine like living sapphires—are alight with teasing. “But I haven’t even gotten to the good part yet.”

“I will literally pay you to not say anything more.”

“I will pay you double to say more,” Lena counters.

Lena,” Kara chides in a pained sigh, but her eyes gleam in that way they do that makes Lena feel like she’s cradled in the sea, “don’t be mean.”

“I thought you like it when I’m mean,” Lena says, and she delightedly laughs when Kara just blushes, no denial at hand.

 

                                                               

 

Meeting Kara’s friends is nice. Winn is smart and can keep up with Lena’s science, and James has a mellow presence that welcomes them all with open arms. It is easy to trade jokes with them, and their anecdotes of the things Kara got up to in their youth are priceless treasures Lena diligently commits to memory.

They’re such warm people, really, that Lena is not surprised that they have gravitated towards Kara at all. Lena, who is generally anxious about socialising with strangers in a non-business setting, feels relaxed enough in their company to chew too large a bite of salad and laugh loudly when Kara tries to fit a whole slice of pizza folded in half into her mouth.

When they move to the living room, all full and on the right side of tipsy, Lena doesn’t second-guess any interaction. Her arm moves of its own accord when Kara leans against her, lifting it so Kara can fully tuck herself against her side. Winn and James barely bat an eyelash, merely smiling and launching into conversation that Lena finds herself totally immersed in.

It’s nice, and Lena is overcome with want: the want to stay like this with her for the rest of her life. For a moment she entertains the thought, of having friends over in an actual house she shares with Kara, sometime in the future. Sharing stories, joking, playing games, maybe.

Or. Well. If their engagement is something real, then she would be Kara’s consort, and Lena lets herself imagine what kind of life they would lead: Kara proudly wielding the queenly strength Lena knows is folded neatly at the edges of this college persona, Lena learning about her culture, about Krypton, without it being part of some convoluted ploy meant to put down detractors.

She’s not meant to be the one who stands beside Kara when she takes her throne, she knows. The honour falls on whoever would be lucky enough to have Kara’s heart for real, to have Kara’s love in all its genuine glory.

But the idea that it could be her is nice, and for a second, when Kara smiles with pride after she rebuts Winn’s argument about the viability of some tech or the other, Lena lets herself believe.   

 

                                                               

 

In the days that follow, Kara follows through with her promise to take her around Krypton, and Lena has just one thing to say: Krypton is . . .

Krypton is magnificent.

That is the only word Lena can think of, and even then, she knows that it doesn’t really do Krypton justice. It barely even covers the splendor of the country, the sheer beauty. 

But come to think about it, it is not a surprise at all that this place is the one that has given birth to Kara—that these lands have borne her to existence, nurtured her, shaped her to be the woman with whom Lena has fallen in love. 

It just makes so much sense, and is indeed very fitting, that Kara comes from a place as wonderful as she is.

The sun—Rao, Kryptonians call her, rather than the more known name Sol—seems to shine brighter here too, golden like Kara’s hair. The sky is bluer, just like Kara’s eyes. The air is more peaceful and calmer, and despite the winter cold, it seems infused with a warmth that makes Lena feel at home, just like Kara’s smile always does.

Really, everything about Krypton screams Kara, and now that Lena is here, she comes to notice just how much of Kara screams Krypton.

She sees the look in Kara’s eyes, gleaming with a sense of serenity that Lena’s never seen before—at least not like this—and Lena is struck with the reality that Kara and Krypton are one and the same, and for that reason alone, she knows without a doubt that she will come to love this country as well.

 

(And to be perfectly honest?

 

Lena knows that somehow, she already does.)

 

                                                               

 

sluthorin my bed:  roses are red

violets are blue

come to my bed

and let me do you

future wife: lena!

future wife: aKRYGSJHFFHRGEFDJHF

sluthorin my bed: so is that a no

(future wife is typing . . .)

future wife: not with that attitude, no

sluthorin in my bed: feisty

sluthorin in my bed: unexpected, but i like it

(future wife is typing . . .)

future wife: when i finally bed you, light you of my life

future wife: let’s see if you can keep your wits with you

 

Lena chokes on her wine, and she can feel all the blood rushing to her cheeks as she struggles not to spew it all on the pristine tablecloth and also not to die. She shoots Kara a glare across the table.

Kara merely grins.

 

                                                               

 

Lena finds it difficult to fall asleep, with Kara’s voice echoing in her mind.

“I’m scared that I’ll ruin everything and that you’ll leave,” Kara said.

Lena thinks it’s such an impossible notion. Ridiculous, to be honest, because if anything, she’s the one scared to be left behind.

“Please don’t leave,” Kara implored her.

There is nowhere Lena would rather be than with Kara, so that’s not a problem either. When Lena promised her forever, she meant it.

She means it. Lena doesn’t know what it means for Kara, but she knows what it means for herself, and she stands by it.

Kara might get tired of her, but she won’t leave unless she’s asked to.

And even then, Lena suspects she still will stay.

 

                               

 

She succeeds in getting some hours of sleep, and when she wakes up, she’s pleased to find that staying up too late hasn’t managed to make her susceptible to a hangover. Kara is still out like a light beside her, and Lena spends precious minutes just soaking her in, for the opportunity might not present itself again.

Kara looks untroubled and at peace, her hair a mess of gold on the pillow. Lena resists the urge to bury her face in the crook of her neck and steal some of her warmth for a rainy day.

 

For now, looking at her, so close to touch, their fingers a whisper away, would have to be enough.

 

                                                               

 

royal house of ell coat of arms

 

The Royal Archives, without a doubt, is one Lena’s favourite rooms in Rokyn Castle so far. It is the perfect merging of old and new, with its high ceilings and chandeliers and tables with entirely touchscreen surfaces and tall mahogany bookshelves all piled with books and scrolls.

Imra stands guard by the door, along with Querl Dox, who has just been assigned as the security detail for the Tynth of El. Lena sits on one of the room’s comfortable couches with Kara beside her, looking over the table screen. Kara is explaining the House of El’s history today, in part because Lena wants her to and in part because she needs to, given that Lena will be its consort, though it will be years before that happens officially.

Kara pulls up an enlarged image of the House of El’s coat of arms. At the top is a navy-blue bird with silver feathers, perched on a royal crown. The blazon is a red shield mantled in gold and with the familiar pentagon that has the S symbol within. The right mantle has a crimson bird whilst the left mantle has a flower with white and yellow petals. For the supporters, there is a golden griffin and silver dragon, and the compartment has tulips and sunflowers.

Just like everything in this country, Lena thinks it is magnificent.

“I keep seeing this S.” Lena lets her finger trace over that ever-present symbol.

“It’s not an S,” Kara says. “It’s El. E-L. My family name. It stands for El mayarah. Our House words.”

El mayarah,” Lena repeats, testing out the phrase slowly, the syllables sliding off her tongue smoothly, and she smiles when Kara nods in approval.

“It means ‘Stronger together,’” Kara explains. “A member of the House of El is expected to be strong on their own, but that strength is not all. There is no weakness in relying on family. Each of us has our own strengths, and together we can create a stronger whole.”

There is a quiet intensity in Kara’s voice as she explains her family’s heraldry, and Lena feels herself basking in the glory of such an old bloodline. “The plumeria stands for new beginnings,” she continues, pointing at the white-and-yellow flower. “The griffin for courage and boldness, the dragon for strength and dignity. Gold for divinity and silver for purity. The purple tulips for royalty, sunflowers for loyalty.” She traces the pentagon. “El itself though is an ancient Kryptonian word for ‘star.’ My ancestor Erok El took that name when her daughter was born. I was named after Erok’s daughter. It’s one of my father’s favourite stories—how the first Kara became the second bythgar of Urrika, where Kryptonian civilisation truly began.”

Kara taps through the screen and a map of Krypton pops out. She runs both hands across the map as if it’s a paper one, and with a flick, the image turns into a hologram.

“You have this tech in all these tables?” Lena can’t help but ask.

Kara nods. “Yep. It’s also a prerequisite in lots of establishments, and especially in Kryptonian classrooms.”

“Nice.” More than nice. Hologram tech is only available in the upper offices of L-Corp, and even then, it is not up to this level of sophistication. And to think that it is this quintessential in Krypton . . .

Her mother is going to freak. And then pretend she’s not impressed. But inside she’d be freaking out, and Lena would know, and she’d know that Lena would know.

It’s going to be fantastic.

Kara snorts, likely guessing what Lena’s thinking. She’s proven right when Kara says, “Should I include hologram blueprints in our betrothal contact?”

Lena just arches an eyebrow at her. “Are you saying I won’t be able to figure this tech out on my own?”

“Hey, wh— How did that even com— That’s not what I meant!” Kara splutters, and groans to the soundtrack of Lena’s laughter.

“I’m joking, darling,” she coos when Kara grumbles. “Do carry on.”

“Well now I don’t want to,” Kara says dryly, but still she does continue. “Urrika is an island in the north from which Krypton expanded.” She points to a huge mass of land and twists it until it expands. Lena sees the details of its topography—the valleys, the forests, the rivers. “It is where Erkol, Krypton’s oldest city, was founded. It had been destroyed twice but rebuilt each time, and exists to this day.” She gestures again, and the hologram zooms to a city landscape. “This is Stratu—Krypton’s first capital. Sindar Castle stands there, the first royal residence of the House of El. It’s used for large official functions and state occasions, and that’s where my coronation is going to be.”

“Your history is much more fascinating than what I learned in school, Kara Zor-El.”

“Kara El,” Kara says. “When I take the throne, I will be named Kara El, to signify that I am the queen by the absolute virtue of my bloodline and not through marriage.”

Lena hums. “The naming conventions are linked to your matriarchal system?”

“Yeah, but there’s also the primacy of the royal family to consider.” At the question in Lena’s eyes, Kara explains, “My father was Zor El, my mother was Alura Ze. By Krypton’s matriarchal laws alone, I should have been named Kara Ze. But my mother was just a countess, and House Ze was of the aristocracy only. No matter what, the royal House of El takes precedence. So, as a princess, I was given the name Kara Zor-El—it establishes my connection to the House through my father.”

“Kara El,” Lena tests how the name rolls off her tongue. “A bit short, but I like it.”

“I like how you say it,” Kara tells her, before blinking rapidly, as if she’s surprised at her own words. “I-I mean—”

“Is that so, darling?” Lena leans in, her lips dancing so close to Kara’s ear. “Kara El,” she repeats, giggling when Kara pulls her closer, capturing her lips in a kiss.

 

                                                               

 

le(na)sbian luthor: where the fuck are you

alexistential crisis: i wanna go back to the time when you’re too scared to even dare talk to me

alexistential crisis: much more swear at me

alexistential crisis: just because you two are official now doesn’t make this right

le(na)sbian luthor:  please, don’t flatter yourself

le(na)sbian luthor:  i was never scared of you

alexistential crisis: it’s not flattery if it’s true also don’t lie

le(na)sbian luthor: you’re deflecting and now’s not the time for that

le(na)sbian luthor: your sister’s moping because you’re still not here

le(na)sbian luthor: did something happen

alexistential crisis: aww goth luthor r u worried

le(na)sbian luthor: no

le(na)sbian luthor: but kara is

le(na)sbian luthor: so you better hurry

le(na)sbian luthor: her puppy eyes are becoming too much to handle

le(na)sbian luthor: would u really want her to cry during yule

alexistential crisis: y u gotta play dirty like that does kara know u r evil

le(na)sbian luthor: oh that’s nothing

le(na)sbian luthor: kara knows all about how i play dirty ;)

alexistential crisis: oH MY GOD SHUT UP

alexistential crisis: THAT’S MY SISTER

alexistential crisis: BRB GOTTA BLEACH MY EEYS NOW

alexistential crisis: OR PROBBALY TRHOW MYFLES OFF THIS GODDAMN PLANE

le(na)sbian luthor: oh so you’re on the way

le(na)sbian luthor: good

alexistential crisis: yOU’RE SUCH AN ASS

le(na)sbian luthor: your sister knows that too ;)

alexistential crisis: SHUT UP

alexistential crisis: also kara’s right, your winky face is terrifying

le(na)sbian luthor: ;)

alexistential crisis: STOP THAT

 

                                                               

 

Kara leads her out the back of the castle, onto a wide, intricately designed colonnade that overlooks the edge of what appears to be a fairly extensive forest. The Scarlet Jungle, Lena recalls from a map Kara has shown her earlier. Indeed, Lena can see the purple and red blooms of many of its trees, and Lena can only imagine how beautiful it must all be, up close, especially during springtime.

However, even from this far, it feels unnaturally tranquil—as if the gods above descended upon the earth to lend their divine peace—and Lena cannot help but tremble.

“I could get lost in those woods,” Lena murmurs, and she’s taken aback by the nostalgia infused in her own words. It is alarming, how she seems to be so wistful for something she does not know and has no hope of understanding.

Kara shrugs. “Many people have,” she says, matter-of-fact. “Some have even done it on purpose.”

That doesn’t make sense to Lena. Who in their right mind would ever purposely get lost? “Why?”

“To look for game, perhaps. Or just for the adventure.” Kara’s voice has a heavy quality to it. “Mostly, though, I think they just want to see for themselves if the legends were true. These woods are home to many of Krypton’s creatures. The flamebirds”—she gestures at the necklace Lena wears—“for instance. The nightwings too. But more than those, it is said that the woods also have creatures only heard of or read about in Krypton’s legends—flame beasts, flame dragons, the like.”

Kara smiles. “There’s also the rondor, which is sort of like a unicorn with its large horn, but instead of its blood, it is the horn itself that can cure any illness. Eons ago, when Krypton hasn’t evolved yet to its current status as a scientific powerhouse, many desperate people had gone into the woods in an attempt to look for the rondor and catch it—in some hope to ease their pains, or that of their loved ones.”

The smile fades as abruptly as it came. “Their attempts had all been in vain. The same goes for those who looked for the crystal birds—creatures whose crystalline skeletons were said to have been responsible for the Jewel Mountains.”

Lena doesn’t need much effort to match the solemnity of Kara’s tone. “How about you?” she asks, carefully. “Have you ever wandered into those woods?”

“Of course.”

“Have you ever gotten lost, then?”

“Never.” There’s no hesitation at the answer, and at Lena’s curious look, Kara shrugs again. “I’m of the House of El,” she supplies as an explanation. The words have a weight in them that Lena cannot quite grasp—they are spoken not smugly but instead sensibly, a statement of fact, yet they ring with a history thousands of years old, a past so extensive that it makes Lena feel so small, in comparison, like when she is looking at the cosmos.

Lena stares into the woods, and it isn’t hard to imagine nightwings and flamebirds flying overhead, wolves and other beasts roaming the grounds, dragons and wyverns lurking in the corners. She represses a shudder.

“I know those woods as well as I know the castle itself,” Kara continues. “Even if I were gone for a day, as long as my father and mother knew I went in there, they were certain I would find my way back.” “Those people though . . .” She trails off, her eyes heavy with grief. “Sometimes . . . Sometimes, they were found too late.”

This time a chill does run down Lena’s spine, and she steps closer to Kara, huddling for warmth, looking for comfort from the cold that has nothing to do with the weather.

 

                                                               

 

“You’re so screwed,” Sam says.

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“I think you’re in love with her.”

Lena freezes, her inhale a bit too sharp for Sam not to notice. “You can’t just say that.”

“Why not?”

Lena pauses, and Sam waits. Her voice is nearly a whisper. “It makes it real.”

“Oh honey,” Sam replies, “it’s been real this whole time. You just weren’t ready to see it.”

 

                                                               

 

comet me bro: HEY YOU’RE ENGAGED????!!!

comet me bro: WHY AM I ONLY HEARING ABOUT THIS

comet me bro: AND FROM AN ACTUAL ROYAL MESSENGER

comet me bro: THEY CAME IN A HELICOPTER

comet me bro: DAD THOUGHT IT’S ABOUT A MERGER TBH BUT LIKE

comet me bro: THIS IS EVEN BIGGER

comet me bro: I THINK MOM’S GONNA MURDER SOMEONE IF SHE DOESN’T GET AN EXPLANATION SOON

comet me bro: P.S. I THINK THAT SOMEONE’S ME

comet me bro: ANSWER ME, YOU DIPSHIT

 

She thinks about it for a second before deciding that yeah, she probably should reply or something before Lex had a conniption.

(Or prematurely loses his hair, which is something that would have straight-up driven Lex into a state of extreme terror, more so than any illness.)

 

l-e-nar eclipse: ugh you’re worse than a teenager

 

Fucking finally,” Lex says as soon as Lena picks up the call.

“Did you miss me that much, brother?” she says wryly, but Lex ignores her, launching right into a tirade.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up to Dad being loud as fuck calling every fucking lawyer in our payroll and Mother pacing across my floor as if I stole her finest bourbon and brought shame she didn’t expect from me and fuck, Lena, you’re getting married to an actual princess? When were you even going to tell us? Were you going to tell us at all? Are you gonna get married soon? Am I invited? Because let me tell you, sister dearest, if you get married without me there, I’m gonna be real pissed, I swear to god.

Lena snorts. “Are you done? Can I speak now or do you have something else to say?”

Don’t get clever on me now.

“I’ve always been clever. I’m a Luthor.”

Ugh, you’re so annoying,” Lex says with a pained sigh, and Lena chuckles at his obvious exasperation. “You didn’t tell me I met an actual living breathing princess, and you’re fucking engaged to her!

“See, brother dearest, this is why I don’t want to tell you. That kind of language won’t stand in the presence of a princess.”

“Bullshit, we both know you’re even crasser than I am.”

“How terrible of you to say that.”

“Why were you even so worried she didn’t feel the same way when she’d already gone and given you a family heirloom? Honestly, Lena.”

“How did you even know about the heirl— You know what, forget it.” Lena sighs. “It’s complicated.”

“Complicated is your middle name,” Lex says, “also how the fuck do you expect me to just forget that you’re engaged to a princess! A princess!”

“Yes, I am aware she’s a princess.”

“Why are you getting married so quickly, you’re still in college, I know you two are serious but like, we didn’t even know you’re in a relationship that long and then now there’s marriage —”

“Lex, I’m gonna hang up if you don’t shut up.”

“Explain!”

“I will if you just shut up!”

She catches sight of Kara watching her across the room with a huge grin, finding her situation hilarious, and she swallows back a sigh.

 

                                                               

 

sluthorin my bed: what do you call a snake that’s exactly 3.14 feet long

future wife: what

sluthorin my bed: a πthon

future wife: oh my god

future wife: are you and alex having a competition on bad jokes

future wife: because this is getting ridiculous

sluthorin my bed: first of all, they are perfectly good jokes

sluthorin my bed: shame on you for not appreciating their brilliance, kara el

sluthorin my bed: and second of all, no, we’re not

sluthorin my bed: though if we were

sluthorin my bed: i’m absolutely going to win it

 

                                                               

 

“Huh.” Lena scrolls contemplatively through the screen, skimming the paintings of monarchs past and the texts that come with them. All of them were crowned when they were already adults, the sets of their shoulders sure and firm against the burden they were born to bear. “So much of our world history would have been different, were children not burdened with the responsibilities of entire nations.”

“That’s what Krypton wants to avoid.” Kara leans back on the couch. “Early in our own history, there was a tyrant, Vada El. She took the throne when she’s like, eight years old, which, as you know, was just the perfect age to rule over a kingdom itching for war and to assert their superiority over the surrounding clans.” She grins at Lena’s snort. “She was pretty bloodthirsty for a kid, always ordering beheadings when she didn’t get her way.”

“My mother should be grateful that I settled for just leaving strategically placed Lego pieces on the floor for her to trip over, then,” Lena says dryly.

Kara chuckles. “Stone cold. I like your style.”

“Give me a sword and maybe you’ll change your tune,” she says, smirking at Kara, an eyebrow raised. “So this Vada El, she’s the reason your people changed the laws?”

“Yep. Well”—she squints, thinking—“technically, it’s her sister who amended the Royal Decrees. Hyra El was the second daughter, two years younger than Vada. She’s first in line to the throne while Vada wasn’t old enough to sire her own heirs. But she fled when Vada had been ruling for about seven years. They had an argument about the constant wars, seriously depleting the kingdom’s coffers. But Vada won’t listen to reason, obviously, and she ordered for Hyra’s execution.”

“I’m guessing that execution didn’t come to be?”

“Correct,” Kara says. “With the help of some servants, Hyra managed to escape. She sought refuge in the ranges of Mount Mundro.”

“Where you get your kryptium?”

“Yeah.” Kara smiles, pleased that she remembers, and Lena tries not to preen. “Hyra’s actually the reason we discovered kryptium. She used it to gather funds and then to build a legion that could stand against Vada’s army. The war lasted for decades, and Krypton nearly tore itself asunder, dithering between two factions of the royal family.” She stares at the image of her ancestors, pensive. “It has always been our flaw, according to history—the hubris of the House of El.”

A curtain of darkness falls across Kara’s expression, and Lena thinks she looks like a statue here, all hard planes and sharp angles, a reflection of the gods in heaven.

She remembers once reading about how falling in love with gods always ends in tragedy, and Lena almost believes that, looking at the swirling storms in the depths of Kara’s eyes.

But then again.

Lena has never been one to believe in myths.

So she just takes Kara’s hand, grips it like a lifeline, and offers Kara her presence, plain and simple.

And when Kara smiles, quiet with her gratitude, Lena thinks she is the one god she’ll spend her whole life loving. Kara tugs her closer, guiding Lena’s head on the curve of her neck, and they stay like that, curled on the couch, no words spoken but the beats of their hearts. Lena closes her eyes, lets herself be surrounded by Kara’s warmth and her scent, and Lena feels her heart burn just a little brighter.

And the world might be ending outside these halls, and the stars might start falling from the skies, but Lena will stay here with Kara through it all.

 

There is only Kara, and Lena loves her.