Actions

Work Header

An Ocean of Fire

Chapter Text

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Water fell in an even, rhythmic pattern, echoing across cobblestones. A shallow puddle gathered in the low corner of a damp dungeon. Chill seeped from the cracks in the walls and floor.

Chains clinked gently across stone, and an occasional draw of haggard breath pushed through the silence. A woman was on her feet, barely, knees bent and head hanging, hands manacled above her head. She was gripping and releasing the chains in time to the drips, trying to keep blood flowing through her aching arms and shoulders. She inhaled and exhaled slowly, dry tongue occasionally darting out onto dry lips. Blonde hair hung down, framing her face, sticking to her neck.

Kara Zor-El, princess of Krypton, was a prisoner – and she was scheduled to become a martyr.

 


 

 

A woman in a hooded robe flitted silently down the dungeon halls. She was gripping tightly to the iron keys in her hands, willing them through sheer force not to clink together. She adjusted the bag over her shoulder, cinching it tighter, and peered around a dark corner.

There were two men standing outside the door. She cursed to herself, squeezing her eyes tightly shut before mustering her courage and stepping out into the dank hallway.

The guards started, yanking their swords from their sheaths and blocking her path.

“Identify yourself!” One bellowed.

She winced, and tugged back the hood of her robe.

They immediately lowered their swords and stood at attention.

“Princess Lena. I apologize. We weren’t expecting any visitors this evening and – “

She waved her hand, effectively silencing him.

“Please. This is my fault. I should have stopped by the captain’s office to tell him I was coming down. I just…” She bit her lip and leaned closer, whispering to them conspiratorially. “I just wanted to see the prisoner. Without… you know. Alerting my brother.”

The guards quirked an eyebrow and glanced at each other. The King had given orders for the prisoner to be left without food or company for two weeks, in hopes that it would leave her weakened and crazed. She received minimal water once a day. These orders hadn’t stopped guests of the keep from coming down to gaze haughtily upon the once-mighty Kryptonian, delighting in her waning strength.

The sergeant cleared his throat, gazing knowingly down at the princess.

“Your highness, the King has instructed – “

“I know, I know. No visitors. But I just must see her. Before the trial! I’ll be gone, you know – visiting mother. I won’t even be here for the festival. Please? Won’t you make an exception for me?” She smiled shyly up at the guard, imposing in his armor.

He looked down at her for a few more moments before standing straight up at attention once more.

“I’m sorry your highness, but our duty is here at our guard post. We always follow the King’s orders.”

Lena began to swallow bitter disappointment, her hand reaching into her robes for the hilt of her dagger. She didn’t have a chance in a fight with a single guard, let alone two – but anything was better than going back the way she came.

It was simply out of the question.

She began to drag it out of its sheath when suddenly, the sergeant performed a left face and began marching away, down the hall. He called over his shoulder without looking back.

“Come along, private. We must patrol this hallway to ensure that it is clear of any intruders!” The second guard executed a sharp left face and followed his sergeant.

“Yes sergeant! I love patrolling the hallway. It is the perfect fifteen minutes to stretch my legs!”

Lena’s mouth lifted into a half smile, which promptly sank into a grimace. The guards had been kind to her, and their kindness would lead to their deaths.

If everything went according to plan, their prisoner was about to be stolen away.

 


 

The sound of metal grinding against metal reverberated throughout her cell, and the heavy wooden door creaked open before gently shutting again. Kara lifted her gaze to the hooded figure, following them with heavy-lidded eyes. They paused in the middle of the room, seemingly taken aback by the damp cell.

The hood turned in all directions before finally focusing on her. The figure stepped forward, and Kara tensed.

They had been… visiting her for days. They usually carried small blades and bared teeth, mocking her, relishing in their ability to finally make the invincible Kryptonian bleed.

She was weak. Her skin no longer impenetrable, her wounds no longer drawing closed.

She suspected that her cell wasn’t made of normal stone.

Her newest visitor stilled when Kara’s body tightened, pausing for an eternity before long, slender fingers grasped the edges of the hood. Kara furrowed her brow, watching as sharp angled cheekbones, alabaster skin, full red lips, and deep green eyes were revealed.

Despite her thirst, her hunger, and the ache that sat in her bones, her pulse beat a faster tattoo. Her stomach twisted in recognition. She was as stunning as Kara remembered, and bile rose in her throat at the notion that she had come to torment her.

Those long fingers reached forward as green eyes filled with concern, lips pursing. Kara could do nothing but watch as their tips grazed her bruised cheekbone.

“What have they done to you?”

 


 

 

Lena was not expecting this.

Her stomach churned at the sight of the Kryptonian before her. It was evident that she had been heavily beaten – either from the fight she put up at her capture or during her imprisonment. Dried blood was caked to the hairline above her temple, and her bottom lip was cracked on one side. Purple bruises dotted her arms, and one was blossoming thick and red on her cheekbone. Her black tunic was torn at the shoulder, and her skin had been sliced in numerous places.

Even with her injuries, it was clear that a deep and magnetic power emanated from her. She was still on her feet somehow, and her eyes showed no fear – only a steadfast resilience.

Kara’s lips parted and her voice was low.

“You are aware of the… kindness of your brother, princess.”

Lena was startled at the use of her title.

“You know who I am?”

Kara Zor-El tilted her head back to rest against the wall, apprising the shorter girl through half-closed eyes. “You are not easy to miss, Lena Luthor. Or forget.”

The raven-haired woman’s lips opened and closed several times, before she pursed them and took a step back, busying herself with adjusting the bag on her back and feeling for the comforting hilt of her dagger.

“Well then. Good. It’s better that you understand quickly. We don’t have much time.”

Kara lifted a bruised eyebrow at this.

“Time for what, your highness?”

“To escape.”

 


 

 

Kara found the ground beneath her feet and straightened as well as she could, her eyes narrowing.

“Say that again.”

“I’m here to rescue you.”

Kara’s heart began to pound once more. Her blood rushed and her stomach turned, from lack of food, fear, and excitement. She masked these feelings on her face and leveled her voice as best she could.

“And why would you do that? Surely, they will punish you severely. We will have only traded places, and I can’t imagine that you mean to be chained in a cell.”

Lena’s eyes shifted to the side in a panic, shaking her head. She took a deep breath and seemed to find her resolve, before turning her gaze back to the Kryptonian.

“Because I want you to take me.” Kara’s eyebrows shot up.

Pink bloomed across Lena’s neck and cheeks. “… with you. Take me with you.

“Mmm.” The sound rumbled from the taller woman’s throat, and her chuckle was dry. “I see.”

Lena twisted her fingers anxiously, turning her head back towards the door to listen for the guards.

“Please. We don’t have much time, and this is probably the only chance either of us has – “

“I’ll do it.”

 


 

 

Kara recalled the first moment she had seen her.

It was seven years ago, seated around a dusty arena. Kara was disguised as a common spectator, cloak pulled over her head to guard from the heat, the beating sun, and any chance of recognition. A crowd pressed around her, agitated with wine and excited for a fight.

She watched the Luthors carefully. They were seated in a large covered dais while servants milled about, bringing refreshments and waving fans to combat the stifling heat.

Lex Luthor, freshly coronated as the King of Luthoria, threw his head back and laughed at something his mother whispered to him. He grinned into a cup of wine, regarding the arena over the rim.

He reminded Kara of a snake.

His younger sister, Lena, sat silently to his side. She watched the action with barely concealed disdain, almost imperceptibly wincing when sword slid against steel and caught skin.

Lex leaned over to Lena and seemed to repeat his mother’s words, but the smile she was offered him was hollow. Even from her place across the sand, Kara could see contempt flashing in her eyes.

She turned her attention back to the center of the arena, where a burly Luthorian gladiator was losing – heavily – to a remarkably unwounded woman.

Remarkable – if you did not know she was Kryptonian.

Her skin was impervious to damage from ordinary steel, and shields could not block her – but she was not spared from wounds to her honor, her loyalty, or her heart.

When the woman’s father stumbled into the Kryptonian palace mere days before, with shaking hands covered in blood, his eyes and lips spoke of torture and kidnapping.

The Kryptonian before her now was wed to a Luthorian, had a daughter with him.

They had both been dragged from their homes in Krypton, held as ransom.

She had been blackmailed into being a champion fighter for Lex Luthor. A coronation gift from his mother.

Kara’s eyes hardened as she watched the fight.

The Kryptonian warrior stood over the gladiator, who had fallen to his knees. Her mouth was twisted into a pained grimace, and her knuckles were white against the hilt of her sword.

She lifted her hand to swing the final blow, when a piercing whistle shrieked from the sidelines.

Kara frowned as a team of archers stomped in from a door in the side of the arena.

Once in line, they silently knocked their bows and drew upon the Kryptonian.

Kara’s eyes flicked up to watch Lex Luthor, who had set down his wine and was leaning forward eagerly. His grin was wide and devious, his hands gripping the armrests of his chair.

The arena stole her attention again as an order was called. The crowd was suddenly oppressively quiet, on the edges of their seats.

Waiting to see the woman whose skin repelled arrows.

The Kryptonian in the arena lowered her arm and stood to face her attackers head on. Waiting for the inevitable glances from ineffective weapons.

When the order was given to release, Kara barely watched.

They could not hurt her.

But then a deep, piercing scream rang across the silent arena and shook through her body.

The Kryptonian warrior dropped to her knees, a fraction of an inch at a time, her sword falling to the sand. Her head was thrown back towards the skies, basking in the rays of the sun. The sun that they worshipped. The sun that gave them strength.

The sun that glistened across red blood as it streamed from her chest and arms.

Kara felt her stomach flip.

The crowd seemed to find their voices again, devolving into a roar.

She was shoved and jostled as they jumped and grabbed at each other.

The invincible woman could be killed. The Kryptonians could bleed.

Kara heard the thud of a body hitting the sand, and then everything else became muffled and slow. As if she was watching and listening to the world with her head under water.

She lifted her eyes to the grotesque sight of Lex Luthor on his feet, screaming in victory. He was reaching for his mother and kissed her cheek, pulling her into a tight hug as she patted his back and pointed down into the arena.

He turned to his sister, and Kara watched as she stared in open-mouthed horror down at the dead warrior.

He shouted something to her and she looked into his face, before shaking her head and lurching away from him.

His face of triumph instantly twisted into a chaotic anger. Kara watched him grip her upper arm and haul her out of her seat, gesturing for a servant. With his free hand her grabbed her face and pulled her into him, where he shouted something else Kara could not hear.

When the servant was at his side, he shoved her into his arms and flung his hands up, motioning for her to be taken away.

As she was dragged inside, Kara’s senses snapped back to reality.

She needed to go.

She turned on her heel and fled the arena. Her father needed to know of the weapons that could draw Kryptonian blood.

 


 

 

Princess Lena Luthor was either desperate or insane.

Kara decided it the instant she suggested breaking her out of her prison. This woman knew, better than most anyone else in the universe, the depths of cruelty her brother is capable of sinking to. She had seen his depravity up close, borne witness to his demons, likely been victim to them herself.

Her own current circumstances aside, Kara decided that this raven-haired princess was in desperate need of rescuing - not only today, but for many days to come.

Secondarily, there was the small matter of how much she distrusted Lex Luthor. She needed a guarantee that even if this was a trap, she would have collateral.

So, with the taste of freedom on her tongue and the weight of a heavy decision settling in her heart, she nodded curtly.

Lena exhaled and stepped closer, reaching up for the first manacle.

“Wait.”

Green eyes and a furrowed brow pierced her with confusion.

“I have a condition.”

The shorter princess nearly laughed out loud. “A condition? What position are you in to be making conditions?”

The bloodied side of Kara’s mouth twisted upwards slightly, similarly amused by the situation despite the pain coursing through her body.

“You need me as well, princess, or you would not be here.”

Lena stiffened her spine and raised an eyebrow, very much appearing as if she had barbs poised on the tip of her tongue.

“Let’s have it, then. What do you require? Gold? Land? I have almost nothing to give you besides your freedom and a week’s worth of rations.” Her jaw was set, her shoulders squared.

Kara shook her head. “What I request is not of material value.” She took a deep breath and stood as tall as she could, steely blue sky meeting green rolling hills.

“Well?”

“Marry me.”

This time, Lena did bark out a laugh – before promptly clapping a hand over her own mouth and glancing furtively towards the door before wheeling back on the blonde.

“Sorry? I’m sorry, did you just propose marriage to me, Kara Zor-El?” she hissed softly.

She nodded gravely. “We will perform a Kryptonian marriage here. It will be brief, but the bond is strong-“

“No. Absolutely not.” Her eyes were blazing as Kara shrugged and looked away.

“Then leave me here. I will die soon, and will no longer be your concern.”

Lena was incredulous. “You would choose death over release? Gallows over open sky?” Her hand shot out to press against Kara’s uninjured cheek. “Are you with fever, Kryptonian? Let me give you some water-”

“I am surviving, Princess. I am Kryptonian, and we are a people of honor. I will not let you do this to your demise. If you are to save my life, then a lifetime is what you will be owed.” Sharp blue eyes pierced through her.

This immediately agitated the shorter brunette, who began pacing. Kara was almost amused as she watched her go.

“I do not want your life. What good could that possibly do? Simply help me escape, and your debt will be repaid.”

“I will not relent on this. Meet my condition, or we are of no further use to each other. You should go, before the guards return.”

Lena stopped abruptly, her face tilted up harshly.

“I am seeking freedom, Princess Zor-El, not a prison made of marriage vows! I will not be another pawn in another royal family, pushed and pulled at the mercy and whim of another!” She was whispering, but her voice was hoarse and her disdain was unshifting.

“Listen to me.” Kara tried to reach for her, her hands catching at the chains above her. She tugged at them in frustration and groaned at the pull in her shoulders.

Kara tried her best to make her cracked voice sound soothing. Perhaps a softer approach would be better.

“Please. I mean you no harm. I will not treat you as a pawn. I will give you the freedom you seek. But this thing you are doing – this step you are about to take against the House of Luthor – is dangerous. You will be hunted. You will have a target on your back a mile wide, and there will be nowhere you can run, nowhere you can hide, where he will not find you. The price on your head will be tempting even to kings.”

And I need to guarantee that your fate is tied to mine, Kara thought to herself.

Lena was trying to remain staunch and determined, though her chest was rising and falling rapidly. After a beat, a trembling hand came up to cover her mouth. Tears welled up in green eyes, and her voice was desperate, pleading.

“I… I don’t have any other choices. I can’t stay here. I would rather die.” Kara’s fists clenched in her manacles.

“Let me help you. I can protect you. Set me free and I will keep you safe. I will not let them hurt you.”

“And what of your people? I am a Luthor. They will hunt me as my brother will.”

Kara’s lips pursed.

“This is true – our disdain for your family runs deep. More so still, I imagine, since my capture.”

Lena threw her hands in the air, staring her down. “Well? How is this a better option?”

“Because you will no longer be a Luthor.”

Lena’s brow furrowed at that notion, and the blonde could see doubt and revelation crowding across her face. She capitalized.

“You will be Princess Lena Zor-El of Krypton, wife of the heir of Krypton, future Queen. There is no place safer.”

“… Christ.”

Lena resumed pacing. She had one hand on her hip, the other palming her own forehead. She was whispering softly to herself, unintelligible and fringing on panicked. Kara’s eyes tracked her for several long minutes before she stopped, turning with her hands slowly dropping to her sides. A tear tracked down each cheek.

Kara watched a thousand emotions pass through her green eyes.

The moments seemed to stretch into an eternity, seconds lasting a lifetime.

The water dripped in the corner.

A sigh blew between red lips.

“… what must be done?”

 


 

 

She had gone insane. That was the only explanation. The green kryptonite built into these cell walls had somehow caused her to lose her human mind.

That was the only possible way to understand the choices she was currently making.

Thoughts streamed through Lena’s mind at a sickening pace as she reached up, carefully unlocking the first manacle. Kara’s arm fell and Lena could hear her whimper softly as the blood rushed back into her fingertips. She gingerly unlocked the second manacle and was shocked when the blonde princess nearly collapsed.

Her arms instinctively tightened around Kara, propping her up. She stood there for several moments before softly whispering “I’m sorry, but we…”

“We have to go. I know.” Kara smiled wryly and stood on wobbly feet, grasping and massaging her wrists and hands. “I’m just trying to regain some feeling.” Lena adjusted her robes and cleared her throat.

“You will feel better when we leave this cell.”

Kara’s mouth twisted into that half smile again. “I thought as much.”

“So now? What is next?” Lena was glancing at the door again, anxiety roiling through her stomach.

“Let me take that pack. And I will need to put my hand in your robe.”

Lena turned on her, mouth gaping. “Excuse me? You will not-“

Kara pressed a finger to her lips, looking down into haughty eyes.

“It must be done. I am sorry, but we will need to move fast when we leave this cell. My father will have sent warriors after me, and if we are met with a Kryptonian rescue party outside these walls I cannot guarantee your safety. The sooner we are bonded, the safer you will be.” Kara’s face was grim as Lena held the pack out to her, but she yanked it onto her back, wincing at the lightning shooting through her shoulders. Lena’s expression was cold.

“I had heard that Kryptonian marriages were so secretive because they were barbaric. I had no idea they were also based on degradation and humiliation, but I suppose I should have guessed.”

“You know nothing-“ Kara shot her a look that was both anger and offense, but the edges of it cooled when she was met with a thinly-veiled trembling lip and eyes full of fear. She sighed.

“If I had my choice, I would not do this here. This is not what I imagined for my own wedding bond either. I am sorry. I will do my best to honor you.”

Lena blew out a shaky breath, acknowledging the sincerity in Kara’s voice. Another tear raced down her cheek, and she swiped it away resolutely. She lifted her chin, mustering her pride, and reached down for the hem of her robe, beginning to gather it up towards her stomach.

Surprisingly strong fingers clamped down around her wrist, and she looked up into slightly amused sapphire eyes.

“Not like that, princess.” Kara’s hand cupped her cheek, and she was surprised to find it warm and soft despite her recent ordeals.

She dropped the material again, furrowing her brow, her cheeks coloring. The color further deepened when a strong hand slid down the side of her neck and dipped into the collar of her robe. She exhaled when Kara’s palm slid across the skin of her left collarbone and settled just below it, pressing tightly.

Her skin was tingling hotly beneath the Kryptonian’s hand, and her mouth opened and closed slowly as she stared at her. Kara’s eyes were concerned, and she paused.

“I…”

Lena clenched her fists. “What is it? We must hurry.” Kara’s jaw tightened.

“This is going to hurt. I’m sorry, princess. You must be quiet.”

Lena nodded, confusion filling her eyes.

Kara’s free hand snaked around Lena’s shoulder blade, and she was suddenly being pressed between her hands. She had the distinct feeling she was being held still.

Then her world lit on fire.

Her fingers flew up to grip at Kara’s tunic, and her teeth gritted. Breath hissed out of her and her entire body trembled, a molten tear in the skin of her chest that began beneath Kara’s palm. It felt as if a flaming griffin was dragging its claws across her heart, and she ached down into her bones. Her eyes flew up and met the Kryptonian’s head on, shock racing through her skin at the sight of gold shooting through the endless blue.

She was overcome with a sudden feeling of dizziness, and she swayed into Kara’s grip. Soft words were ghosting through her mind, whispers in a language she couldn’t understand, sliding across her consciousness like silk. Chills trailed down her spine and up again, and her jaw dropped at the sensations coiling and uncoiling from her neck to her toes.

She soared across the universe, stars racing past her like tiny points in an endless canvas of inky black nothing.

A final surge of white-hot electricity scraped through her body, before the pain slowly subsided to a dull throb. Her inhales were coming in gasps, and her hands had fully fisted in the material of the blonde’s tunic. She realized that Kara’s forehead had dropped to hers, and their breathing was becoming syncopated.

“Dear lord…” she panted. “What was…”

The chills that had been racing up and down her body began to creep into her palm, like frozen tendrils snaking down her veins.

She felt… cold.

Deliciously cold, like chilled water on a summer’s day.

Like the breeze of autumn, fanning across her face at twilight.

She could feel Kara watching her carefully, and she slowly released her grip on the shorter girl. The Kryptonian princess reached up to the ripped side of her tunic, pulling it aside with a shaky hand and once more meeting Lena’s eyes with her own.

The world seemed to still.

A frozen, silver hum began behind her eyes.

And suddenly, Lena could see.

Knowledge settled into her shoulders, heavy, weighted down with brevity and purpose. With tradition, and depth. An intentional pain, a soothing stroke, a coursing bond that flowed through blood and skin.

She knew that she was an icy queen, the opposing force to a fiery goddess.

A phoenix was rising, and she was the thundering snow storm.

She was powerful. She was ancient.

She was overcome with emotion, need, desire. She thrust her hand into the bare skin of the blonde’s chest. Her palm pressed heavily beneath her left collarbone, her fingers wrapping tightly over her aching shoulder. Kara’s face set into a statue of pain and wonder, trembling with fear and weakness and overwhelming strength and something entirely else.

The powerful Kryptonian warrior dropped to her knees. Lena’s grip did not falter.

She felt the burning ache in her chest begin to soothe, and Kara reached a hand up to grasp at her forearm, holding her steady, holding her in place.

Her free hand covered Lena’s, and gentle fingers curled over hers, pressing her close. She could feel her heart beating beneath muscle and skin and bone, and Lena knew then that it matched hers, that it would always match hers. Kara was whispering something archaic, something Kryptonian, and it set Lena shivering again.

The world broke down, cell by cell, grain by grain, and reformed again. A trillion stars exploded and were made whole. Lightning arced between them, invisible and formidable, searing through marrow, melting them into one.

They stayed in those seconds for a lifetime.

Finally, she slowly peeled the brunette’s hand away, and Lena swallowed past a gasp when Kara pressed a soft kiss to the center of her palm.

Her eyes flicked down to the red skin where her palm pressed moments ago, and allowed the gasp to leave.

It was a symbol, strange but familiar. She had never seen it before, but instantly knew its deepest history and purpose.

A thin outline of the crest of El had taken up residence, nestled beneath her collarbone. It was beginning to pucker and blazing red, but shimmered in bright platinum despite the dim light – as if someone had branded it directly into her skin. As if she had branded it directly into her skin.

Kara hastily fixed her tunic as best she could and settled the pack once more, padding silently to the cell door and cracking it, looking out.

Lena remained transfixed, rooted to the floor, staring down at her shaking hand.

What had she done? What had she…

In a moment of clarity, she touched her own chest. She reached up for the collar of her robe and pulled it aside, casting her eyes down.

There it was. Glinting, golden. The crest of El.

Suddenly, hands were gripping her shoulders and blue eyes were all she could see.

“My princess. We must go.”

Chapter Text


 

Kara pulled the door open slowly, peering around the corner. Lena shifted from one foot to the other behind her, her heart racing. A hand blindly reached out and grabbed the front of her robes to get her attention, and Kara turned to look at her over her shoulder.

“We must be fast. You know these halls – can you lead us?”

Lena nodded her affirmation.

“I have it memorized. There is a corridor down here with an exit behind the castle. It is only used by the kitchen staff to bring slaughtered animals in, and they’ve all gone for the night.”

“Good choice.” Kara swung the door open wider and pulled Lena forward, checking that the path was clear once more before tugging her out and silently closing it behind them. She gave her a confident look.

“I’ll be right behind you.”

It inexplicably filled Lena with a sense of calm, and she started down the corridor quickly. Kara kept pace just behind her, as promised. Torches flickered at even spaces along the halls, and she tried to stick to the shadows beneath them. She darted around a corner, her heart pounding with every step.

Suddenly, Kara yanked her into a deep, black doorway. A strong arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her tightly against a solid body, while a hand simultaneously covered her mouth. The message was immediately clear.

Lena could faintly hear conversation and armor clinking softly. The sounds grew louder and louder until the two guards from Kara’s cell slowly walked past. Lena’s heart felt like it was going to pound out of her chest. If they only looked to their left…

The arm around her waist tightened almost imperceptibly, and she held her breath. When they were finally out of earshot, she released it shakily.

Breath ghosted softly against her ear. “They will discover us soon. Lead the way.”

Lena nodded and checked up and down the halls before dashing back down the hallway. Her soft footsteps were silent, and she had to trust that Kara was behind her – she swore the Kryptonian didn’t even breath, she was so quiet.

Left, left, right, left… They passed through a creaking door that made Lena feel as if it surely woke the entire castle, but it closed behind them uneventfully.

They stole softly through the hall and into the back of the kitchen. Hot embers glowed in an old stove, but it was mercifully empty. Lena ducked into the pantry and motioned for Kara.

“Come. It’s this way.” Lena tugged the pantry door shut behind her and lead her back to the final door that stood between them and freedom.

Kara eased it open and braved a glance outside.

“No one.” Lena nodded. As she suspected.

Kara quickly pulled the pack down from her back and tugged the flap open, kneeling and looking up at Lena earnestly.

“Are there any shoes in here? Boots, maybe?”

Lena was grabbing last minute items from the pantry, nodding.

“Yes, I tried to get as many of your things as I could from the Captain's office last night after he stumbled home from the dining hall. I’m sorry that it isn’t more, but it will have to suffice.”

Kara’s eyes widened. “My things!” She dug through the pack and produced soft leather boots with sturdy soles, an extra black tunic, her family’s dagger, and… there.

She tugged up on a flap of dark red cloth, joy spreading through her chest like wildfire.

“My cloak. You got my cloak,” she whispered to Lena.

Lena tightened the string on a small burlap bag, which she had stuffed with potatoes, onions, some spices, and several loaves of bread.

“Yes, I got as much as I could. Please, we must hurry.” Kara passed her the pack as she was tugging on her boots, and Lena tucked the food into it. Kara secured the dagger into her belt, but left the fresh tunic and cloak in the bag for now.

She stood quickly and reached out, catching her hand on Lena’s forearm. “Thank you. I know that you can’t possibly understand what it means to me that you brought this back to me, but trust me – it is incredibly important and special to me.”

Red burned through Lena’s cheeks and she simply nodded.

Somewhere, high above them in the castle, came a muffled shout. Their eyes traveled up to the ceiling, and Kara flexed her hands at her sides.

“Looks like that’s our signal. Time to go.”

Lena assessed her – suddenly poised, energetic, vibrant.

She really did recover quickly now that she was no longer trapped in a prison of kryptonite. Even the harsh bruise on her cheek seemed to be lighter.

“What’s the plan? The stables are just to the right, then the barn, and just beyond them is an outcropping of trees that we can take deep into the woods. But they will have dogs, which they will send after us – and they are not kind creatures,” Lena whispered.

Kara’s jaw set.

“If we can get past the range of your archers, I can take us away from here quickly - where the dogs won’t be able to follow. It is too risky to attempt this close to the castle.”

Lena shivered. She knew the Kryptonian meant flying. She tried to shake it off and nodded her head.

“Then that’s the plan. Do you still need me to lead you?”

Kara slung the pack over her back and reached for Lena’s hand.

“No, princess – I’ve got it from here. Shall we?”

Lena slipped her hand into a warm one and they stole quietly out the kitchen door into the night.


 

 Brush rustled beneath their boots.

A root grabbed at Lena’s foot, and she stumbled. Her landing would have been hard, but strong hands shot out to grab her, pulling her along.

In the distance, they could hear dogs barking and howling while the voices of men screamed to each other.

Tears streamed down Lena’s face as her heart and her feet raced.

The night was inky and cavernous, and the half moon cast long shadows across the forest floor as it peeked between the leaves. Dead plants crunched and twisted beneath their feet, and to Lena it sounded as if cannons were being shot into the sky to signal their position.

The barking was getting closer.

Her lungs ached, and her legs were growing heavy. She had never been more scared in her life.

Suddenly, Kara flung an arm across her chest and pulled her tight against her.

What-

Shhhhhhh.” Lena looked up at Kara, who had her head cocked to the side. “I hear running water. Please tell me there is a river.”

Lena’s eyes grew wide. “Of course! Lilliana River, just to the east of us. We’ve been running parallel to it this entire-“

Kara yanked her hard, and then they were running again. Lena found new strength in her legs, doubling her speed to try to keep pace with Kara. Even still, she could tell that the Kryptonian was holding back for her sake.

A sudden, chilling howl pierced the air around them and Lena felt her heart stop.

They were going to get caught.

An evil hand clenched around her still heart, and a sob choked from her lips.

Kara!” An arm reached back and grabbed her, pulling her forward.

“Just keep running princess, I’m right behind you. I won’t let anything happen to you. Go!”

So she ran.

She ran as if her life depended on it – because at this moment, it truly did. She tried to keep her breathing even and steady, but it felt ragged and sharp. Every branch and thorn and rock and limb tore at her, slowing her down, daring her to stop running, to lay down, to give up. Brush scraped across her face and neck and she could feel heat stinging against her cold skin, but she ran. She ran and she ran and she ran.

Until there was no more room to run.

They had come to an outcropping that looked out over the bank of the Lilliana River. The fast-moving river had washed away the shore in the recent rainy season, and only boulders and the roots of several sturdy trees were keeping the hillside from crashing into the river. The drop down to the water was easily forty feet.

She tried to slow her pace, but the downward decline was steep. She dug her heel into a root and shot her arm back in an attempt to grab Kara and steady her, but it was not meant to be.

A solid body crashed into hers, and suddenly they were flying.

Or rather… falling. The world slowed to a crawl as Lena watched the rushing water and rocks come rising up towards her. She squeezed her eyes shut, and filled her lungs with air – though she was inwardly accepting her own death, disappointed that she got this close to escaping before the end came crashing in.

She felt arms wrap around her tightly from behind, and she had brief moment of comfort. At least she wouldn’t be alone.

In the split second before death, she had the feeling that the world was inverting. She frowned and opened her eyes just in time to realize she was now looking at the stars, before icy water crashed over her body and into her soul.

Everything went black.


 

 

Rao, this river is cold.

The chill seeped into her bones, even with her abnormal Kryptonian body temperature. She broke the surface, spluttering for air. The current was very fast here, and they were rapidly being dragged down river – which suited Kara just fine. She made sure she still had the pack on her back and hauled Lena higher up in her arms.

“Are you alright?” She gently shook her shoulder. “… Lena?”

Kara turned her in her arms, and her head lolled backwards. Kara’s eyebrows shot up and she reached for the back of Lena’s head, pulling her close and pressing their foreheads together.

“Lena! Lena, wake up. Please wake up.” Panic settled in her chest and she pulled the smaller woman closer, moving her hand down to her neck.

Please tell me I’m not dragging a dead body down this river.

“Please please please...” She whispered to herself, feeling down the column of her throat with her thumb.

There. A pulse.

Kara let out a deep breath she didn’t know she was holding.

She tightened her grip on the limp woman and took stock of their surroundings. They were drifting south at a fast clip, at the mercy of the tumultuous current. She turned their bodies so her back was south and pulled Lena in front of her, so she wouldn’t take any blows from oncoming boulders.

She had guided them towards the river because the water would throw the dogs off their scent, but it also made them extremely vulnerable to attacks from the shore. Her strength was still returning from her time spent in the dungeon, and she knew that she wouldn’t last much longer without food and rest.

She was attempting to look up at the stars and determine their position when she heard a distant roar.

Her brow furrowed. It sounded… familiar.

She shook her head to clear it, but the chill of the water was making her brain feel soggy.

A tiger? They roar.

No, not a tiger.

Think, Kara.

The edge of a tree that had fallen into the river slammed into the back of her thigh and stunned her back to reality. Her eyes widened and she tried to turn her head as much as possible to look in the direction of travel, where the roar was getting increasingly louder with every passing second.

Oh, Rao.

“Of course. Of course it’s a waterfall,” she muttered to herself.

She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, adjusting Lena’s body on her own. She tightened the pack on her back and tried to gather as much energy as she could possibly muster as the cacophony of falling water drew ever closer.

“Lena… if you’re thinking about waking up soon… now is not the time to do it,” she mumbled softly.

She felt the world slip out from underneath her, and they were halfway over the edge of the waterfall when she found purchase with her feet and kicked off as hard as she could muster.

They sailed away from the mist and storm of rushing water, and Kara could barely stop herself from shouting in triumph.

Flying had an incredibly consuming drain on her energy stores, however, and she knew that she didn’t have any seconds to spare. She needed to get them as far away from here as she possibly could before they both ran out of time.

She followed the slope of the waterfall down until she was barely above tree level and tore south.

She looked up at the stars again and made a quick adjustment, putting on a burst of speed that she didn’t really have. Her body felt heavy, and she was beginning to truly feel the weakness and damage that had been done to her since her capture. She shut her eyes tightly for a moment and willed herself to continue on. They were less than a hundred miles to the border of Bolenth. They weren’t overly fond of Kryptonians, but they would find safety from Luthorian hunting parties in their forests.

She hoped.

She pressed Lena closer to her chest, her thumb feeling for her pulse again. She sighed softly when she found it beating steadily.

Ten more minutes. She could do it.


 

Lena heard the wind whistling past her head, and her hair whipped around her ears. An arm was tucked under her knees and another was wrapped tightly around her torso. Her face was buried in a soft neck, and she reached up sleepily, fingers finding purchase in the soft material of a tunic. She sighed and snuggled closer, content to drift back to sleep – when reality hit her like a hammer.

The arms immediately tightened around her, and she heard a low, exhausted voice above her.

“Please, don’t panic. I don’t want to drop you.”

Her heart thumped against her ribs and she creaked her eyes open slowly. Her fists tightened in the fabric in direct proportion to how open her eyes were.

At the slowest pace she could possibly manage, she tilted her head down just enough to glance at the treetops flying beneath them. She immediately shut her eyes again, burying her face deeper into Kara’s shoulder.

“No. No no no no no no,” she whispered softly. She tried to curl into as tight of a ball as possible, pressing herself as close as she could to the Kryptonian woman.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let go. We’re almost there.”

Lena nodded and willed herself to take deep, meaningful breaths. The cold air made the tears on her cheeks sting. Her clothes felt as if they had been damp, but were quickly drying in the snapping wind.

She tried to focus on anything except the image she still had of the landscape blurring past them.

Several minutes later, Lena felt them slow. Kara gently pulled upright until her body was vertical once more, and slowly descended into a small clearing in the trees below. She set Lena down on her feet, and she was ashamed at how much her legs were trembling.

She walked a circle in the clearing to get her bearings, stretching while Kara pulled the pack off her back. She was feeling exceedingly disoriented.

“Kara, where are –“

A muffled thud cut her off, and she turned back to Kara just in time to see her crumple to the ground.


 

 

The world is full of uncertainties.

Twists in the road, forking paths that lead to victories, ones that lead to dead ends.

Sometimes it’s as if death is but one corner away, ever present yet always out of sight.

And so, the world is full of uncertainties.

But there are two things of which Kara is absolutely certain.

The first is that her entire body feels as if a mountain was dropped on her.

The second is that something smelled incredible.

The second thing outweighed the first by a small measure, so she groaned and tried to make sense of her own limbs again.

She was on her back, and her cloak was draped over her like a blanket. Smoke occasionally drifted past her nose, and she felt the warmth of a fire crackling softly next to her.

She sat up slowly, groaning again and pressing the heel of her palm into her eyebrow. Her mouth felt like sandpaper.

A gentle hand pressed into her shoulder, and a flask dangled in front of her face.

“Drink this, please. Slowly.” Kara blinked up at Lena and took the flask, uncapping it and taking a long pull of cold water.

“Thank you.” She croaked.

Lena rested her hands on her hips and looked down at her with a worried expression.

“I tried to move you onto some boughs so you’d be more comfortable, but you’re a rather heavy person.”

Kara chuckled and agreed. “That’s alright. I needed to sleep, it didn’t matter where or how.”

She caught another whiff of something amazing and turned her nose up to inhale deeply.

“Oh! One moment, let me bring you something to eat.” Lena briskly busied herself around the fire and Kara continued to sip water from the flask. She glanced around for the pack and pulled it towards herself, digging through it for the other tunic.

“How long was I asleep for?”

“Not long enough. Around three hours, I would guess.”

Kara dragged the ripped material from her body, moaning softly at the pain that rocketed through her back and shoulders. She hunched over and tried to take deep, calming breaths to keep the agony at bay.

She jumped when a soft, hot flask was pressed into her aching shoulder. Lena looked down apologetically, balancing a plate of food with one hand and the flask with the other.

“This will help. It’s full of hot water. Here, eat – I’ll do this.”

She lowered the small wooden plate onto Kara’s lap and gently lifted the strap of the black bralette she had been wearing beneath her tunic. She tucked the hot flask beneath it and adjusted it carefully, giving it a gentle tap before turning back to tend to the fire.

Kara felt the knotted muscles loosen beneath the heat, and she exhaled slowly.

The thin plate on her lap had half a loaf of bread on it. She picked it up, surprised to find it heavy and warm, and saw that it had been hollowed out on one end and stuffed with onions, potatoes, and meat.

She took a massive bite and her eyes rolled back into her head as she made a sound that was entirely inappropriate for dinner. She chewed and swallowed, moaning, “Rao, if we weren’t already married I would propose marriage to you all over again. This is incredible.”

She took another massive bite as Lena pursed her lips and cocked an eyebrow.

“Being able to shove meat into bread is hardly the basis of a stable and happy marriage, Kara Zor-El.”

Kara took a huge swig of water from the flask between bites and threw a disarming smile at her.

“You don’t have the power to tell me what will and will not make me happy in marriage, Lena Zor-El.”

 Lena rolled her eyes and tucked some supplies back into the pack, stoking the fire gently.

“Well at least you’ll be easy to please.”

Kara snorted and scarlet raced across her face in the firelight.

“I didn’t mean it in that manner!” She stammered. Kara continued chuckling, shoving bits of bread into her mouth. Lena frowned and glowered at her.

“You are insufferable, do you know that?”

Kara smiled at her. “I’ve been told as much.”

Lena stared quietly down into the flames as Kara ate happily. She let the moments pass in silence, before clearing her throat and looking down at the fingers that were twisting together in her lap.

“Kara, I think that we need to discuss some things.”

The blonde shot her a look, then nodded slowly and finished the last of her meal, taking another long drink of water.

She pulled the intact tunic over her head and positioned herself so she was sitting around the edge of the fire, across from Lena.

“You wish to discuss our circumstances.”

Lena looked up to meet her eyes. “Circumstances. Is that what you would call this?”

Kara shrugged and gave her a small smile. “What would you call it?”

The brunette shook her head, gazing down into the fire again.

“Worrisome. Disconcerting. Terrifying.”

Kara furrowed her brow and tried to catch her eye over the flames. “This is terrifying to you? The Princess who just escaped the grasp of the cruelest King in the universe? I didn’t know that being married to a Kryptonian was such a horror to you.”

Lena frowned up at her.

“That isn’t what I meant, Kara. But this…” she gestured between them, “is not how life works in Luthoria. My brother would have chosen a suitor for me that was the most politically advantageous to him, and I would have been immediately carted off for use in some unhappy monarch’s bedchambers.”

Kara watched the shudder move through her body, and she softened her glare.

“Well that isn’t going to happen now. And I promised that I would do my best to honor you. The only bedchambers you need to grace will be your own, if you’d like them.”

Lena’s eyebrows lifted. “If I’d like them? So I’m not required to stay?”

Kara’s mouth became a hard line, and she carefully folded her hands in her lap.

“No. I would never require anything of you, Lena. I told you before, this is for your protection. I owe you a great deal, and - though I assisted you in fulfilling your own goal of escaping – you are still in grave danger. I would not see you hurt, but I also would not see you a prisoner.”

Tears pricked Lena’s eyes and she quickly looked out into the trees surrounding them, blinking them away.

“However…” Kara continued. Lena glanced back at her sharply, as if waiting for the conditions to come down.

“However. I do have a simple request – that you at least accompany me as far as Krypton, and stay with me until my family and I have adequately assessed the threat to you and to our country.”

Lena let her request hang in the air for some time, the smoke from the fire curling up towards the stars. The trees rustled slightly above them, and nocturnal animals darted among the foliage. She worried her lip and gently stroked the thumb of one hand over the other.

"And I don't suppose your request has anything to do with guaranteeing your own safety."

Kara smiled wryly. "Mmm. I had heard you were exceedingly clever, Princess." She let out a breath and shook her head. "I won't lie to you - it crossed my mind that your brother may have sent you to me to gather intelligence, perhaps to further break me mentally."

Lena raised an eyebrow at her. "And now? Do you feel this way?"

Kara shook her head. "I do not believe that is the case now, but I would still be foolish to not protect myself."

She kicked her legs out in front of her and leaned back on her hands, watching Lena's face. "This protects both of us."

Lena sighed and dragged a hand through her hair. “You still have not told me where we are, or where we are going.”

“We are inside the southwestern border of Bolenth, a half-day’s journey to the capital of Thon. From there, we will exit the western border, cross the Sea of Banzt, and head directly for Krypton.”

Kara quietly waited, watching the emotions pass over Lena’s face as she had back in the prison cell. She was starting to learn what made the brunette tick – and time appeared to be the currency of transaction.

When Lena finally turned back to her, Kara could see that her eyes were shining – but no tears were falling this time.

“I will go with you.”

Kara let out a sigh of relief.

“But I would have several questions answered, and several requests of my own.”

Kara flopped onto her side, resting her head on her hand and slowly tossing twigs into the flames.

“Name them.”

“What will we tell your parents?”

Kara immediately burst out laughing, throwing her head back and holding her stomach. Lena was incensed.

“Why are you laughing? This is a real question, Kara Zor-El! They are the King and Queen of Krypton! I should hope that they will have some concerns about the new wife their heir has brought home with her from a country that is their sworn enemy!”

Kara’s laugh quieted, and she gave Lena another small smile.

“Princess, Krypton is the sworn enemy of Luthoria. Not the other way around. We could exist peacefully if your brother would cease making weapons that harm us and stealing away our warriors from their homes by kidnapping their families.”

Lena’s eyes slowly closed in shame, and she pursed her lips as she shook her head.

“I’m... so sorry, Kara. I tried for so many years to get him to give up this effort, but he was unrelenting. He-“ Soft fingers reached out and grasped her knee.

“Hey. You do not need to spend your breath making apologies for a mad king. I was there that day – when they first discovered that kryptonite could kill us. I watched them drag you away.”

Tears finally spilled down Lena’s cheeks as she whispered softly.

“He was so delighted, so obsessed with this idea that had finally come to fruition. All I could do was stare in horror. I knew then that he would never let it go, and that we would be at war until either our kingdom was in ashes or every drop of Kryptonian blood had been spilled.” Kara listened intently, never moving her hand from Lena’s knee.

“There was no in-between for Lex. You served his purpose, or you were meat for his dogs. The only reason I made it as long as I did was that he knew I would be a valuable bargaining chip when he wanted to marry me off.”

Kara squeezed her knee again gently.

“I’m glad that you are here with me now.”

She said it so sincerely that Lena’s heart clenched, and she patted Kara’s hand on her knee to distract herself.

“Me too. So… your parents?”

“Mmmmmm.” Kara rolled onto her back and tucked her hands behind her head, looking up at the stars peeking from between the forest canopy. “Let’s tell them… we are madly in love and we decided to join the Kryptonian circus and we’re running away together forever!”

Lena laughed for the first time since she heard Kara propose marriage to her – and even then, it was more like a scoff.

This laugh was soft, mellifluous. It tinkled across the night air like the wind chimes outside of Kara’s bedroom window on Krypton. She decided that she liked it – a good deal.

“Really Kara. What should we say?”

Kara shrugged. “I think the truth is the best course of action here. I don’t really hide things from my parents – my mother especially – and she’s bound to unwind it eventually. She’s extraordinarily clever, that one. She’ll have you pegged for a princess from the start.”

“So we’re going to tell them we’re… you know.” Her hand gestured off into the air. "Don't you think we should wait? I was hoping that we could take some time to discuss this with them on our own terms, perhaps have a small adjustment period-“

Kara crossed her boots and closed her eyes, humming softly.

“They’ll know.”

Lena started. “What do you mean, they’ll know?"

“Princess.” Kara’s low voice interrupted her. “Kryptonians can see each other’s marriage bonds. It will be immediately evident when we are greeted at the gate.”

Lena’s mouth gaped. “What do you mean, they can see each other’s marriage bonds? I am wearing clothes, Kara Zor-El.”

She was met with a soft chuckle.

“Kryptonians can see through everything except lead.”

Lena’s jaw dropped further. “Come again?” She crossed her arms over her body, turning away from Kara. “You can see beneath my clothing?!”

Kara quirked an eyebrow, cracking one eye open to peek up at her.

“Just because I can doesn’t mean that I have. Or ever will. Kryptonians are very aware of privacy and respectful of boundaries. Seeing someone’s marriage bond is… different. It’s more like... noticing a necklace, or a ring. It is not intended to be a violation.”

Kara rolled onto her side again and propped herself up on her elbow, looking up at the brunette who was uncertainly relaxing her posture.

“In fact, many Kryptonian women choose to wear a style of tunic or dress that openly displays their bond – it’s the mark of the house you are married into, and considered an honor to bear.”

Lena frowned deeply and looked her full in the face.

“We have that tradition in Luthoria too – but it is a brand that is displayed, and it only ever appears on slaves.”

Kara immediately sat up, glaring at her. “Are you intent on insulting me? The crest of the House of El is not a brand. It is… it is a blanket, soft and warm on a cold night. It is water, cool and powerful in the summer. It is the breeze, blowing through fields of crops and through the hair of playing children. It is a midnight sky full of stars, a blue sky set with drifting clouds. It is the ocean, that sprays and dances on the shore. It is a sword, carefully wielded and as merciful as it is deadly.” She turned to stare into the fire, her brow furrowing intensely. “And it is a shield – one that will protect you and anyone who bears it until its last drop of blood, and its last dying breath.”

Lena’s lips parted and her eyes danced over Kara’s face, watching the fire etch lines on her forehead and mouth. She reached out slowly, and soft fingertips found a tense chin. She gently guided an angry face towards her own.

“I am sorry, Kara. It was not my intention to insult you, or your family.” Her thumb pressed against a strong, ticking jaw. “To be perfectly honest, I sought you out in the dungeons of Luthoria because I had heard tell of the honor and strength of both Kryptonians and everyone who bore the name El. I owe you my life and certainly my freedom, and I do not mean to make myself a nuisance to you or your kingdom.”

Kara’s face finally relaxed, and she captured Lena’s hand. “You are not a nuisance, Lena. In whatever manner it currently means, you are my friend. I will protect you, as I’ve promised that I would.”

Lena made a soft humming sound, glancing down at her hand, still in Kara’s grasp. “I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone like you, Princess Zor-El.”

This brought a smile back to the blonde’s face. “Nor will you ever! I am quite original.”

Lena rolled her eyes and tugged her hand back, folding it in her lap.

“Kara… can you tell me more about these marriage bonds?”

“What would you like to know?”

“How are they created? What are they for? Why do Kryptonians have them? How do I have one? Are they always – “

“Wait! Wait.” Kara put a hand up to cut her off, stifling a yawn with the back of her hand. “One question at a time. They are for… well, they serve several purposes. The first and least of which is to simply allow each other to acknowledge houses and family members of others. But they also create a connection between those who have them that is not easily broken.”

“What kind of connection?” She unconsciously reached up to touch her chest, pressing her fingers gently into the mark. Kara shivered, and Lena reached over to stoke the fire.

Kara caught her hand.

“I am not cold, Princess.”

Lena frowned at her, and Kara released her hand, reaching up to press her fingers into her own chest. Warmth settled into Lena's bones like hot tea, comforting and easing. She gaped at Kara.

“Did… did you just do that?”

“Yes. We are connected now, through a singular line in the life force.”

“I’m sorry, the life force? What is this?”

Kara stifled another yawn. “It is the thing that connects us all, Princess. My tutor in Krypton has much more information about it, and he was always able to speak so beautifully of it. I would have you hear it from him, for the first time.”

Lena frowned, but nodded.

Kara scrubbed her hands over her face, feeling that bone-deep weariness again.

“We should get some sleep, Princess. The sun will be rising soon and we have a long journey ahead of us.”

Lena stared nervously out into the dark trees, the shadows suddenly seeming much longer – as if they were reaching out to grab at her.

“Shouldn’t we take turns keeping watch? What if the hunters are out there? What if the dogs…”

Kara gently laid a hand on her shoulder. “If they were on horseback right now and rode until their horses’ hooves were bloody and then got fresh horses and rode until their hooves were bloody, it would take them three days to find us. Assuming that they even know where to start looking. We’ll be long gone by the time they get here.”

Lena seemed to visibly relax at this, and she exhaled a slow breath.

“Besides – I can see through the trees. I can hear everything from miles around us, and I can fell entire forests with my eyes.” She smiled cheerily at Lena, whose face showed that she did not feel the same joy at these notions. “I promise that if there is danger, I will wake long before it can harm us.”

Lena exhaled and nodded, getting up from the fire. She gathered the boughs she had found earlier, and laid them out next to the fire. She tugged her cloak out from the pack, and settled onto her makeshift bed before draping it over herself.

“Thank you, Kara Zor-El.” She whispered softly.

“Sleep well, Princess.”

Kara drifted off slowly to the sound of crickets chirping in the distance. She inhaled the breeze winding through the trees and vowed to never be caged again.

Chapter Text


 

As Kara predicted, the night passed uneventfully. She woke before Lena, just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. A ray cast gently across her face, and she inhaled deeply.

It was the first time she’d felt the sun in weeks.

She felt her body energizing, tingling and warm, and quietly rose from the ground. The fire was still smoldering next to them, though it had gone out some time in the night. She tilted her head and looked down at Lena, who – despite her cloak – was shivering slightly in the chilly morning air.

Kara trained her eyes on the fire and hit it for a brief nanosecond with heat vision. It sparked back to life, and she carefully placed another log on it.

She un-clipped the red cloak from her shoulders and draped it over Lena, who made a small sound of approval in her sleep and snuggled into it

It made Kara’s heart ache, for some reason.

She shook her head and looked up towards the trees, where the sun was beginning to shine brightly. She bent her knees and gave a little jump, floating slowly towards the waving boughs.

When she broke through the tops of the trees, her entire torso was bathed in morning light. She inhaled deeply and basked in it, tilting her head back and closing her eyes.

“Rao, that’s good,” she whispered softly.

She allowed herself a few more moments of solitude before opening her eyes once more to scan their perimeter. The bordering Forest of Bolenth was expansive, but she could see the edge in the distance. Beyond that, on a great hill that rose from the earth, stood the capital city of Thon. It was beautiful, shimmering white and tiered as it rose up the hill, the summit ending in a glinting palace.

It was also surrounded by a wall. She squinted and focused her vision to survey the wall for excessive guards, but the numbers were not alarming.

She gave herself a few more minutes of soaking in the rays of the sun before slowly drifting back down to the ground. When she landed, she was surprised to find Lena gone.

“Lena?” She called out. “Lena where – “

Branches snapped softly as the brunette stepped back into the small clearing.

Lena froze, staring at her for several long moments, before stammering. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to alarm you. I needed to… “ She gestured into the woods.

Oh. Oh. No, please don’t apologize. I was just startled. Speaking of...” Kara walked off into the woods herself.

 


 

Lena watched her go, her lips parting slowly.

When Kara had floated back down from the sky, it seemed as if she had dragged the very sun down with her. Her skin glowed with happiness, and her golden hair fell in waves around her shoulders. Her blue eyes shone brightly, even when full of concern.

When Lena finally found her voice to apologize, she could feel nerves settling into her chest. Kara took off for the woods and Lena shook her head. She began preparing breakfast to occupy her idle hands.

She pulled more bread from the pack and placed it on a flat rock near the fire to toast. Further search in the bag produced a small jar of jam and a hunk of cheese wrapped in a cloth.

She handed a large portion of both bread and cheese to Kara when she returned. As the blonde took the plate from her, Lena noticed her looking at her with amusement.

She had small crinkles around her eyes, and her lips were turned up in a soft smile as she watched her.

Lena lifted her palms up, shrugging her shoulders. “What? Have I done something amusing?”

Kara maintained her smile, sitting cross-legged beside the fire with her food.

“That looks nice on you. If not a little… big.”

Lena’s eyes widened and she glanced down at the red cloak. She had woken up curled beneath it, and the cold morning temperature pierced her when she rose. She wrapped it tightly around herself, clipping it as closely as she could, but it still draped across her small frame.

She realized the bottom edge was dragging along the ground and she gasped softly, recalling Kara’s words from last night about it being important to her. She hastily dragged it up unto her arms.

“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to…” She inspected the bottom hem, certain she would find it covered in dirt and leaves. She was astonished to find it pristine.

“It’s a special fabric, given to royalty in my family. It is nearly indestructible. Please, keep it for now. This is a cool morning.”

Lena ducked her head in appreciation. Kara shoved bread covered with jam and cheese into her mouth, groaning softly.

Lena’s eyebrows shot up and she cleared her throat. “Are you always so… vocal… about meals?”

Kara smiled without even opening her eyes. “Yes. Next question?”

Lena just shook her head.

They finished their meal quickly and packed their belongings into the back. The day had fully begun, and the sun was finally warming the forest, so Lena returned the cloak to Kara. The blonde pulled the pack onto her back and cinched it tightly, making sure their fire was completely out and all traces of it were scattered to the winds. She turned to Lena.

“Are you ready?”

Lena flinched and made a face, but nodded gamely. “Let’s just get it over with.” She held her arms out to Kara and squeezed her eyes shut tightly.

Kara smiled to herself and shook her head, before taking off into the woods.

Lena stood there half a minute with her arms raised before peeking one eye open, turning in astonishment to Kara’s retreating back.

“Hey!” She took off briskly after her. “We aren’t flying? Kara?”

She didn’t miss the snort of laughter coming from the taller girl and she reached out to slap her on the shoulder.

To her credit, Kara pretended to feel it. She ducked and rubbed her arm, grinning an apology at the shorter girl.

“Sorry, Princess. It isn’t safe to fly through these lands without first making yourself known to the Captain of the Guard at Thon – especially not during the day. I would have walked us across the border last night if I had thought that we would make it, but it was safer to take the risk. Our fire from last night and this morning was surely reported, so I imagine we will be intercepted by Bolenthian soldiers soon enough. Until then, we make for the capital on foot.”

Lena’s fingers anxiously twisted in the front of her black robes, and Kara could hear her heart pounding hard. She glanced back at her, offering her her token smile.

“As always… I am right here. Bolenthians are not violent and have no cause to harm either Kryptonians or Luthorians – they simply want to peacefully exist. For now, that peaceful existence is made possible by careful border control and tight restrictions on travel.”

The shorter girl nodded, and took in several deep breaths – as if to steel herself for their trip.

As the day wore on, the breeze died and the forest became warm and sticky.

Sweat dripped down Lena’s back, and her black hair clung to the side of her neck. She stopped at one point for a drink of water, then tugged at the buttons that held her robe together. She peeled it off, revealing a form-fitting and sleeveless grey tunic with a high collar and vee neck. Her black trousers were tight and comfortable around her thighs, and she bent down to adjust her black riding boots, tying them tighter. She pulled a leather cord from her pocket and twisted her hair up into a loose bun on the back of her head, tying it tightly with the cord.

As she bundled up the robe, intent on putting it in the pack, she noticed Kara’s eyes were trained on her silently.

Lena furrowed her brow, watching as Kara’s gaze followed a drop of sweat that slid down her neck and chest, into the opening of the vee.

She cleared her throat softly, and Kara jerked her eyes back up to her face.

“Hey. Are you okay? Do you need some more water? I’ll put that in the pack for you.” She plucked the robe from Lena’s fingers and stuffed it into the pack, buckling it down securely and slinging it over her back, turning back towards their path. “Are you ready to go?”

“Mhhmm…” Lena murmured.

The morning passed quietly, and Lena soon forgot her worries about their inevitable meeting with the armies of Thon – focusing instead on not falling flat on her face.

Three or four times, the bushes and roots seemed to reach for her, grabbing at her feet.

In one particularly tragic moment, a vine snaked around her foot – and the harder she yanked, the tighter it got. She gave one final tug and lost, feeling her feet come out from underneath her.

Then arms were suddenly around her, and her body was being pressed tightly against Kara’s. Her hands reached out instinctively and she found herself gripping strong shoulders and looking up into a golden face.

Kara set her gently on her feet again, kneeling down and loosening the vine around her ankle.  She held Lena steady while she balanced on one foot, and didn’t let go when she stood.

Lena looked up at her, and Kara’s eyes flicked back and forth between hers. Lena found herself inadvertently staring at soft, full lips. Before she could stop herself, she whispered softly, “You are making a habit of saving me when I’m falling, Princess Zor-El.”

The Kryptonian did nothing to indicate she was letting go – simply kept staring at her. Lena was about to open her mouth again when Kara spoke.

“Your eyes are truly – “

Suddenly, an arrow zipped past her face.

Lena didn’t even have the opportunity to blink before Kara snatched it from the air, yanking her behind her back and turning to face the direction of their attackers.

She cursed under her breath. How had they sneaked up on them so easily?

Ten archers with crossbows trained on them stepped silently from the surrounding forest. Kara recognized the white leaf on their leather chest plates: the battle emblem of Bolenth.

“Stay behind me.” Kara murmured softly.

She felt Lena’s hands press firmly against her back, and Kara held her own palms up in a non-threatening pose.

“Archers. Would you draw upon and shoot weary travelers on your lands?”

The captain, signaled only by the two small painted lines above the leaf on her chest, spoke first.

“Weary travelers? No. Unknown Kryptonians? Perhaps.”

Kara’s eyes sparkled, and she offered her what she hoped was a calming laugh.

“We are not unknown. I am Kara Zor-El.”

The archer captain lowered her crossbow just far enough to appraise her with both eyes.

“Zor-El? Where are your knights? Where is your armor?”

She slowly lowered her hands and straightened her back, meeting her gaze.

“I was skirting the border to Luthoria a fortnight ago when I was kidnapped. They took my armor, and I was traveling alone.”

“But you’re not alone now.”

Kara’s smile faltered slightly. “No, I’m not.”

Before the captain could further question her, she raised her voice.

“I am familiar with Lazari, the Captain of the Guard here, and Bolenthians have oaths of safety to the people of Krypton. I have been allowed to pass through previously on my way in and out of Luthoria, so I do not foresee any issues. Once we speak with him, we will fly the rest of the way. Please escort me to him at once.”

“Lady Zor-El – “

“It’s Princess Zor-El, in fact. And you are?”

She regarded her again over the sights of her crossbow, before lowering it and gesturing to the remainder of the archers to do the same. They trained their arrows towards the ground and looked to their captain, waiting for further orders. She turned to them and pointed at the two to her left.

“You two are with me. Saddle four horses immediately. One of you go ahead of us to signal to the gates that we are arriving, and to alert Captain Lazari. Fly the colors, so they know it’s you.” She turned back to Kara and Lena. “I am Fira, Captain of the Archers. I will escort you to Thon.”

The two she gestured at took off, darting into the forest. Kara was amazed at how quickly and silently they melted into the shadows.

She turned to another archer, handing him her crossbow and taking the composite bow and quiver of arrows from his back.

“Lieutenant, maintain patrol until I return. Keep an eye out for…” She glanced sideways at Kara. “You know.”

Kara’s eyes narrowed, and she watched their interaction carefully.

Something felt… amiss.

“Yes Captain.” The archer turned back to the rest of the squad and snapped his fingers, pointing back the way that they came. As with the other two, they melted silently into the tree line.

The Captain glared at them, strapping the bow and arrows to her back. She had dark skin and pale green eyes, topped by a shock of short black hair that fell across her forehead. She nodded in the direction of the horses.

“After you, Princess.”


 

One archer of the two was waiting for them. She had three horses saddled and standing by. Captain Fira wasted no time, immediately swinging up onto a beautiful white mare. The archer mounted a brown mare, leaving a black stallion for Kara and Lena.

Fira’s mare stamped her hooves, eager to run. She tugged on her reigns and glanced back over her shoulder at Kara and Lena.

“Can you handle him? Or will you need to ride with us?”

Kara pursed her lips and cocked an eyebrow. “We are fine, Captain. Thank you.”

She strapped their pack to the stallion’s saddle, cinching it down tightly. She grabbed the reigns and ran her palm gently across the black hair on his cheek, patting him and murmuring to him softly.

She turned to Lena. “Can you ride?” she whispered softly. “I would feel better if you were with me.”

Lena’s chin jutted proudly. “I was patron of all royal stables in Luthoria.”

Kara’s eyebrows rose and she grinned, gesturing for the saddle. “Well then. The honor is all yours, Horse Master.”

That earned her a glare as Lena slipped her foot into the stirrup and swung herself expertly onto the stallion, pushing forward as far as possible in the saddle and gripping the leather of the reigns. She glanced over her shoulder when Kara slipped in behind her, and her cheeks colored softly when she felt strong hands slide onto her hips.

She cleared her throat as the horse’s front hooves danced back and forth.

“Is this alright?” Kara murmured behind her.

Assuming that they were mounted and ready to go, Fira and her archer took off across the field in full gallop. Lena took a beat, and then gave a curt nod.

“You’ll need something to hold onto. Yah!” She flicked the reigns and the horse immediately responded, sprinting after the others.

Kara tightened her grip and sucked in a breath, muttering as she glanced down at the ground flying beneath them.

“Something so unsettling about riding an animal when you can fly...”

“What was that?” Lena called behind her, shouting over the wind.

“You look great! It’s like you don’t even have to try!”

“Thanks!”

The back of the saddle was rubbing against Kara’s thigh in a horribly uncomfortable way. She sighed and reached back with one hand to grab at her cloak, flapping behind them. She tugged it in towards her body and tucked it under her thigh before reaching all the way forward, grabbing the front of the saddle. She dragged herself off the hump in the back, closing the spare few inches between them before settling her hands once more on Lena’s hips.


 

Lena’s eyes widened when she felt a muscular yet somehow soft body pressing tightly to her back. A shiver roamed from her scalp to the saddle and she tightened her grip on the reigns. Powerful thighs pressed against the back of her own. Heat found a home beneath her skin when those hands returned to her hips.

She blew out a hard breath. This was going to be a long ride.

Chapter Text


 

The first few minutes of their ride was a gallop, but they eventually slowed to a steady trot. 45 minutes  later, they were approaching the gates of Thon. Fira and the archer urged their mares into a gentler walk, and Lena tugged up on the reigns. The stallion huffed and shook his head once, holding it high beside the other horses.

Lena and Kara tilted their heads back to look up at the enormous walls of Thon. White and grey rock formed towering structures, topped with alcoves for archers and patrolled constantly by foot soldiers. Decorated cavalry soldiers on equally decorated horses stood at the ready beside the giant doors that lead into the city. They crossed their fists over their chests in a simultaneous salute. “Captain!” they shouted together.

Fira nodded at them once and urged her white horse past them.

Soft lips and warm breath caressed Lena’s ear. “Keep your eyes open. Bolenthians have always been friendly to Kryptonians, but your brother has given cause to start many wars. Be on your guard.”

A shiver trailed down Lena’s spine, and she nodded. The streets of Bolenth were clean, arranged in a large circle, with one giant thoroughfare down the middle of the city and smaller arteries that branched from it. Vendors, stalls, and small shops were set up along the main road, selling everything from clothing to live animals and musical instruments. A steady buzz filtered through the air around them: gentle tinkling and the occasional laugh, mixed with ambient market noises.

Soldiers along their path would occasionally stand at attention and salute Fira, and she would casually dismiss them with a nod of her head or a wave of her hand.

Kara and Lena received hard and worried looks from those same soldiers just as often, and Lena found herself unconsciously tightening her grip on the reigns. The stallion puffed out a breath and tugged back on them, and she blinked several times before loosening them once more.

Lips found her ear again, and the hands on her hips gave a gentle squeeze. “Easy... we’ll get through this, Princess.”

Lena patted the stallion on the neck in apology and blew out a breath, nodding and scanning their surroundings for the hundredth time. “I just want to get as far away from Luthoria as possible.”

Kara nodded and tilted her head up once more to survey the castle gates as they approached.

“I agree. Leave the talking to me, we’ll be out of here in no time.”


 

“Princess Kara Zor-El, I told you that if I caught you sullying the graces of my doorstep again that I would personally send you trussed up and bloodied back to the gates of your father.”

Lena froze and her eyes widened with shock, turning to slowly look at Kara.

She frowned to find her eyes crinkled and amusement toying at the corners of her lips.

 “Captain Lazari. Are you still upset that the treasurer of Krypton bested you in a match for the hand of Knight Captain Danvers?”

He slammed his fist into the wood of the desk in front of him and Lena nearly leaped from her skin, reaching out to grab at Kara’s wrist.

“It was a rigged game and you know it! You Kryptonians were never going to let anyone else win!”

Lena swallowed past a lump building in her throat and she nearly hissed at Kara. “Are you trying to get us killed?” she whispered.

Kara gently tugged Lena closer and sighed, looking down at her and shaking her head. Her eyes were still twinkling as she addressed the shorter brunette.

“The egos of men are fragile, and must be delicately soothed. Like babies.”

Emerald green eyes widened in fear, and her heart began to pound. Kara simply grinned down at her. “In fact, if given enough to drink, they may even wet themselves in the battle arena.”

Good lord. They’re going to string us up from the castle gates.

Her line of thinking was cut off by uproarious laughter. She wheeled back and the Captain was nearly crying with laughter, bent in half behind his desk. He was propping himself up by the back of the sturdy chair in his well-appointed office as his shoulders shook.

When he finally regained a small modicum of composure, he righted himself and smiled at Kara fondly, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. He stepped around the desk and pulled the blonde into a tight hug before stepping back and surveying her.

“Princess Zor-El, I have to say that it is excellent to see that you are alive and well. When I received word that you had been snatched from our borders, well.” He scoffed and shook his head, fierce anger settling in his brow. “It was not a good day to be in the path of Captain Lazari of Bolenth.”

Kara squeezed his hands gently. “I am alright, Lazari. Your borders and your soldiers were not at fault – Luthoria wields unsavory tactics at every turn.”

He sighed and dropped her hands, nodding. He crossed his arms and leaned back against his desk.

“This is true. Very distinct and sharp words were... exchanged between King Menon and King Lex” – he said the name as if it tasted bad in his mouth – “but in the end of things we could not prove whose side of the line you were on when they took you.”

Kara nodded. “I understand. I wasn’t exactly traveling under the most honorable of auspices.”

Captain Lazari tilted his head to the side and glanced at Lena for the first time, before casually gesturing to her with his chin.

“And you seem to have acquired a new... friend?”

Lena straightened her shoulders and tried to stand as tall as she could, though the Kryptonian and the Bolenthian warriors were at least half a head taller.

Kara cleared her throat. “This is Cassie of Luthoria. She’s a merchant traveling with me to Krypton to establish a silk trade for ship sails.”

The Captain’s eyes considered Lena and darkened for a moment, before he trained them back on Kara.

“You may be able to champion me in the arena, Kryptonian, but do not take me for a fool. This is Lena of Luthoria, the only sister of Lex of Luthoria.”

Lena’s heart began to kick up a fast rhythm again, but she tried to remain stoic. Kara simply let out a sigh and shrugged halfheartedly, smiling at the man.

“It was worth a try.”

“What is she doing here, Kara?”

“Let us speak privately.”

He regarded her carefully, then waved a hand at the guards flanking the door of his office.

“Go. Shut the door. Don’t come back, even if you hear screaming. Tell the King I died an honorable death but for the love of the holy priest don’t tell him it was at the hands of a Kryptonian.”

Kara threw her head back and laughed as the Captain chuckled.

Lena wondered if her heart was capable of withstanding the dance of fear, anger, and confusion that was stampeding through her chest. A strong hand reached for hers and squeezed it briefly.

“It’s alright, Princess.”

When the door clicked shut, Lazari waited for Kara to speak.

“You and I both know of the hospitality of the kingdom of Luthoria.”

A storm began to brew in his eyes and his fists clenched. “We do, indeed.”

Kara gestured at Lena beside her.

“What we know is nothing compared to the hell she has been living for 28 years.”

The tall warrior blew out a breath and softened his gaze, turning back to Lena.

“I am sorry, Princess. What you have suffered is unimaginable to me.” He continued looking at Lena, but spoke to Kara. “I assume that she is with you because you rescued her from that monster’s hooves.” He turned his gaze back to the blonde. “But you should know that the Luthorians have sent word that she was kidnapped.”

“Actually, she saved me. And she doesn’t look much like a prisoner to me, now does she?”

A snort left Lazari before he could catch hold of it, and he turned back to Kara incredulously.

“No. The great Kryptonian princess warrior? Rescued by a Luthorian?” He tilted his head back and clutched at his belly, a deep laugh rolling from him.

The blonde grumbled and frowned at him, before rolling her eyes and shaking her head.

“You will tell no one of this, Lazari.” His laugh only proceeded louder.

Lena frowned and crossed her arms, glaring at both of them.

“I can hear you, you buffoons.”

His laugh and Kara’s grumbling cut short, and they both did their best to look contrite.

Lazari cleared his throat, his tone turning serious once more.

“Word of your return has already reached the throne. If the circumstances were different I would simply allow you to leave without fanfare. I care not about the travel plans of Lena Luthor, and there are worse people in the world to be kidnapped by.” He winked at Lena with a grin, and she rolled her eyes at him.

“Unfortunately, the King has requested an audience with you before you depart.”

Kara blew out a breath and nodded. She had suspected that that would be the case.

“Take us to him. As much as I have enjoyed our brief visit with you, I am eager to see Krypton again.”

Lazari stood and reached for his sword, tucking it into the scabbard at his hip. He turned back to them briefly, and put a hand up to halt them.

“I must warn you, Kara... King Menon is unhappy that this occurred on our borders. He will be equally unhappy that she is here.”    

The Kryptonian princess cocked an eyebrow. “I can handle Menon. You just worry about the pain that will find you if you tell anyone about how I escaped Luthoria.”


 

Rao, beer sounds great right now.

Kara sighed and tightened the pack on her back as they strode through the halls of the castle of Thon. Dealing with King Menon was not something that scared her, but it was a delay she’d rather avoid.

They approached a set of double doors that were open wide. As they stepped through, they were met with a long, rectangular room with tall pillars on either side and gracefully arching windows that filtered in late morning sunlight. Knights, handmaids, squires, and pages milled about the room quietly. On the far end was a large, ornate throne, flanked by smaller but equally beautiful seats.

A large, hairy ogre of a man sat on the center throne. He had blazing orange hair in an untidy mop on his head, matched only by the beard that nearly overtook his face. Handsome blue eyes twinkled out from beneath bushy eyebrows and his chest resembled a barrel. The Queen sat beside him, a beautiful woman with long chestnut hair and a calm demeanor. She laughed softly at something the king said, her hand resting gently on his arm. The Hand of the King sat on his other side, conversing quietly with a knight.

Captain Lazari strode confidently down the center of the room as the knights and squires snapped to attention. Kara and Lena followed closely behind him – Kara with the same confident step, Lena with a more reserved approach.

Lazari stopped ten feet or so before the king and stood at attention. His voice rang through the hall.

“Your highness. May I present to you Princess Kara Zor-El of Krypton and her traveling companion.”

Kara raised an eyebrow, barely shifting her gaze towards the knight captain.

Clever.

If the King simply wanted a brief conversation, he may not bother wasting time examining her traveling companion too closely.

King Menon leaned forward in his seat, resting a hand on his knee and giving Kara what was intended to be a stern gaze. She walked up to approach his throne, halving the distance between them. Lena stayed behind with Lazari.

“Princess Zor-El. I understand that you were recently accosted on the border of my country by one of my neighboring kingdoms.”

“Yes, your highness. I was attempting to enter Luthoria under cover of darkness on an intelligence scouting mission when I was intercepted by a Luthorian hunting party armed with kryptonite.”

The king sat back in his throne and grumbled, stroking a hand through his beard.

“And why were you traveling alone? Where is your knight captain, her squire? Your mentor?”

“My knight captain is seven months with child, and her wife would cut my head off herself if I took her squire from her. My mentor is basically a walking jellyfish and useless in combat.”

This earned her a deep chuckle from the king, and it rumbled across the hall. He nodded and stroked his beard again.

“Be that as it may – your escapades along the borders of my kingdom caused me a lot of headaches. It does not reflect well upon a monarch if his gates are so easily breached by one hunting party.”

She bowed her head gently and filled her voice with apology.

“I am sorry, your highness. If I have need to enter Luthoria again in the future, I will find different means to gain entrance. Though I must say, I do not wish to return at any point soon.”

The king chuckled again. “No, I don’t suppose you do.”

Kara began to feel a sense of anxiety coming over her, and she tucked her hands behind her back, clearing her throat.

“If you are appeased by my apology, your highness, I would kindly ask that we take our leave. We have a long journey ahead of us and the morning is wearing late.”

He eyed her, and Kara could see the intelligence glinting in his eyes.

“Of course.” He looked past her, waved his hand over her head, and nodded. “There is no we, however - just you, Princess Zor-El. Your companion is being returned to Luthoria, where her brother is anxiously awaiting her.”

Kara’s heart slammed into the floor and she spun around in time to see a guard grip Lena’s upper arm and begin to haul her away. She kicked at him and tried to swing, stomping her heel into his foot, but he simply yanked her harder towards the gallery exit. Wild green eyes found hers in a panic.

Kara!

She was there in an instant. Her fist connected solidly with the guard’s jaw, and the force of it knocked him onto his back, where he slid for several feet across the slick tile before knocking into a pillar. He remained still, and several handmaids rushed to his side. Lazari followed them, kneeling down beside the guard and glancing up anxiously between Kara and the king.

Kara pulled Lena into her arms, and the shorter girl pressed her shaking hands into the blonde’s chest. The blonde could feel her shoulders heaving with every breath. She ducked her head to look down at her, murmuring softly. “Are you alright?”

Lena nodded up at her, eyes fiery and piercing despite the tears that threatened to fall from them.

The king was on his feet, and his voice bellowed through the air between them.

“Princess Zor-El, this is highly unnecessary! You have attacked a member of my guard, and made a fool of your position as ambassador for your people! How dare you-“

 Her eyes flicked up to the king, and his words cut short at the sight of her expression. Her voice rang out, calm but booming.

“I pulled my blow with this one, King Menon. The next person to touch my wife will not receive the same mercies.”

A gasp began with Lazari and quickly worked its way around the hall. The king’s jaw dropped as if it had become unhinged from his face. He turned a deep purple, and a vein angrily streaked across his temple.

“Your wife?“

“Furthermore. The kingdom of  Bolenth and the kingdom of Krypton have long-held treaties of peace, safe passage, and trade. You are bound by these treaties to allow us entrance and exit to your lands, when given notice of such intent. I have notified you. I am now exiting your land – as is Princess Lena Zor-El of Krypton.

His nostrils flared, and she could see the smallest modicum of fear building in his eyes. She lowered her voice until it was commanding and vaguely threatening.

“Unless you are proposing a dissolution of these treaties, your highness?”

His eyes widened, his fist clenching and un-clenching on the pommel of his sword. His scowl was deep.

“I will not be threatened in my own home, Kryptonian.”

“A question is a very small thing to be threatened by, King Menon. Much smaller than a guard assaulting your wife,” she said with a voice that was soft and dangerous. She tilted her chin up in a small gesture at the Queen, who sat stoically on her throne in observation, her hands quietly folded in her lap. The barest hint of amusement toyed at her lips.

He paused for a moment, glaring at Kara, before turning to glance at the Queen over his shoulder. She met his eyes and raised her eyebrow in question. He frowned impossibly deeper, before a sound rumbled from deep within his chest and he turned back to them.

“Luthoria has informed us that their princess was, in fact, kidnapped.”

Kara gestured down to her in her arms. “It would appear that that is not the truth, your highness. She seems to be just fine in her current position.”

“Mmmm. Princess Lena, what say you? Are you here of your own volition?”

She pressed herself away from Kara and turned to face him, defiance in her eyes – though her voice still shook at the start. “I am. I left the borders of Luthoria of my own free will and I travel happily to my new country of Krypton with my wife.”

Kara’s heart clenched.

She could see the wheels turning in his head as the king regarded them both. He shifted his gaze back to Kara and tucked his hands behind his back, considering her from beneath his bushy eyebrows.

“This does seem to be the case. However; your wife or not, Princess Luth… Zor-El has a hefty price on her safe return and a hefty punishment for the opposite. If I allow her to pass through these lands without obstacle, I am inviting war from a bordering country. I have oaths and trade agreements with them as well, Princess – and they are not separated from me by a sea.”

“I understand the position this has placed you in, and I apologize for it. What I request of you is this: three days. Give me three days before you send missive to Luthoria. Tell them whatever you need to placate them – I attacked your guards, I did not honor our oath of contact, anything. Allow me this head start.”

“Bolenthians do not deal in lies.” He grumbled again before swiping a hand down his face, scratching at his flame-orange beard. “Nor do we deal in slavery.”

He lifted a hand towards a young boy standing to the side of the hall and motioned him over.

“Carl. Come here please.” The boy walked to his side briskly. The king glared down at him. “I want you to take a message to King Lex of Luthoria.”

Kara unconsciously reached for Lena, her fingers circling her wrist tightly. She felt her stiffen beneath her grasp.

“Tell him that his sister passed through these lands in the company of Princess Kara of Zor-El. Gather your things and go now.”

“Yes your highness!” The boy snapped to attention and took off for the exit. He slipped on the tile before he even made the door, skidding to his knees and shaking his head in agitation before righting himself and darting away.

The King’s Hand started, his eyes widening.

“Your majesty. Carl? You would give this message to Carl?”

The King watched as the messenger left, amusement dancing in his blue eyes. “Why not? He is a young and capable boy. He is worthy of this task.”

“Your highness, just yesterday he lost his way when traveling from the stables to his home. His own home, Menon.”

“Hmm. I am certain that he is simply in need of proving himself, Daxon.” He smiled briefly at Kara.

Kara’s eyes widened in realization and her shoulders drooped. Her fingers pressed gently into Lena’s side in reassurance.

“Thank you. I promise to you, King Menon, that if Luthoria brings war to your gates – Krypton will be at your side.”

His eyes turned serious again and he nodded once, before turning back to his throne and his Queen.

“Captain Lazari, please replenish the supplies of the Princesses Zor-El and escort them to the southern gate at Lenth.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

Lazari held an arm up and gestured to a door that exited the side of the gallery, giving Kara a kind smile. She wrapped an arm around Lena’s shoulders and gently guided her in that direction.

“Kara.” Came the king’s deep voice.

She raised her eyebrows and lifted her gaze back up his throne in question.

“Congratulations on your marriage!” He laughed boisterously, holding his gut. His Queen smiled beside him silently, shaking her head.

Kara grinned and rolled her eyes, walking out the door with Lena and the Captain. She leaned over to him.

“Sorry about your guy back there.”

“Don’t worry about it. He’s the son of a lord and an arrogant ass besides. You did me a favor.”

 

Chapter Text


 

The flight to Krypton was two hours of pure torture for Lena. Kara had her arms securely around her the entire time, and she never felt as if she was unsafe.

It was simply the knowledge that she was hurtling through the sky faster than any other living creature, soaring over a vast and open sea with nothing between them but air, that caused her stomach to twist into knots.

She spent the duration of the trip curled up tightly in Kara’s arms, her fists clutching at the thick red cloak at the Kryptonian’s shoulder, her face pressed into the crook of her neck. Kara glanced down at her sympathetically, squeezing her gently.

“We’re almost there, princess.”

Lena nodded briefly, her grip unrelenting.

Several minutes later, Kara had substantially slowed her speed. Lena dared to slowly peek down, and felt relief wash over her to see soft white sand beneath them. She turned her head to look in the direction of travel, and her gasp caught in her chest.

Rising up from the shores of soaring white cliffs stood the most beautiful structure Lena had ever seen. It was a palace that seemed to be made entirely of glass and white marble, and it stretched into the sky endlessly. A tall spire stood in the center, strong and proud, while shorter and shorter spires graduated backwards, away from the cliff face. It glinted with early afternoon sun, the pale blue of the sky streaked with white clouds behind it. The glass seemed to reflect a myriad of colors – lavender, bright green, pink, teal, the blue of the ocean. Lena simply marveled at it.

Kara smiled softly, affection filling her eyes as she gazed at it.

“Welcome to the Crystal Palace. This is my home.”

Lena blew out a breath slowly, wonder still tinting her tone.

“It’s gorgeous, Kara.”

This seemed to please the Kryptonian, who beamed steadily as they continued their slow flight closer and closer to the palace.

“For as long as you wish, no matter where you go, you will always have a place here to return to.”

Lena’s lips parted and unexpected tears stung her eyes. She cleared her throat and attempted a chuckle, swiping at the corner of her eye.

“I’m not sure I could live here. I mean... does it even have a dungeon?”

A laugh burst from Kara’s chest, and her eyebrows shot up as she looked down at the brunette in her arms.

“Lena, did you just make a joke?”

Lena grumbled and pierced her with a glare that would have been much more threatening if she wasn’t still desperately clutching at the blonde.

A few minutes later, Kara was guiding them down onto a flat, white stone outcropping that lead directly into the side of the tallest spire. She landed with a soft thump, and carefully set Lena down on her feet. Her hands stayed around the shorter woman’s waist, holding her steady.

Lena kept a hand on Kara’s shoulder and took a few tentative steps on shaking legs, breathing deeply. She nodded and Kara released her, tugging the pack off her back and rolling her shoulders out. Her deep red cloak flapped in the wind behind her, catching Lena’s eye.

She watched the blonde shuffle her fingers through her hair, gently tugging out a few wind-blown knots. The sun glinted across golden hair and tawny skin, and Lena was struck once again by how beautiful she was.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Kara flashing a dazzling smile at her.

“Well, Lena Zor-El. Are you ready to meet your new family?”

Lena rolled her eyes.


 

Their boots clicked softly on the stones as they strode through a tall, beautifully-carved doorway into a room that Lena could only describe as a cathedral. Soaring white marble arched from the ground and met at the ceiling sixty feet above them. Rows of pillars stood proudly on either side of the room. Everything glinted beautifully, reflecting the sunlight from the glass face of the spire that composed the entire front wall of the room.

A knight that was casually leaning against a pillar suddenly snapped to attention and bowed at the waist, one hand on the pommel of his sword and one arm crossed over his chest.

“Princess Zor-El. It is so good to see you again.”

She smiled down at him and gently touched his shoulder, urging him back up.

“Jackson, please. I need a favor of you.”

He straightened again, his eyes dancing with curiosity.

She pressed the pack into his hands. “Will you please take this to my chambers?”

He nodded once and immediately turned on his heel, striding away with purpose.

“One down... four to go.” Kara murmured as she surveyed the massive room.

Lena frowned and glanced around in confusion.

“What do you mean, Kara?”

“Mmmm?” The blonde peeked around a large pillar, squinting in the distance at an unknown object. “Oh. I’m just trying to make the odds a little more even, in case my mother decides to try to kill me.”

The brunette gawked at her.

“Please tell me you’re not serious.”

“I’m always serious about fair fights. “

“Kara!”

The blonde put a finger to her own lips and made a shushing noise. She pressed her back to a pillar for a moment before speed-darting to the next one, peering around it slowly. Lena stared at her like she’d grown a second head.

“Kara. What are you-“

Ssshhhh. We have to...” Kara immediately straightened and cleared her throat when she rounded the pillar and nearly smacked into a tall brunette in a black tunic and brilliant blue cloak. Her wavy brown hair fell over her shoulders, a braided gold circlet dangling from her wrist. She had her arms crossed and an eyebrow arched, one hip jutting out casually as if she was waiting for the princess.

“Sam!” Kara chuckled nervously. “I’m home! So... so good to see you,” she trailed off.

“Let me guess. You’re distracting the knights to even the playing field when your mother finds you.”

Kara laughed again, louder than necessary and glanced behind Sam.

“No of course not, that’s ridiculous!” She lowered her voice and looked at her earnestly. “Is she here?”

Sam rolled her eyes and dropped her arms, putting her hands on her hips.

“You got lucky. She’s in Kandor for the afternoon.”

Relief visibly dropped through Kara’s body. “Thank Rao.”

“But she’s not the woman you need to fear the most right now.”

“KARA ZOR-EL!”

A voice boomed across the hall, seeming to fill the empty arches with volume. Kara’s shoulders bunched and she reached back blindly for Lena, tugging her in front of her. Lena’s eyebrows shot up at the sudden role reversal, and she looked up at Sam questioningly.

“I’m sorry, what is happening here? Who are you? And who is sh-“

“Do NOT hide behind someone Kara, I am going to kick your-“

“Alexandra!” Sam snapped, meeting her halfway across the room. She took her arm and forced her to slow her brisk waddle, watching her feet carefully. “The healer said you need to take it easy-

“Oh, it’ll be easy. Trust me.”

Lena watched a woman with deep auburn hair and an incredibly beautiful, incredibly angry face steam towards them, despite Sam applying the brakes. She had a royal blue tunic pulled tightly across a rounded belly, several colorful ribbons pinned to her chest, and a silver cloak draped across her shoulders.

“Kara, you come out from behind her immediately.”

A deep sigh blew through Lena’s hair, and the tall blonde warrior stepped out in front of her again.

“Alex... I’m so sorry.”

“You’re sorry? You took off by yourself in the middle of the night with no knights, no squires, no plan, directly in opposition to my orders!”

“Well, I-“

“Do you have any idea how worried we’ve been? We received word from Thon that you’d been taken by Luthorians with kryptonite! You could have been killed! Your father has been beside himself, your mother – Rao help you when she finds you – you’re never leaving these gates again I swear-“

“Alex. Alex!” Kara took a step towards her and reached for her, taking her by the shoulders gently. “I’m home. I’m safe. I’m sorry.”

Angry tears welled up in hazel eyes and Alex swiped at them briskly. “I thought... I thought you were...”

Kara pulled her into a gentle hug, pressing a hand to the back of her head and kissing her temple.

“I know. I’m sorry, je. I did not mean to worry you.”

Alex blew out a shaky breath and nodded. She squeezed Kara as tightly as her belly would allow before stepping back, her eyes tracing over Kara’s face as she took her by the shoulders.

“Are you sure you’re alright? You were there for almost two weeks, Kara. Did they feed you? You do not look fed. Were you...” Her eyes dropped lower, south of Kara’s neck.

The blonde tensed.

Alex tilted her head slowly, a penetrating gaze trained to the Kryptonian warrior’s chest.

“Kara.”

“Alex... let’s discuss this in your office.”

“Kara.”

Lena crossed her arms behind Kara, shifting her weight from one foot to another. Alex’s eyes snapped up, finally focusing on the girl standing behind her. Defiant green eyes met hazel for the first time.

Hands began to squeeze Kara’s shoulders tightly, and Alex’s voice lowered to a dangerous pitch.

“Kara... please explain to me why Princess Lena of Luthoria is standing in the halls of the Crystal Palace with the crest of El on her chest.

The auburn-haired woman released her and stepped backwards in shock. Sam slipped an arm around her shoulders, her frown as deep as Alex’s – though her voice was more metered.

“Princess, what is this?”

A deep breath rose and fell in Kara’s chest. She gestured back at Lena without looking at her, her voice suddenly somber.

“This... is why I am home. This is why I am safe.”

The pair took a moment to take Lena in, before looking to each other and exchanging glances that communicated more than words.

Alex turned to her wife and pressed a tender kiss to her cheek, grasping her forearm gently.

“Please find Win and send him to my office. As soon as possible.”

Sam nodded and squeezed her hand before leaving.

The knight captain made to turn back the way that she came, throwing a worried look at Kara. Her voice was suddenly deep and filled with concern. “Come. We have a lot of things we need to talk about.”


 

Chapter Text


 

For the second time in what was turning out to be a very long day, Lena found herself sitting before a Knight Captain.

Irritation thrummed through her chest.

She was exhausted.

She was sore from falling off a cliff, sleeping on the ground, riding a horse, and being carried across a sea.

She was extraordinarily tired of being treated like she wasn’t in the room.

“Walk me through this again, Kara,” said Alex with a stern tone. “What is your plan, here? Or did you not have one at all, as is your way?”

Kara rubbed her temples and leaned forward in her seat.

“Alex, I was very focused on escaping the kryptonite dungeon that I was shoved into. Lena needed a way out – I needed a way out. I wanted to ensure that I could protect her, and that Lex Luthor wasn’t setting a trap for me.”

“And you’re still certain that last concern isn’t true?”

Lena slammed her hands into the armrests on her chair and both Kara and Alex jumped.

“That is enough.”

Alex lifted an eyebrow in question and Kara frowned in confusion.

“I am right here. I can hear you,” she snapped. “I am not trying to trick any of you. I do not want intelligence about your country, your people, your habits, any of it. I don’t care. What I cared about was leaving Luthoria as quickly as possibly. Now that I have done that, my only goal is to stay as far away from it as possible.” She rose to her feet and Kara quickly stood next to her, reaching a hand out for her.

“Princess- ”

“No, no thank you.” Lena put her palm up and Kara let her hand drop to her side. “I am willing to answer any questions you may have for me. Hell, I will even give you as much information as you’d like about Luthoria, Lex, training, troop movements, kryptonite weapon development, anything, if it will assuage any of your lingering fears about my so-called intentions.”

Alex’s eyes widened as her lips parted, and she rose slowly from her seat. Lena pressed forward, turning to face Kara.

“But might I remind you, in the interim, that I am only here at your behest. If my presence is no longer wanted, please point me in the direction of your docks and I will be on my way.” She crossed her arms pointedly, leveling a glare at the blonde warrior. “Do you even have ships? Or does everyone in your kingdom simply fly everywhere?”

Alex attempted to fill her voice with a soothing tone, reaching out and pressing a palm to the dark wood of her desk. “Princess, we did not mean to make you feel unwelcome in Krypton. We would very much like it if you stayed.”

Lena turned her glare towards the knight. “Why? Now that you believe I may be of use to you?”

The auburn-haired woman’s mouth opened and closed, and she struggled to find words.

Kara took a step towards Lena, her voice soft and apologetic. “I asked you to stay before you offered that information. It is not important to me.” Lena met her gaze, and found earnest blue eyes. “Please... I ask you to reconsider.”

The brunette pursed her lips and shook her head, before dropping her arms in defeat.

“Fine. But I have traveled very far in a very short amount of time, and I would very much like to remove some of the dirt stuck to my face and perhaps even sleep for several seconds before any of that occurs. So if you don’t mind?”

Kara and Alex exchanged a guilty glance, and the knight captain nodded.

“Kara, will you please return to speak with me after you escort Princess Lena to her room?”

The blonde nodded once and gave Lena an anxious look. Green eyes returned a sharp expression, an eyebrow raised in annoyance. She turned to the door and glanced at Kara expectantly.

Kara pulled it open and stood to the side, allowing Lena to pass. She threw a glare at Alex before she left and received a mouthed “sorry” before she snapped the door shut behind her.

Lena stood in the hallway waiting for her. Kara stole a look at her face and guilt pressed against her to see it weary and sad.

She walked slowly down the stone hall with Lena by her side. Windows were thrown open, and air from the sea filtered through the sunlight that bounced off the walls.

After a few minutes of silence, Kara cleared her throat.

“Princess, I... I’m sorry. I don’t think that I have been very fair to you.”

Lena glanced at her sideways. “Oh? What makes you say that?” she said, her voice tinted with sarcasm.

“This... this is my life.” Kara gestured at the castle, the sea outside, back towards Alex’s office. “This is everything I’ve ever known. It never occurred to me to stop and think that this is all completely new to you, and that you’ve been taken away from everything that you’ve ever known. It must be very jarring.”

“Mmm.” Lena pursed her lips and looked down at her feet, before squinting out a window as they passed it. She felt the anger dissipating from her chest.

“This IS new to me. But I wanted this. I wanted to be free of them. Free to live a quiet life; one that doesn’t involve killing anyone or plotting wars or exacting revenge or ruling peasants. I want to go on adventures, explore our world. Perhaps other worlds beyond this one.”

Kara braved another look at her face and saw her eyes shining.

“I want to be free to get completely drunk on wine and dance all night. I want to study and solve problems that will change the universe. I want to see everything the world has to offer – up close and personal, and not from the back of a horse whose hooves are covered in blood.”

Kara frowned at her sadly. “Your brother certainly has a way of moving through life, doesn’t he?”

Lena shook her head slightly, her voice so low even Kara barely caught it. “You have no idea.”

The sounds of their steps echoed quietly as they crossed a courtyard. It was lined with red and grey stones, a bubbling fountain dancing in the center. It stood in the shade of the tallest spire, the sun peeking through the glass and casting rainbows along the misting water. Rows of rectangles full of thick grass broke up the stones, and small benches were dotted among rose bushes.

Kara lead her through more arched stonework into a bright and airy hall. Lena noticed that this hall only had one entrance and exit, and one large ornate door in the center of the wall opposite the arches. The blonde stopped in front of the door and tucked her hands behind her back.

“This is my wing. I am... still in the process of renovating it, unfortunately, so they aren’t anything spectacular. There are three bedrooms – please, feel free to choose whichever one you like the best. There’s a gravity pump in the bathroom beside the shower – do you know how to use one?”

Lena nodded. Her brother had brought home the designs from a trip to Urrika once, but declared them to be useless once he realized that he couldn’t understand how they functioned. Lena had been able to study them for several hours before he caught her and threw them in a fire.

She noticed the Kryptonian staring down at her boots, and Lena reached out and gently brushed her fingertips across her forearm.

“Kara, I am sorry if the things I said earlier made it seem as if I am ungrateful. Your home is beautiful, and while this - ” she gestured around her “- isn’t exactly what I had envisioned for my great escape plan, it is hardly the worst thing that could have happened to me.”

Those earnest blue eyes met hers again. “Still, I should have been more aware of how you might be feeling. My behavior was inexcusable, and I will do my best in the future to ensure that you are a part of the conversation instead of the subject of it.”

Lena felt her heart clench again for what seemed like the hundredth time that day, and she offered Kara a small smile. The blonde pulled open the door for her, but didn’t step through it.

“I must return to Alex’s office. You may have escaped unscathed, but I have no such hopes for myself.” She smiled wryly. When Lena moved to step through the door, she found a gentle touch on her arm.

“Wait. May I please make up for the dreadful way you’ve been treated?”

“Kara, that’s not at all necessary-”

“Let me escort you to dinner. Please? I will be back in a few hours. That will give me the opportunity to... greet... my family. And have a few conversations with them before they light me on fire and throw me into space.”

She flashed that dazzling grin at Lena again, and she suddenly felt powerless to say no.

“Dinner it is.”


 

When the door closed quietly behind her, Lena inhaled deeply and slumped against it. She realized that she was alone for the first time in days, and a weariness set into her body like she’d never felt before.

She spared a moment to take in her surroundings. Kara’s wing was beautiful, though slightly bare. The front door lead to a sitting room with a cheery hearth on the right wall and soaring floor to ceiling windows opposite the door. It was situated on the edge of the cliffs, and though there was a large, manicured stretch of grass on the other side of the windows, it dropped off into nothing. Beyond that was a stunning view of endless azure sea and blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds. Lena stepped across a thick maroon rug and approached the windows. A wooden handle protruded from the left side, and she tugged on it. It slid easily in her grasp, and her face met sea breeze as she pulled it open.

She toed off her boots and stepped barefoot onto the grass, relishing the cool and springy way it felt beneath her feet. To her right and left, gentle shadows were being cast by soaring wedge-shaped walls made of white marble that rose from the ground to meet the top of the building – designed to offer Kara privacy, she presumed. With the palace at her back, the walls beside her, and the sea before her, she felt truly, wonderfully closed off from the world. Ready to explore her newfound freedom.

She simply stood for a few moments, inhaling deeply and letting the wind wash over her. Tears surprised her by tracking their way down her cheeks, but she didn’t wipe them away.

Freedom.

She was free.

She willed herself to think about Lex, about what she would be doing right now if she was still in Luthoria. She couldn’t. It was no longer her life.

A laugh bubbled up in her chest and escaped before she could stop it. The tears kept coming, but the laughter followed. She sank to her knees and her palms found the grass, burying her fingers in it and relishing the way it slid through them.

When her shoulders finally stopped shaking, she looked up at the incredibly bright world once again and knew that she would never go back.


 

She gently shut the door behind her when she made her way back inside. She bent over and picked up her boots, snagging the pack that Jackson had placed there earlier, and wandered barefoot through the rest of the wing. Just off the sitting room was an incredible library that she made a note to ask Kara about in the future. Floor to ceiling shelves of books covered three out of four walls, and comfortable chairs slanted perfectly beside the windows to catch the sunlight.

She made her way through two simple bedrooms that split a bathroom between them, and cracked open the door to the final room. It had a large, ornate bed on the far right wall, and a beautiful fireplace on the far left. A fluffy navy blue rug was centered in front of it, and several more overstuffed chairs were around it. Lena smiled as her hand traced over one. It seemed the Kryptonian warrior had a penchant for comfortable furniture.

It had the same wall of tall windows, but the lower half was broken up into three wide sets of double doors that could be opened to the expansive view of the sea.

Lena closed the door quietly behind her and returned to one of the smaller empty bedrooms, tugging out a set of clean clothes.

The gravity pump in the bathroom took a few minutes for her to fully understand, but she soon had it operating and was standing beneath a constant stream of surprisingly hot water. She groaned and simply let it wash over her.

Just another reason for her to despise her brother.

A few small packages of rose-scented soaps were left out on the counter, and she gratefully scrubbed her face, hair, and body.

When the water finally began to turn cold, she shut the pump off.

By the time she had an incredibly soft white towel wrapped around her body, she felt like a new woman.

She rubbed a towel through her damp hair and felt another wave of exhaustion course through her. She pulled on a clean tunic and slipped into the silky sheets on the bed, rubbing her fingertips over the satiny material.

She smiled sleepily. Between the sheets and the towel, it seemed as if Kara had a penchant for comfortable fabrics as well.

She was asleep as soon as her eyes closed.


 

“Feet.” Alex smacked Kara’s boots that were propped up and crossed on the low table in front of her.

She grumbled and dragged her feet down, crossing one ankle over the other knee. She swirled a dark drink in a sparkling crystal glass and took a small sip, letting the warmth course through her. She let her head fall back on the couch behind her and closed her eyes.

She felt worn down, both physically and emotionally.

Alex settled onto the other end of the couch as comfortably as she could, tucking a pillow behind her lower back and crossing her legs, letting the weight of her belly rest in her lap. She rubbed a hand down her side and did a few deep breathing exercises.

A comfortable silence settled between them for a few moments, and Alex leaned into the back of the couch, propping her head up on her hand. She waited for Kara to take a few more sips of her personal stash of aldebaran rum that had been collecting dust for the past seven months.

“I’m worried about you,” she whispered softly.

Kara cracked open an eyelid and glanced at her, offering her a sleepy smile.

“Why? I was only kidnapped, tortured, starved, spontaneously married, and flung off a cliff. Hardly even an adventure, I’d say,” she chuckled.

Alex smacked her shoulder and offered her an exasperated look, which she softened with a smile that was touched with concern.

“I know you, Kara. You make decisions in the moment and you never look down before you jump. What if this goes horribly wrong? You are going to rule Krypton one day. Will she share in that throne with you? She’s bound to you now, what if she-”

“Alex.” The blonde reached over and rested a hand on her knee. “I know that you’re worried. I love you. And I know that it doesn’t make sense and it gives you incredible bouts of anxiety when I get myself into these kinds of messes.” The auburn haired woman pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow in agreement.

“But something about this... I don’t know. I just know that it’s going to be alright.”

“Kara, you can’t possibly know that.”

“There are a lot of things in our lives, our world, that aren’t explainable. Can’t this just... be one of them?”

“Not when you’re set to become the reigning monarch of a country, no. Do you have any idea what kind of reputation the Luthors have? The political implications of this alone are a nightmare. We’re going to be doing damage control for a long time.”

The blonde groaned and drained her glass, leaning forward to set it down on the table. She rested her elbow on her knee and dropped her forehead into her palm, sighing.

Exhaustion settled into her, and she could feel tears welling up. A gentle hand pressed into her shoulder, and she turned her face towards the other woman.

“She saved my life, Alex. I owe it to her. Krypton owes it to her that I am sitting here now.”

The knight inhaled deeply, holding the breath for a few seconds before releasing it slowly and nodding.

“Then let’s figure this out together, je.”

Arms wrapped around her and Kara pressed her face in the other woman’s shoulder, hanging onto her arm tightly.

“Alex?” she whispered softly.

“Yes, Kara.”

“... will you tell my mother?”

“Absolutely not.”

Kara groaned.

It was worth a shot.

The door to Alex’s office suddenly swung open, and a man with a shock of messy hair stepped through it quickly. His chest was heaving as if he had been running, and he stared at Kara with an expression of both relief and intense worry.

“Winn!” she cried, jumping to her feet.

He opened his mouth to speak, but at the same moment Sam crowded through the doorframe behind him, knocking into his shoulder and startling him. He leaned backwards to glance furtively into the hallway while Kara and Alex threw looks of confusion at Sam, who was also breathing heavy. She stepped into the room briskly, addressing them with a low voice.

“Zor-El is on his way. A palace knight saw you crossing the courtyard and-”

“Your highness!” Winn squeaked out, moving out of the doorway and bowing his head.

Sam wheeled around and stepped back, placing a hand on Alex’s elbow to help her to her feet while they both inclined their heads.

A tall, athletic man stepped through the door. His short, wavy blonde hair was silvering at the temples and slightly out of place. His handsome features were set in a frown, his shining blue eyes filled with concern.

Kara straightened her shoulders and met his eyes with a determined and defensive gaze.

“Father.”

He simply stared at her for several moments, and anxiety roiled through Kara’s stomach. She jutted her chin out and filled her voice with false bravado, hoping to disguise the way it wavered.

“I am sorry for the way that I left, and that I have since made decisions that affect the house of El and the kingdom of Krypton. I understand if you are angry. I accept responsibility for my actions and I will -”

Suddenly, she was out of breath. Strong arms squeezed her tightly, and she was lifted onto her toes while a face pressed into the top of her head. A pained voice whispered into her hair.

“I am so happy that you are home, princess.”

Tears sprang to her eyes and she immediately wrapped her arms around broad shoulders, burying her face in her father’s chest while they tracked down her cheeks. Her shoulders shook, and she felt as if pounds of stress and fear melted away from her.

Sam, Alex, and Winn stepped back respectfully, silently watching the scene unfold before them. Zor-El simply held her until her breathing had become smoother and rhythmic again, gently patting her back.

He took her by the shoulders and gently pulled her back, looking down at her red eyes. He cupped her streaked face in his large hands, wiping stray tears away with his thumbs and kissing her forehead.

“Better?”

She nodded and he smiled down at her. “Good.”

He stepped aside, wrapping a long arm around her shoulders and pulling her against his side tightly. He smiled quietly at the other three, before tilting his head down to regard his daughter sternly.

“Now. What is this I hear about you bringing home a Luthorian wife?”


 

Chapter Text


 

“Kara. What have you done?”

The disappointment was palpable; the tone of betrayal, intense.

Blue eyes that matched her own pierced her through.

The sigh that built in her chest seemed to shake the ground beneath them, and it was all she could do to turn her quivering lower lip to stone. She reached trembling fingers down and pressed them into the warm wood of the window sill, gazing down at crashing waves that matched a soul in turmoil.

“I did what you taught me to do, mother.”

Her voice was softer than she wanted it to be. More accusing than she intended. More frightened than she thought.


 

“Kara! Wait!”

Small feet pounded across pale sand. Giggles erupted from a golden-haired girl and drifted along the wind. Another girl with deep red hair, just a little taller, followed breathlessly in her wake.

“Come on, Alex! I want to go smash boulders down by the sea!”

Pounding feet turned into long leaps through the air – not quite flying, but bounding large distances at once. Alex put on another burst of energy and took off after her, trying in vain to catch up.

“Kara slow down! We’re not supposed to be down here right now, there’s a storm coming!”

More giggles. More leaps.

When she had finally found her favorite spot along the shore, she took one last leap and landed gracelessly, digging her heels in and skidding on the sand before falling hard on her ass.

She was already clambering to her feet and dusting the sand from the back of her trousers when Alex slid to a stop next to her, hands on her knees, chest heaving.

A bolt of lightning arced through a slate grey sky, and Alex reached out, grabbing the younger girl’s forearm.

“I don’t like this, Kara. We need to go back inside.”

The blonde pouted and grabbed Alex right back, tugging her towards a pile of massive rocks in the sand that jutted out into the sea. Salty waves crashed and rocked against the stones, breaking and roaring. Wind whipped across the beach.

“Come on Alex. It’ll just be for a few minutes, and we’ll go right back inside! I’m so excited to start training as a squire with you!!”

The auburn-haired girl’s brow furrowed and she set her lips in a firm line.

“Kara-”

“Ehsh je. Please?”

Shoulders drooped and arms crossed. Alex sighed.

“Fine. But you only get to use that name ONE more time this summer, Kara Zor-El.”

The blonde squealed and wrapped her arms around Alex tightly, squeezing her before wheeling back around and squaring off with a boulder.

“Okay!! Father says to put your fists up like this, to protect your face, and to turn sideways to your opponent so you’re a smaller target!”

She glanced furtively at the other girl, who was still standing in the sand with her arms crossed.

“Come on Alex! Do it!”

The older girl rolled her eyes, before joining Kara. She stood before a large rock with deep grey cracks along it.

“What now, warrior?” she teased. Kara wasn't at all phased.

“Now, you turn your hips and put ALL of your effort into throwing your fist out! Like this!”

With a slightly feral cry, she slammed her fist into the rock before it.

Fragments exploded outwards, and the crack from the impact echoed across the water. When Kara pulled her fist back, a crater remained in the stone behind it.

She turned slowly back to Alex, her mouth in an open grin.

“DID. YOU. SEE. THAT?!”

Alex looked vaguely alarmed for a moment, before turning back to face off against her own “opponent.” She twisted her body and pulled her hand back, then slammed it with all of her might into the boulder before her.

The sound thundered through the beach.

They both shared an excited, electric grin before they began pummeling the pile of stones. They punched and kicked, letting loose their war cries. The sky seemed to keep pace with them, thunder and lightning crackling overhead.

Kara roared with laughter and leaped atop the mass. She kicked a loose boulder down into the sea, before spinning around and grinning down at Alex.

“Alex! Watch this!”

She stormed her way to the very end of the rock formation, far past where the sand ended, out to where white caps were rushing and swarming over wet, black stone.

A monolith rose up towards the sky there, and she carefully moved into her unpracticed fighting stance before it.

An uneasy feeling settled into the pit of Alex’s stomach.

“Kara! Let’s go back inside now. We can come back tomorrow!”

Kara didn’t even glance back at her, just calling over her shoulder.

“Just one more and we can go!”

She pulled her fist back and lifted her opposing knee up to give herself even more leverage. Her knuckles were white, her face screwed up in determined concentration.

“KARA WAIT!!”

By the time Alex realized what was wrong, it was too late.

Her fist slammed into the black rock with such incredible force, it split entirely down the middle from the top to the bottom.

Kara grinned and turned back towards Alex, placing her fists on her hips triumphantly.

“See? I am the champio-” her voice broke as a sharp cracking sound rushed up at her from beneath her feet.

She looked down just in time to watch the stone break beneath her, dragging her down into a cold and roaring sea.

The world went black.


 

A scoff made its way past Alura’s lips and she shook her head, stepping towards her daughter with a look of disbelief crossing her face.

“Are you meaning to tell me that you placed the house of El and the future of Krypton at stake because of a lesson that I bestowed upon you?”

“Yes, mother! Was it not you who taught me patience? Temperance?”


 

Strong hands yanked and dragged and pulled at her. She was floating, weightless, in an inky midnight sea. The cold settled into her bones, tugged her under, desperately clawing at her from the depths.

And still those strong hands were on her.

Arms wrapped around tightly, tighter than the damp, tighter than the chill. Powerful legs kicked off rock and reef, a steel grip, a vice lock.

They broke the surface, and mist spraying from a spluttering girl was captured and torn away by the howling wind.

Waves broke over their heads as feet kicked, tight hands in a collar, pleading words ripping through the air.

“Stay with me Kara. Please. Please stay with me, I’m going to get you home.”

Ice stole her breath from her chest and everything was black and quiet again.


 

Kara turned from the window and began pacing before it, gesturing with her hands to emphasize her words.

“Was it not you who taught me that ruling a country is matter of empathy, integrity above all else? That the house of El governs itself through a dedication to duty and honor?”


 

Eyelashes fluttered softly against cheeks. The sound of a fire crackled nearby. Cold crystals still threaded their way through her skin, shivers still burning through her, despite feeling the weight of thick, heavy blankets pressing on her.

Kara blinked her eyes open slowly, and the first thing her attention landed on was Alex’s furrowed brow and teary eyes.

Her hair was still damp, clinging to the side of her face like a fractured web. A thick blanket had also been tucked around her shoulders, but it was falling to the side now, forgotten.

“Kara.” An equally cold hand reached out and touched hers, grasping at her fingers, her palm, her wrist, holding tightly, refusing to let go.

The stern but concerned voice of Alura flowed over them, and Kara shut her eyes again for a moment briefly, as if to will away everything she knew was coming.

“Kara, what have you done?”

The hand on her wrist squeezed lightly before letting go, and Alex rose to her feet beside her, her blanket forgotten in the chair. Chills raced through her but she stood, steadfast and brave.

“It was my fault, your highness. I begged Kara to take me to the sea, since I never get to see it. I... I wanted to begin training to be a squire, early, so I could be the best. Kara was showing me how to fight, and I got too rough, and she fell into the sea. I will accept the punishment.”

Alura dipped her chin towards her chest, a gentle smiling forming on her face. She reached down and her fingers closed around the blanket. She tugged it back up over Alex’s shoulders and cupped her cheek.

“Sit down, little knight.”

Alex dropped slowly into her chair, defeat showing on her face. She anxiously glanced at Kara, who quietly folded her hands in her own lap. Alura eyed her expectantly.

“This was my fault, mother. Alex begged me to turn back, but I would not go. I made a mistake. I know that we are not allowed on the shore when a storm is coming, and I went anyway. I am sorry.”

Alura sat on the bed beside Kara and rested a hand on her arm, rubbing the cold skin there gently. She eyed Alex, who sat up a little straighter in her chair.

“Protecting those important to you is an admirable quality, Lady Danvers. You are a better sister than anyone I could have chosen for a princess of Krypton.”

Alex’s cheeks flared red and her eyes fell to her lap, where she fiddled with her hands uncomfortably. Alura turned to her daughter.

“Truth without hesitation is incredibly important, Kara. I am proud of you, that you have told me this. Your family house is built on pillars of integrity, honor, and always doing what is right.”

She reached out and rested her hand on top of Kara’s.

“But you are to rule one day. You must know that no life is less than your own, and you are not a princess in order to be propped up by others. You must be a hero, a champion. You put Alexandra’s life in danger, and you are lucky that your ehsh je was there to save you. May this be a lesson for you in humility and the importance of putting others before yourself.”

Tears rolled down Kara’s red cheeks, and she nodded. Her mother pressed a warm kiss to her forehead and tucked the blankets around her tighter, standing.

“I will go to the kitchen and bring you both some soup. Alex... keep an eye on her?”

Alex straightened and her eyes shone with both a vigilance and fear that she’d never felt before in her life – and that she would never lose again.

“I will be by her side, your highness.”

“Hmm.” Alura bent down and pressed a kiss to the top of Alex’s head, ruffling her hair gently. “Yes, I suppose you will be.”


 

Those same hazel eyes watched her now. Alex sat in the corner of the room, stiffly sitting in an armchair, ready to step in to maintain the peace.

“And what duty do you have to a daughter of Luthoria?” Anger flashed in Alura’s eyes as she tracked Kara across the room.

Kara stopped in her tracks and glared at her. “She rescued me from a kryptonite dungeon. Or did you not know? Have I been home so long already that you’ve forgotten that I was gone?”

“How dare you- ” Alura started towards Kara, who raised her chin in defiance and crossed her arms. Alex quickly stood and reached out, grasping Kara’s forearm and shaking her head at her.

In that same instance, Zor-El stepped between them and reached back to place a gentle hand on the hip of his wife, throwing an angry look at his daughter.

“Kara, that’s enough. You can not stand before your mother and ask her such things! She has been devastated since you left – a departure of your own making, as I recall – and you do not have the right to make accusations here about her intentions or her feelings.”

“Father- ”

“I said that’s enough.”

She blew out a deep breath and leveled him with eyes blazing with anger, but remained silent. She turned her gaze to Alex, who inhaled and exhaled a deep breath, willing her to keep her cool. Kara pursed her lips in resignation and tucked her hands behind her back.

“I... acted in a manner that I thought to be honorable and in keeping with our family values. I apologize again, for any shame that I have caused the house of El. Please, tell me what you would have me do to make this right.”

“Kara, you-” Zor-El started.

“Wait.” Alura cut him off and stepped out from behind him again. She paused for a moment, before sitting on the comfortable couch between them. She patted the seat next to herself gently, and turned her face up to Kara.

“Come here, daughter.”

Kara reached for Alex’s hand, gently squeezing it before placing a kiss on her cheek and joining her mother. Alex and Zor-El quietly sat back down on the arm chairs beside them, settling into a tense posture.

Alura breathed deeply, as if she was steeling herself for the words she would need to say. She reached out for Kara’s hands, and the blonde obliged her by slipping them into her mother’s grasp.

“Kara, we... I do not think you have brought shame to the house of El.”

Kara frowned at her, confusing slipping into her expression. “You... don’t?” She glanced at her father, who shook his head silently.

“No,” Alura continued, “You are right, Kara. You did exactly what a member of the house of El - and a Kryptonian - should do: the action that was just, and honorable. We have heard many stories of the depravity of Lex of Luthoria, and we are not fools to believe that everyone around him delights in his causes. Lena was surely a woman fated for pain and desolation, and you did do the things that we taught you. You placed others before yourself.” Alura reached out and cupped Kara’s cheek gently. “But you give so much of yourself, princess. And so much of yourself is not yours to give – it belongs to the kingdom of Krypton.”

Kara’s shoulders slumped, and she nodded. “I know. I will certainly admit that I have never been one to fully think things through.” A snort came from Alex’s direction, covered by a cough, and Kara shot a glare at her over her shoulder. She turned back to Alura.

“What should I do? What can be done?”

Alura looked up at Zor-El, whose face was marred with concern. He stood and tucked his arms behind his back in a pose that was the origination of Kara’s own, and walked the room quietly.

“We will need to be fast. Word is already spreading of your bonding – the voices of Thon are loud, and swift.” He stopped beside a window, squinting out at the setting sun. “We have to get ahead of this, break the news in our way so we can control the narrative.”

Kara twisted towards him. “Control the narrative? What do you mean, father?”

He sighed and turned back to his daughter. “Lex Luthor has many enemies, Kara. Many of them are our allies. We can not have half the world believing that we are getting in bed with a mad king.”

Kara’s lips parted slowly. “Will people believe such a thing?”

Zor-El nodded at her gravely. “You have wed into a monarchy from a country that has a habit of slaughtering first and asking no questions whatsoever. We are a nearly indestructible race – and the Luthors are the only ones with the weapons capable of stopping us. What would you presume, if you were them?”

The blonde warrior dropped her head into her hands and moaned, threading her fingers through her own hair.

“This is so much worse than I thought.”

Alura folded her hands in her lap quietly and nodded. “Unfortunately, daughter, it is.”

They sat in an oppressive silence for what felt like hours, though few moments had passed in reality.

The air itself seemed to be weighted, dragged down from the sky to swirl at their feet like mud.

Kara felt a despair settle into her chest.

“You could get married, Princess.”

It was Alex who spoke first.

Kara laughed, leaning back against the couch and pressing her hand over her eyes.

“I already did that, Alex. Remember? That’s how we got here in the first place.”

Zor-El glanced up at the knight, curiosity briefly eclipsing his concern. She met his eyes and raised her eyebrows, shrugging one shoulder.

“By Kryptonian law you are bound, yes. But you didn’t... get married. You know... the big party?”

“... oh.”

Kara glanced over at her mother, who was sitting in her seat, rigid with the idea.

“Mother?”

She seemed to mull it over for a few moments, her brow furrowing. She turned to Zor-El.

“It’s possible. We announce an engagement, prepare a full Kryptonian wedding ceremony. We invite the monarchs of the Alliance. Allow them to come here, celebrate with us, allow them to see with their own eyes that it is not a marriage of political brevity but simply... young love, as it were.”

“A woman desperate to get away from her mad brother, a Princess in shining... cape... come to rescue her.” Alex chimed in softly. “It’s sort of romantic, really.”

Kara met her father’s eyes.

“He will come for her, you know.”

He nodded, and when he sank back down into his seat, it was heavy. His gaze on Kara, too, was heavy – and flashing with anger.

“Let him come. He has already placed his hands on one Zor-El too many.”

Alura’s hand settled back on Kara’s then, as if in confirmation. It felt like an anchor, warm and comforting, and the blonde turned her palm up to hold onto it tightly.

She stared at her father quietly for a few moments, turning their words over in her mind. She knew that she would do anything it took to keep her family – including Krypton, and now Lena – away from the ravings of a mad man.

She was only half of this equation, however.

“And if she does not agree? You can not have a wedding ceremony with just one. I will not keep her here against her will – then we will be no better than her brother.”

“If she leaves, it will remove the burden of consequence from your shoulders. No wife, no political connections.”

Kara stilled at this. Her eyes drifted down, and she spoke to the floor.

“I would see her safe, father.”

“As would I,” Zor-El sighed softly. He pressed his fingers to his temples, before clasping his hands together and leaning forward, looking at her earnestly. “My daughter... this is the life you are choosing – have already chosen – for yourself. Princess Lena... we can not keep her here, and Kryptonian law forbids divorce. You will never marry another. ”

Kara nodded, her face sad yet resolute. She squeezed her mother’s hand tightly.

“I know. I knew back in Luthoria. I was slated for death, and I knew that this life... from this moment, whatever happens, however it goes... is better than the dishonorable death I would have received in the arena at the hands of Lex Luthor.”

Her mother gripped her then, leaning down to press her lips to Kara’s forehead as she had done all those years ago.

“You will conquer any obstacle, Princess.”

Kara slipped her arms around Alura’s waist, and the older woman held her tightly. Then she pulled back and patted Kara’s cheek, offering her a reserved smile.

“Now go bathe, warrior. You look... and smell... as if you’ve been in the woods for quite some time.”

The blonde shrugged sheepishly and grinned at her.

“Adventures don’t smell good, mother.”

“As you’ve been saying for many years, daughter. And yet... Alexandra never seems to smell like anything but roses.”

Kara grumbled as she climbed to her feet, making a show of dusting off her pants.

“That’s because of her ridiculous northerner genes. She doesn’t sweat. It’s not normal.”

“Mhmm.” Alura rose at her side and walked her and Alex to the door. “Go. Speak with Lena, so she is not blindsided by these plans. And then bring her to dinner, so your mother may meet your wife.”

When the door clicked softly shut behind Kara and Alex’s fading backs, Alura turned to find her husband staring pensively out at the darkening sky, his hands once more behind his back.

Alura traced her hand down his arm gently and he reached for her, pulling her before him so her back was to him, wrapping his arms around her solidly. She leaned back into him and rested her hands on his forearms.

“What is on your mind, husband of mine?”

“You know what is on my mind, zrhueiao.”

She nodded, watching the sun slip beyond the horizon with a sigh.

“Our daughter is an only child.”


 

 

Chapter Text

 


 

 

The door to her wing groaned open quietly, and Kara shut it as gently as she could behind her. She tilted her head to the side and stilled, listening for Lena’s heartbeat. She found it thumping in a slow, even rhythm.

So the Princess sleeps. Good.

Kara padded past the doors to the two bedrooms silently, entering her own at the end of the hall, shutting herself off from the world.

She turned a small brass knob beside the door and the natural gas lamps lit the room with a soft glow. She tugged off her shirt and tossed it in the general direction of her closet, pouring herself another small drink from her own bar before sitting heavily down into a chair before her fireplace. A well-placed shot from her eyes had it roaring before her. She groaned as she tugged off her boots, finally feeling herself relax for the first time in weeks.

She sank back into the cushions and sipped her drink slowly, feeling the warmth course its way through her body. She stared down into the fire as it settled her, her mind turning over the myriad of things that had happened in such a short span of time.

The drink swirled slowly in the bottom of her glass.

What had started as a simple reconnaissance mission – based on reports that the Luthorians had been amassing new kryptonite weapons – had turned badly, very quickly. She closed her eyes as the memories of it raced through her.

She had been flying low and slow over the treeline along the Luthorian border, barely paying attention. She wasn’t over dangerous territory yet, and these sections of the forest were hardly ever patrolled.

So she was shocked when the whistling arrow sank into the right side of her chest.

Pain erupted across her eyes, and she barely had time to scream before it tripled. Spikes on the arrow end clicked out ominously as she realized the arrow was tied to a rope.

It went taught and the spikes sank into her back as her attackers began hauling her down to the ground.

She gritted her teeth in furious anger and blinding pain, grappling with the air, the rope, anything, trying to break their hold – but the kryptonite-tipped arrow was slowly draining her energy, her resolve, and the white-hot pain in her back and chest were causing the edges of her vision to fade.

By the time she was below the tree line, she barely had the ability to swing her fists. Kryptonite-laced ropes snaked around her ankles and torso and yanked her to the ground. She struggled and tried to scream, but there were just too many of them.

Everything went black after that.

By the time she woke up again, she was chained in the dungeon. The arrow had been removed, the tear allowed to heal, before she was placed in the manacles.

Likely Lex trying to keep her alive as long as possible. By her best estimations, she had been down there for two weeks before Lena came.

Angry tears slipped down her cheeks, and she let them fall.

Alex had insisted that the intelligence sounded suspect, but she had refused to listen. When the knight captain rejected the mission, Kara stole away just as the sun set, intent on making the trip overnight and returning before dawn with confirmation or denial of the claims.

She had, instead, flown directly into a trap. Once more, her arrogance had the best of her.

Kara drained her glass and set it down gently on the table beside her, rising to her feet and stripping off the rest of her clothing.

She stepped into her own bathroom and turned on the shower, allowing the gloriously hot water to pound across her back and shoulders. She took her time, washing away all traces of dirt, dust, tears, and blood from her body. She stayed there until the water ran cold.

A towel tied tightly around her chest, she stood before the framed mirror above the stone basin she used as a sink. Her eyes traced slowly over her face, her shoulders, her chest. All physical evidence of her imprisonment and torture had been healed and faded, except...

She pressed her fingers gently to the lower point of the symbol that glinted on her chest, trailing it carefully along the straight line leading up to her collarbone. Truthfully, she had nearly forgotten it was there, and it surprised her when it caught her eye. She felt a sudden sadness drift into her shoulders.

Kryptonian bondings were meant to be incredibly powerful and special. No bond was the same, no relationship the same. It changed everyone, influenced everyone. Ties to the life force were meant to complete you, make you whole, connect your soul to another in a way that is unbreakable.

She did not regret the choice she had made, and if she could return to the moment she made it she would have done it again. She just wished that it would mean something to her in the way that it did to Alex and Sam, or her parents. She felt heavy with the thought that it may never be the same for her.

When she covered the symbol with her palm gently, her ears picked up the sound of Lena turning over, a gentle sigh escaping her in her sleep. She took pause for a moment, catching her own eyes in the mirror, and felt a quiet resolve course through her.

Something good had come of this, at least.

Lena was safe from her brother, and Krypton had gained an unexpected ally.

She turned from the mirror.

Now they would see if Kara could keep it that way.


 

A gentle knock at the bedroom door pulled Lena from her sleep. She groaned softly and buried her face into the downy pillow, praying to herself that she’d imagined it and she could go back to sleep.

Unfortunately, when she didn’t respond to it, it came again.

She sighed deeply and sat up, rubbing her hand across her face. Her hair had dried in waves across her shoulders, and the collar of her tunic slipped down past her shoulder, revealing a patch of pale skin.

The door cracked open ever so slightly, and Kara’s voice drifted in.

“Lena..?”

“Kara. You can come in.” Lena stretched her neck from one side to the other as Kara stepped halfway in. She reached for the same brass knob and turned it slowly, bathing the room in a warm light. Lena tried to rub the sleep from the side of her face.

The Kryptonian kept one hand on the doorknob, leaning her hip against the doorframe. She was dressed much more elegantly than Lena had seen her before – an eventuality she should have expected, given that Kara was royalty and not likely dressed for reconnaissance when she was holding court. A long-sleeved midnight blue tunic was tailored to her trim torso perfectly, and a platinum belt cinched it at the waist. Her black trousers ended in shiny black heeled boots at her ankles. Her hair was freshly washed and dried, golden pieces of it braided carefully and pinned back, curling beautifully around an anxious face. She worried her lip, and Lena tilted her head questioningly.

“What’s wrong?”

Kara crossed her arms over her chest, looking down at the ground. “My family has requested us for dinner in about an hour. But... I need to speak with you, before we go.”

Fear roiled through Lena’s stomach, and she nodded. She slipped out of the comfortable bed and her sore muscles screamed at her, but she’d abandoned the idea of going back to sleep.

Cold air hit her bare legs that stuck out beneath the hem of her tunic, and she started to pad her way to the bathroom, barefoot.

“What is the typical attire?” she called out over her shoulder.

When she was met with silence, she paused in the doorway and turned back to find Kara frozen and staring at her legs.

“Kara?”

The blonde sucked in a sharp breath and dragged her eyes up to Lena’s, her eyebrows lifting into her hairline.

“Hmmm?”

Lena raised an eyebrow.

“The attire? For dinner?” She gestured down at herself.  “I’m not sure that I have anything suited to meet and dine with a royal family. When I packed for my escape, I wasn’t exactly expecting to step foot in a castle ever again.”

“Ah, I understand.” She made very deliberate eye contact with Lena, clearing her throat. “My apologies, Princess. I hadn’t considered it. In the morning, I would be happy to take you to Kandor to pick up a more substantial wardrobe. In the meantime, I believe that you and Alex are of similar heights. I’m certain that she will be more than happy to loan you something to wear.”

When Lena nodded, Kara pushed off the door frame and turned to step back out again. Just before she closed the door behind her, she called back in.

“Princess, would you prefer trousers or a dress?”

Lena waved a hand at her from bathroom. “Choose whatever you feel is appropriate.”


 

 

“... she has no clothes from before the pregnancy?”

Sam cringed at Kara, who was standing wide-eyed in the Arias’ sitting room.

Brown eyes darted towards their bedroom door, the sound of running water filtering through it. Sam leaned forward and lowered her voice to a hoarse whisper.

“When she could no longer fit into them, she had... an episode.”

Kara blinked at her in disbelief. “An episode.”

“She set them all on fire.”

The blonde’s eyes shot up to the ceiling in recall, before her eyebrows raised and her mouth formed an “o”.

“The courtyard fire a few months ago?”

“Yes.”

Kara turned her head a little bit to the side, eyeing Sam. “... not a freak lightning strike.”

“No.”

A palm reached up to cover Kara’s eyes, and she rubbed her forehead while sighing. The sound of water shut off.

“Sam?” a voice called from inside their bedroom. “Is that Kara?”

“Yes dear!” she replied. She glanced up at Kara anxiously, who looked defeated.

“Does she have anything? I want Lena to feel comfortable at dinner tonight – it’s going to be enough of a shock as it is, I don’t want her to feel like an under-dressed stranger.”

Alex pulled the bedroom door open, a large towel wrapped around herself. It was pulled taught across her belly, and droplets of water moved down a shimmering purple symbol on her chest. She gave Sam a look that plainly read that she’d been busted.

“First of all, I thought we agreed to stop calling it an episode. I simply had a... moment.” She glared at Sam, who had the good sense to look contrite. “YOU try putting on an uniform that you worked incredibly hard to achieve and have it not fit you!”

She huffed and turned to Kara, who was slinking behind Sam. She froze in place fearfully.

“Second of all, I did not burn everything. Just... all of the trousers. And most of the tunics.” She opened the bedroom door wider. “Come, grab something. There should still be a few dresses in the back.”

Kara sighed with relief and slipped past the pregnant woman, who had resumed glaring at her wife.

Unwilling to get caught in any crossfire, Kara skimmed through the options quickly and grabbed a midnight blue dress that was a similar shade to her own tunic. Perhaps Lena would feel better if they were dressed in solidarity.

She tucked it over her arm and pressed a hasty kiss to Alex’s cheek before making a quick exit.


 

When Kara was once more knocking on Lena’s bedroom door, she found herself suddenly overcome with nerves. The conversation they needed to have could change her entire life – and perhaps not for the better.

“Come in!” Lena called.

The blonde twisted the doorknob and entered the room, holding the dress up in her arms.

“There weren’t very many options, but I thought that this dress – OH.”

Kara clapped a hand over her eyes and spun away.

“Princess, why would instruct me to enter if you weren’t wearing any clothes?!” she said, panic in her voice.

Lena had stepped out from the bathroom where she had been pinning her hair. The tunic had been deposited on the bed some minutes ago. She laughed softly and reached out, pulling the dress from Kara’s outstretched arm.

“My turn to apologize, Princess. I had handmaids in Luthoria, and they were accustomed to seeing me naked. I’m not used to being around women who are not either assisting me in dressing or... well, my mother. Let me go into the bathroom.”

Kara bunched her shoulders and crossed her free arm tightly across her chest, facing the corner of the bedroom. The brief image of smooth alabaster skin was burning through her veins.

This was turning out to be a very stressful evening, indeed.

Lena stepped into the dress and tugged it up, past her hips and over her breasts. The material felt incredibly soft, and she ran her fingers through it in appreciation. It took her a few moments to realize that the top of the dress was meant to cross diagonally from below her left arm to gather over her right shoulder. She had a moment to briefly recall Kara’s words around their fire last night, though it felt so long ago: “In fact, many Kryptonian women choose to wear a style of tunic or dress that openly displays their bond.”

The brunette pursed her lips as her eyes drifted along the golden mark, and she shook her head. Well... it was certainly on display now.

The dress fit her surprisingly well, hugging her curves perfectly and draping down to brush the tops of her feet.

In the bedroom, she found Kara muttering to herself in the corner with her face still dropped into her hand.

Lena reached out and touched her shoulder gently, and Kara nearly leaped out of her skin.

She tightened her hand over her eyes and turned around slowly.

“Are you... is it... can I open my eyes now?”

“Yes Princess, your delicate sensibilities are safe.”

Kara lowered her hand and leveled Lena with a disapproving look.

“I do not have delicate...” her voice trailed off as her eyes took in the woman standing before her.

Rich, raven-colored hair was braided along her left temple and tied into a loose bun, a few strands tucked carefully behind her ears. The dress contrasted against an expanse of creamy skin, angled collarbones and a long neck. Kara’s eyes fell to the symbol, the crest of El that matched her own, as it caught the gentle light from the lamps.

Her stomach flipped, and she found herself drawn to the brunette with her hand raised, as if to reach out and touch the symbol. She stopped a hairsbreadth away, and her lips parted slowly as a restless, longing feeling crawled through her.

“It’s gold,” she whispered.

Lena frowned at Kara in confusion, lowering her eyes to her chest to confirm that it was indeed gold, before settling her gaze on the blonde’s face once more.

“Yes? Is that... alright..?”

Kara didn’t respond. She simply continued to stare, and her fingertips slowly, slowly reached out, ghosting carefully across Lena’s skin and sending shivers rocketing down her spine. She seemed as if she was in a trance, and she was pushing into the brunette’s space.

Dizziness suddenly overtook Lena, and she swayed on her feet as her eyes dropped closed. A steady hum filled her ears, and her knees felt weak, as if at any moment they may fail her. Her heart pounded against her ribs, and hot fire licked across her back. The smell of peonies covered in fresh rain surrounded her like a blanket, invading her senses, and she leaned into the warm sensations flying across her skin.

When a weight dropped to her forehead, Lena’s eyes flew open.

Somehow, she was now encased tightly in Kara’s arms. Her own arms had snaked around the taller girl’s neck and her hands had buried in her hair. She was tipped up onto her toes, their noses brushing, their breath mingling as their lips almost, almost...

Rao.

Kara’s hands fell to her hips and pressed her away. Lena’s legs nearly caved beneath her, and she reached out to grip the bedpost beside her to hold herself upright.

The blonde took a full step backwards, her hand reaching back for the bedroom doorknob, fumbling with it as she stared down at Lena in shock.

“Princess, I... I am so sorry, I have no idea... I’m sorry!”

She pulled the door open and nearly stumbled through it, pressing her hand to her chest. The room suddenly seemed very small, as if the oxygen had been sucked out of it. She wiped her sweating palms on the front of her trousers and stood awkwardly in the hall as Lena simply stared at her.

“I... I’ll be in the sitting area. Out... out here,” she pointed down the hall weakly. “Please... join me when you’re ready.”

She turned and shuffled away with wide eyes.

Lena reached down for the bed with a shaking hand, attempting to steady herself. She was trembling, and a sudden sense of indescribable loss flooded her. Her hand fisted in the blanket as she tried to slow her own breathing, and an unwelcome tear slipped down her cheek.

She reached up and touched it, looking down at her wet fingertips in wonder.

She could still smell flowers.


 

When Lena had composed herself – though her hands were still trembling – she found Kara pacing before the darkened window in the sitting room.

Lena caught her eye and she stopped in her tracks. Her mouth opened and closed and she wrung her hands together, before taking a tentative steps towards her.

“Princess, I must apologize again. I did not mean to intrude into your space, I would never intend to make you feel unsafe. I do not know –”

The brunette lifted her hand slowly, shaking her head. “Kara, stop. I... I don’t know what happened either. I do not feel unsafe here. Truly... this is the safest I’ve felt in a very long time.”

Kara’s hands dropped to her sides and she tilted her head to the side, a look of pain crossing her features.

“I’m sorry that you have gone so long, living this way. I hope that I can continue to help you."

Lena nodded, still feeling distracted, and lowered herself into a comfortable chair beside the fire Kara had set. Her back was rigid, her demeanor concerned.

"Kara, why does it matter that... this... " she gestured at her chest, "... is gold? Should it not be?"

 

The Kryptonian sighed heavily, eyeing the glinting symbol. "That is something I will need to speak with Winn about. It is rather... unusual."

"Is there something wrong?" Lena asked anxiously.  

Kara shook her head. "No, absolutely not. It's simply... a little strange. I'm sure that Winn will have a good answer for me by the end of dinner."

The brunette did not seem appeased by this answer, but she didn't press further. She simply nodded and gestured at the chair across from hers.

“In that case... you had something you wanted to discuss?”

Kara hesitated, and Lena could tell she was nervous. She watched the Kryptonian wipe her hands on the front of her trousers again.

“Can I get you a drink, first?”

The brunette offered a rare smile, borne of an unexpected desire to alleviate the other woman’s stress.

“Uh oh. Do you need to get me drunk before you tell me?”

This solicited a soft laugh from Kara, who shook her head. “No, not drunk. But... I won’t lie to you, it certainly won’t hurt.”

“Then a drink would be lovely, thank you.”

She looked relieved to have something to do, and busied herself pouring a splash of amber liquid into a small glass. “Are you enjoying your stay in Krypton so far?”

“From what I have seen of it, it is both beautiful and warm.” Lena settled back into the seat, crossing her legs and watching her. “And exceedingly comfortable.”

The blonde smiled and handed her a glass, sitting across from her. “Well I’m glad for that.”

Lena sipped the drink, surprised when it tasted cool and fruity on her tongue. Kara was focused on her own hands, which were folding and unfolding in her lap. Lena watched her for a few minutes, before humming softly in her throat.

“Kara... talk to me.”

The blonde closed her eyes as if to brace herself, then leaned back in her seat and caught Lena’s gaze.

“I need you to marry me.”

The brunette smiled again, slower this time, as if she hadn’t heard correctly.

“... I’m sorry, do you want to run that one past me again? I was relatively certain that I’d already done that.”

Kara sighed and scooted forward to the edge of her seat. The face she was making was concerning Lena.

“Princess, I... I’m happy to explain in detail the political turmoil that our bonding has caused Krypton. But for now, it is enough to understand that my country and my family are in danger.”

Lena frowned and set her glass down beside her. “In danger? From whom? Lex?”

“Anyone who is an enemy to Luthoria.”

“So everyone.” Lena blew out a breath and shook her head. “I knew that this was a bad idea, Kara. You’ve gone and attached us –”

“Bonded.”

“ – and now your entire country is in danger.”

“I have a way to fix it.”

The brunette pressed her palm to her eye, her fist clenching and unclenching. “We get married.”

“Yes. We have a traditional Kryptonian wedding, and invite the Allied monarchs.”

“To garner legitimacy to our marriage and stem any concerns of an alliance with Luthoria. I understand.” Lena reached for her glass again and tipped it back.

She suddenly wished it was stronger.

Kara eyed her, impressed, and leaned back into her seat once more. “Your brother is a fool for many reasons, but I am discovering very quickly that he is mostly a fool for only using you as a betrothal offering.”

“Mmmm. Princess, you flatter me.” Lena winked with more than a little sarcasm. Kara winced.

“Sorry. I just meant... you’re incredibly intelligent. You’d be quite a political tactician, if you so chose.”

Lena nodded, staring down into her empty glass.

“Unfortunately, I never have been able to choose. Have I?”

“You could choose. Here, in Krypton.” Kara crossed one leg over the other and leaned her elbow on the armrest, watching Lena’s face earnestly. “We encourage active participation in politics, battle strategy and tactics, charity, education, science, engineering. As a Princess and future Queen, you are free to choose a position that you would like to hold.”

Lena narrowed her eyes, lowering her voice. “Are you... bribing me, Kara of Krypton?”

Kara grinned at her. “Is it working?”

“Not nearly as well as you’d like.”

“Ah, but it is working.”

Lena rolled her eyes and stood, pacing to the window and crossing her arms, leaning against the frame and watching the moon dance over the whitecaps as the waves lapped at the rocks in the distance.

“I never wanted to put you in danger,” she said softly to the window.

Kara rose from her seat and followed her, staying a respectful distance away but still close enough to feel comforting.

“I am far more concerned about your safety at the moment, Princess. It just happens that your safety and the safety of Krypton are very closely tied right now.”

She nodded, watching as the clouds slowly slipped past a full moon.

“How long do we have?”

“Typically once the announcement is made, we have thirty days to prepare for the arrival of guests.”

Lena turned over her thoughts, again and again, but the conclusion she continued to reach was simple.

She should stay.

She should stay because she knew that she’d be useless out in the rest of the world, with very little guidance and even fewer practical skills.

She should stay because Kara could have left her in the Lilliana River and flown away without a thought, but she chose instead to carry her in her arms many miles to safety – and has been keeping her safe ever since.

She should stay because it felt really wonderful to have someone on her side, for the first time in her life.

Lena turned back to the blonde and nodded her head once.

“When is the wedding?”


 

Chapter Text

 


 

“How does this go? In Krypton?”

Kara and Lena were standing before a set of large double doors carved with beautiful symbols.

They had been in front of it for several minutes while Kara took in deep breaths. Lena had her arm linked in Kara’s, as she had since the blonde offered it to her when they departed their chambers.

She glanced back and forth between Kara and the door. The Kryptonian seemed to have frozen in place.

Lena nudged her with her hip gently, and Kara blinked, finally turning to look at her.

“I’m sorry Princess, what did you say?”

The corners of the brunette’s mouth lifted slightly.

“You’re a very focused woman sometimes, do you know that?”

Kara cringed. “I know. I apologize in advance for any future issues – I’ve always been that way.”

Lena patted her arm absentmindedly and repeated her question.

“How does this work in Krypton? If this is a royal dinner with your parents, I’m assuming that we are to be announced?”

“Yes. That’s why I’m... I mean... I’m not sure, honestly.” Kara’s eyes flitted over the doors. “Traditionally, if I was presenting a betrothed partner to the royal court, you would be announced as such. But since you are technically already my wife...” she turned to Lena and shrugged.

At that moment, a man rounded the corner several feet from them. He caught sight of them and attempted a quick about-face, but Kara reached out and snagged his coat sleeve.

“Win!” she hissed.

He cleared his throat and turned back, his face clearly trying to hide that he had attempted to escape without being seen.

“Y-yes Princess! Are you going to dinner?”

She stared at him as if he’d grown a second head. “Yes? Are you not?”

He tugged on his collar and cleared his throat again.

“I was planning on sitting this one out, Princess, I think that perhaps it is best if this a family only type of meal, you understand – ”

“Oh no you don’t, Sir Winslow Schott Jr.” Kara clamped her hand down on his forearm and pulled him closer. “There are several conversations you need to be a part of, and I’m not going to let you skip out because you’re afraid of my mother. Besides, her wrath seems to be unusually tamed for the evening.”

He groaned and his shoulders slumped in defeat.

“Her wrath?” came the soft voice behind her.

She turned back and found Lena eyeing her cautiously.

“Should I be concerned, Princess Zor-El?”

“Yes.” Win muttered to the ground.

Kara whacked him in the shoulder and glared at him before covering Lena’s hand on her arm comfortingly.

“Don’t worry. My mother is genuinely a kind woman, despite her... occasional temper. It will be alright, I promise.” Kara squeezed her hand gently.

When Win slid his hands behind his back and gave Kara a prompting look, she stepped back slightly so that she could properly introduce them to each other.

“Princess Lena, this is Sir Winslow Schott Jr., my personal mentor, adviser, and chief engineer.”

Lena’s royal etiquette kicked in like an old habit, and she reached her hand forward towards him while dipping into a shallow curtsy. He took her hand with a warm palm and bowed at the waist, keeping hold of it as he stood. His smile was bright and friendly.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Princess Lena.”

“And you, Sir Schott. Kara has told me that you’re the person I need to speak with to get truly acquainted with Kryptonian customs and lore.”

“Win, please. And I am more than happy to... to tell you...” His gaze drifted up her arm to her chest, and his head began to tilt to the side. “... tell you... Kara?”

The Kryptonian nodded and reached out, grasping Win’s shoulder tightly. He let go of Lena’s hand and pointed at her chest, looking back and forth between them as he stammered.

“She’s – that’s – her bond, Kara, did you see? It’s... it’s...”

“I know, Win.”

“Is yours?”

She shook her head and gave him a look, and he gaped at her for a moment before slamming his jaw shut and turning to Lena again. She looked at them both, mild frustration building.

“Can one of you please tell me what’s happening?”

Win’s face filled with wonder and concern. He shook his head as if to clear it for a moment, and Kara squeezed his shoulder again.

“I’m at a loss, Win. I was hoping you could explain it to me.”

“I – I mean... it’s not unheard of, but it is highly unusual. She isn’t even Kryptonian.”

Lena put her hand on her hip and leveled them both with a glare.

“Someone. An explanation.”

Win reached out for her elbow and tugged them both away from the doors.

“Princess, soul bonds... they’re very enigmatic. Kryptonians have spent thousands of years studying them, and we are still occasionally surprised by their... behavior.”

“Behavior? Like... like an animal?”

He shook his head fervently. “No, more like... more like the wind. It weaves and traces and flows. It's dichotomous - it can make the leaves dance, or uproot entire forests. It can bring rain that floods the fields, or blow sand across a dry desert. It can spray water across rocks in the ocean, and dry it just as quickly.” His hands moved as he spoke, and Lena watched him with fascination.

“It makes it incredibly unpredictable. We have a rather complex understanding of how it works, but it’s like... it’s like painting a picture of something you haven’t seen yet, and only pieces of it are revealed to you at once. And sometimes the canvas magically gets bigger as you go.”

“So how is this different? What typically happens?”

Win gestured at her, somewhat excitedly. “Well, something we understand – or rather, we think we understand –  about soul bonds is that they are carried on through bloodlines and marriage. The strength of the bloodline and the connection of the bonded has a great effect on the outcome of the mark. Typically, the stronger bloodline weaves a symbol that corresponds to their family name. So yours, for example, is a symbol that has come to represent the house of El.”

He held up a ring with the crest on it, one that he had received upon being granted knighthood. She nodded, her confusion still obvious on her face. Win continued.

“The color of the bond, however, is a bit more mysterious. Many scholars theorize that souls travel along the life force on bands of energy, and that these bands have a unique color for every soul. Supposedly, when the two souls travel along the life force and the connection is forged, their energy bands mix and become one. The possibility of shades are infinite, and sometimes one color is stronger than the other, but they are all unique to each bonded pair. Except...”

He glanced over at Kara. “Is yours...?”

She shrugged one shoulder at him. “Of course. It’s the house of El, Win.”

He nodded, though his expression and the way he blew out a breath showed disbelief. He pointed at Kara’s chest, but addressed Lena.

“What’s important for you to understand here, Princess, is that the energy bands stretch from one soul to the other in one cohesive and flowing thread – the pair are both one end of the same band. So once the color of the soul bond has been forged, both symbols carry it.”

Lena looked at Kara in confusion. “But yours is...”

 The blonde reached up and unclasped the top of her tunic, peeling the side away and revealing a shimmering symbol. “Platinum.” She redid the clasp and let her hand fall to her side, her voice lowering.

“As Win was saying, the only exception to this theory is the symbol of El. It has long represented a powerful family and a powerful bloodline. All bonds forged through a descendant of the house of El are platinum. It overpowers all symbols and colors, regardless of the other soul’s energy bands. My mother and father, aunts, uncles, cousins. It’s the same.”

Lena frowned, reaching up to touch at her chest gently. “So what does this mean? Am I... is it broken? Can it be removed?”

Kara and Win’s eyebrows nearly shot off their faces. Win reached out and gently touched her forearm.

“No, Princess... soul bonds last as long as the soul does. They can not be removed.”

She stared at him in horror. “... ever? What if... what if something happens? What if the other person turns into some kind of monster?”

Kara reached down and took her hand gently, trying to lace her voice with a comforting tone. “The life force does not typically allow a soul bond to occur if the match is not... well-placed. For example, no one can unwillingly be bonded to someone else. The life force simply wouldn't allow it.”

“There is still much that we don’t know,” Win jumped in. “It is a widely accepted belief that there isn’t just one person for everyone, and that you may find happiness and compatibility with several people over your lifetime. You will always have a choice. But if you do choose someone that you want to connect your soul to, the life force simply... knits your bands together.”

Lena nodded, though her face was still draped with a frown. Win pursed his lips and turned back to Kara.

“I am not sure why it is gold, Princess. I will need to do some research. I know that it is not unprecedented, and that sometimes powerful bloodlines will not completely weave through the band. Both sides retain their colors on each end, but they are woven at the center with incredibly strong ties. I will get back with you soon with more information.”

“Thank you, Win.”

He offered Lena a smile. “I do love a good mystery, Princess. I’m sure we’ll figure this out soon.”

He stepped up to the door and placed his hand on it, pausing.

“Princess... I should probably go first. And warn your parents. They’ve had quite a few shocks for one day.”

She nodded, her face expressing relief. “Yes, please. I will give you a few minutes before we enter.”

He pulled the door open and stepped through, and Lena could hear a clear voice ringing through the hall to announce him, before fading as the door shut behind him.

A chill raced through Kara and she turned back to see Lena pressing her fingertips gently to her chest. She glanced up at the Kryptonian and lowered her hand slowly.

“I... I’m sorry. This is all very strange to me. We do not have this kind of connection in Luthoria.”

Lena’s stomach suddenly twisted into anxious knots.

“Kara, is this going to be a problem? I’ve only just arrived and it feels as if all I’ve done is cause trouble.”

The blonde frowned and shook her head. “Lena, none of this is your fault. You’ve done nothing wrong. My parents and I have already discussed at length that this was the best choice that could have been made, and we are prepared to move forward to the things that come next.” Kara jutted out an elbow, offering it to Lena once more, and the brunette tentatively took it. Kara patted her hand gently.

“For better or worse, you are a Princess of Krypton now.” She tilted her head in the direction of the doors. “Shall we?”

Lena sucked in a deep breath and nodded. Kara tugged it open and stepped through first, Lena close by her side.

She was surprised when they entered a room that seemed to radiate cheer. The walls were made of soft grey stone, and the ceiling rose high above them, crossed with intricate and beautiful frames of dark wood. Massive wrought iron chandeliers hung from the frames in circular interlocking patterns, like planets rotating around a sun, casting the room in a brilliant light. Maroon banners hung from the walls, every other one emblazoned with the crest of El. One side of the hall was full of glass double doors with a fireplace between each set. The doors were flung open to a large mezzanine that looked out over the sea, and a gentle breeze drifted through them. Fires crackled happily in the fireplaces.

A tall man in a sharp uniform was standing beside the door when they entered, and he leaned down closer when Kara whispered in his ear.

A look of surprise crossed his face but faded quickly, and he gave Kara a playful wink before straightening again. His arms went rigid at his sides and he tilted his chin up as his voice rang through every corner of the hall.

“Now presenting Princess Kara Zor-El and Princess Lena Zor-El of Krypton!”

Kara gave her a reassuring smile and they slowly made their way in.

A long wooden table had been set in the center, and was full of food, beautiful plates, and colorful candles. The sound of chairs scraping against stone filled the space as they approached. Lena’s eyes trailed over faces – some that she recognized, and some that she didn’t. Kara guided them to the head of the table where two seats were open, to the right of a tall, strikingly handsome man. Win was whispering softly into Alura’s ear, and her eyebrows lifted in surprise for a moment before dropping once more. She nodded at him silently and he stepped back from the table, tucking his hands behind his back.

Lena’s heart pounded heavily in her chest, and when Kara took her hand and ushered her forward, she nearly tripped.

“Father, Mother... this is Lena. Princess... may I present King Zor-El and Queen Alura Zor-El of Krypton.”

She bowed her head and sank into a deep curtsy, before righting herself and doing her best to make eye contact.

“Your highness. Thank you for allowing me to stay here. Your home is truly beautiful.”

Her head swam with nerves and she tried to smile confidently, but her trembling hands gave her away.

Zor-El slowly stepped around the corner of the table. Alura lifted an eyebrow and followed behind him. He stopped before Lena, and his blue eyes that looked so much like Kara’s lingered on her mark, then trailed down to her shaking hands. He glanced at Kara and made a hum of disapproval in his throat that sent Lena’s stomach in knots again, until he reached down and took her right hand between his two giant ones.

“Kara, she’s shaking like sea grass. What have you told her about us?”

The blonde crossed her arms and leaned on one hip, raising an eyebrow mischievously. “The truth. That you’re horrifying monsters that regularly throw strange women off the cliffs of Krypton and into the freezing sea.”

The room suddenly stilled, and you could clearly hear the waves lapping at the shore outside the open doors. It then immediately descended into roaring laughter, and Lena’s heart felt like it was going to leap out of her body.

Zor-El’s shoulders shook as he chuckled, and even Alura smiled as she reached out and smacked Kara in the arm. The Princess grumbled and rubbed her aching shoulder.

When his mirth finally died down, Zor-El leaned in closer and pressed her hand gently between his.

“Princess Lena, the house of El owes you a great debt. You have returned the daughter of Krypton to us, and we are forever grateful to you. You are always welcome in our home and at our table.”

Those same unexpected tears from before sprang to Lena’s eyes, and she blinked rapidly, swallowing hard. He smiled down at her until an elbow found his side, and he winced and stepped out of the way.

“Alright, Bear-King. Don’t make her cry.” Alura squeezed past the tall man and Lena suddenly found herself wrapped in a gentle embrace. Her hands hovered in the air in shock, and she stared wide-eyed at Kara, who was still trying to hold in her laughter. She resorted instead to winking at Lena, who finally had the sense to carefully return the hug. Her head barely reached Alura’s shoulder, and it was immediately no mystery to her why Kara was so tall.

When Alura pulled back, she grasped Lena’s upper arms and looked down at her. Her voice was low and earnest.

 “Princess... there are many things that we need to discuss, and many things that need to be agreed upon and committed to. You will have a responsibility here that you may not have anticipated, and the learning curve will be very steep.”

“Mother.” Kara placed a hand on her shoulder. “Please, let’s not talk about this tonight.”

Lena’s emerald green eyes looked up into Alura’s blue ones, and they had a silent exchange. Lena was suddenly filled with a sense of camaraderie, as if she’d found a kindred spirit. Her direct and sincere tone resonated with her, and she nodded.

“No, it’s... I understand.”

Alura nodded in approval and gave her one more squeeze before releasing her and slipping an arm around Zor-El’s waist. She turned to address the rest of the table with a smile.

“Shall we get started?”

 


 

A glass flew against a black stone wall, shattering. The liquid it once contained flowed, unconcerned, towards the ground. A cry of frustration accompanied the slamming of fists into a beaten oak table.

A man paced angrily across a dark room, lit only by a fire that was too large and too hot. A muscle ticked in his jaw, and his fists clenched with fury.

Sweat gleamed on his forehead and upper lip as his chest heaved with anger.

A soft, lilting voice slid through the warm air like a snake.

“Lex, darling... don’t worry.”

He wheeled around, fury lighting in his eyes, reflecting the licking flames.

The woman strode to a window with slow, even steps, boots crunching over broken glass, before flicking the latch and shoving it open. Freezing air immediately flooded in, like a cold invader, and the moon’s glare illuminated the slow smile twisting her lips.

“We’ll find her.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

 

Dinner was unlike anything Lena had ever experienced.

Much to her chagrin, Kara had insisted on Lena sitting beside her father, which she only accepted when Zor-El himself stepped in and offered the seat to her.

This placed Kara on her right, Zor-El to her left, and Alura across the table from her. Alex sat just to Kara’s right with Sam beside her, and Win had been seated next to Alura. Quick introductions had been made to the rest of the table before dinner began, but Lena’s head was already swimming with so much new information that she would need to ask Kara for their names again when the night was over.

The first thing that shocked Lena is that Kryptonians can eat more than anyone she’d ever met in her life. When she saw the amount of food on the table, she grew concerned that it was going to go to waste. Her concern quickly shifted to alarm as it rapidly disappeared.

When Alura noticed her watching Kara open-mouthed as she loaded up a third plate of food, she leaned towards her and shook her head.

“Don’t judge all of us on the eating habits of my daughter, please. She’s absolutely bottomless.”

Kara stacked two more bread rolls on her plate and glared at her.

“Mother, I flew hundreds of miles today while carrying a human. AND I’m still recovering from being locked in Lex Luthor’s dungeon with no food for who knows how long.”

Lena’s eyes dropped to her plate, where she pushed some food around with a fork.

A hand reached over and covered hers, and she looked up at Kara in surprise.

“I’m sorry, Princess.”

The brunette laughed sarcastically and shook her head as her smile faded away. “What could you possibly be apologizing for? My brother is the monster.”

“That doesn’t mean we need to talk about him right now. Or ever.”

Lena nodded slightly and tried to offer Kara a smile as she withdrew her hand.

The second thing that struck her was how full of life and laughter their conversations were. Even when they were arguing about something – like Alex and Win, discussing the merits of using a rapid-fire crossbow in training – they were still smiling.

At one point in the evening, Kara tilted her head back and laughed at something Win had said. Alex groaned and reached down, pressing her hand into her side and wincing.

“Ugh, Kara... I swear, this baby loves you more than I do. Everytime it hears your voice, it kicks me.”

This sent Kara under the table, leaning all the way over in her seat and cooing softly at Alex’s stomach.

Even after rolling her eyes and threatening to stab Kara in the back of the neck with her fork, Lena watched the knight captain smile down at the princess affectionately and gently tug at her blonde locks.

Zor-El took the opportunity to lean forward. “You know Lena... I have a story that you’ll just love. Would you like to hear about the time Kara and Alex got stuck on the top of the Crystal spire and crashed an incredibly important meeting of the Allied monarchs?”

A collective groan circled the entire table, and Lena’s eyebrows shot up over the wine glass she’d been drinking from. She set it down gently and smiled at the king.

“Well with that reaction, I can’t imagine there’s any way I can say no.”


 

The conclusion of dinner found the party of people in small groups, sipping strong, sweet drinks and murmuring softly to each other in front of the fireplaces. Kara was saying goodnight to Sam and Alex,  smiling with her palm resting on the pregnant woman’s stomach.

Lena had wandered out onto the mezzanine, leaning her elbows on the carved marble railing and looking out at the moon playing along the water. The wind lifted her hair gently, and she remembered what Win had said about the life force.

The entire concept of some all-powerful being shaping their future and their lives... Lena couldn’t tell if it made her feel comforted or anxious.

She had decided seven years ago, after watching her brother murder an innocent woman just to see if he could, that she would do everything she could to escape. Her fate has been in her own hands, and she worked every day towards that goal.

Up until that moment she had hoped that he was capable of redemption. As a boy and a young man, he made cruel choices, spoke soft and bitter words, lashed out angrily, and did everything he could to gather power to himself. But he had never directed those resentful, painful words at her until their father died.

The hunger for power and desperation for recognition had overtaken him, and when he finally had an opportunity, he seized onto it with both hands and his teeth, snarling at anyone who seemed as if they would take it away. Lena thought that perhaps it was grief over their dead father, but... it never went away. It simply grew worse.

So she waited patiently, gathering information, learning new languages, learning to ride horses. She read books in secret about everything from building fires to battle strategies. She did everything she could to prepare herself for a day, any day, when an opportunity would come that she could run.

And that opportunity couldn’t have come a moment later.

 


 

When Lex burst into the study in glee, she didn’t have time to conceal the journal she’d been taking notes in, or the book on common poisons found in the Luthorian forest. He was so excited that he didn’t even notice, and he pulled her out of her chair to grasp her upper arms and shake her. She winced when his rings dug into her muscle, but he didn’t care.

“Sister! I have captured one. Oh, beautiful day! She is mine!”

“Captured one what, brother?” she responded.

He let her go and strode to the bar excitedly, pouring himself a large drink and spinning around, holding his arms out at his sides.

“A Kryptonian.” He bit his lip and grinned, taking a huge gulp, before setting it down on her desk and pumping his fist at his side.

Her heart began racing. “Oh..? How nice, brother. Congratulations.”

He beamed at her and began pacing in his fervor. “It’s perfect timing. I sent out missives to bordering countries that Luthoria was mining new ores of kryptonite and producing trebuchets that could be mounted to ships. She fell right into my trap!”

“She?” Lena whispered, trying to mask her fear with interest. He leaned forward, placing both of his palms on her desk, and grinning at her.

“Kara Zor-El.” He threw his head back and cackled. “Sister, I have captured The Daughter of Krypton!”

Her heart sank to the floor.

He resumed his pacing, oblivious to the way her face was turning grey.

“It’s perfect timing. The Red Festival is in two weeks!”

She stood slowly, balancing herself on her shaking legs carefully, using the desk to support herself.

“That’s true, Lex. What are your plans?”

He stopped before the fire and stared into it for a few moments, before turning to her slowly, his teeth flashing in the light as he snarled.

“I’m going to kill her.” He turned and picked up his drink, swallowing the rest of it in one gulp and slamming the glass back down onto the table. “I’m going to slaughter her, before all of Luthoria, before the entire world. And the entire world will know again the power of humans.”

Before she could respond, the door to the study opened once more. A knight stepped through, ignoring Lena, bowing his head briefly at Lex before stepping to his side, whispering low into his ear.

His face twisted into an evil grin once more, and he slammed his hand on the knight’s back.

“Wonderful news. Go now. Begin to prepare for the journey. You will accompany her.”

The knight nodded once and spun on his heel, striding out the door and slamming it behind him.

Lex’s wolf-like smile turned back to her slowly.

“It seems as if today is, indeed, a wonderful day sister.” He stood beside a chair in front of the fire, and patted the back of it gently. “Come, sit. I have something incredible to tell you.”

She walked to him, eyeing him warily as she sat in the chair, her back stiff and her nerves on edge.

When she folded her hands in her lap and looked up at him expectantly, he kneeled beside her and placed cold, clammy hands on top of hers.

“I have just received word that Leon, the Cogorian King, has agreed to take your hand in marriage.”

She shrank back from him in horror as he chest tightened and her stomach twisted into knots. He frowned and reached out, gripping her wrists tightly.

“Why do you act in this manner? This is the best thing that could have happened to Luthoria! Cogo is a nation that has direct lines of trade to Krypton. This is how we’re going to finally bring them to their knees. Don’t you see?”

She tried to pull her hands back from him, her face falling into a grimace.

“I do not want to marry Leon, Lex! I do not want to leave Luthoria, I want to stay here with you and mother.” The lie tasted bitter on her tongue, but she swallowed it anyway.

His face softened fractionally, and he reached out, stroking her hair gently. It sent shudders through her.

“Oh, sister. I know. I am sorry to see you go. But I must do what is best for Luthoria, and so must you. You will go to Cogo and bind our houses together, through marriage and children.”

He stood and she rose beside him, twisting away from him and storming back to her desk. She glared up at him defiantly.

“I will not, Lex. I refuse.”

His face descended into one of demonic rage, and he was suddenly gripping her by the upper arms again, hauling her up so his angry screams washed over her face.

“How dare you refuse me. I am your brother, and your king!” He shoved her to the side and she lost her footing, tripping on the desk leg and slamming to the floor. He bent down and reached for her, grabbing her by her collar and pulling her up marginally so her upper body was hovering off the floor. She cried out and grasped onto his wrist, but he ignored her.

“You are a princess of Luthoria and you will not shame me, or our mother, or our father’s name because you are a selfish, spoiled brat.” He reached down with his other hand and yanked her up higher, his face turning a deep shade of red. She lifted trembling hands to his chest and held onto his shirt, whimpering softly.

“Lex, please -”

He shoved her back down to the ground with a thud and spun on his heel, striding for the door. His words flew over his shoulder as he went.

“Stop begging me, sister. You are to become the queen of a country, a powerful monarch. You should be kissing my feet in gratitude.” When he reached the door, his hand twisted the knob and he turned back to her.

“You will marry Leon. You will marry our houses, and you will bear heirs that are Cogorian and Luthorian – if I have to hold you down myself.” He yanked the door open. “Go to your chambers and begin making arrangements, sister. You leave in two weeks.”

He slammed the door shut behind him, leaving her in a heap of anguish on the floor. Silent sobs wracked her body, her fingers curled against her face.

She doesn’t know how long she stayed on the floor in her study for.

By the time she slowly pushed herself up off the floor, the fire had died down to nothing but coals.

But the one in her chest was raging.

She pulled herself to her feet, standing tall on shaking legs, and looked for a long moment down at the notes and books and piles of knowledge she had been amassing.

Lex’s words swirled in her thoughts as she began gathering papers and notes against her chest.

“You will marry Leon and bear heirs...”

She ripped open the drawer with the secret compartment in the bottom and pulled out a small bag of gold she’d been accumulating.

“For the good of Luthoria...”

She tucked it into her pocket and strode to the bookshelf beside the window, reaching up to the uppermost shelf for book. She tugged out a folded up map that had been pressed between its pages, and slipped it into her arms.

“I’ve finally captured one...”

She paused before the glowing coals, her chest heaving with anticipation, dread, and an unbreakable resolve.

“... I’m going to slaughter her.”

She slammed the door shut behind her, three words coursing through her very existence.

It is time.

 


 

A warm sensation filled Lena. She was surprised to look down and find a maroon cloak settling around her shoulders, and she turned to find sapphire eyes watching her with quiet concern.

“Princess, are you alright?”

Lena’s eyes skimmed the horizon, her fingers running carefully through the soft and sturdy material of the cloak. The scent of peonies, much fainter than before but still present, drifted across her senses. She worried the inside of her lip for a few moments before turning to Kara.

“You know... you were right.”

Kara grinned at her cheekily. “I mean... usually. But what about this time, specifically?”

Lena rolled her eyes and shook her head, but she felt something blossoming in her chest. She tamped it down for now.

“Back in Luthoria, in the dungeon. I needed you too. I think... I think I needed you more than you needed me, to be honest. You saved me Kara, not the other way around.”

The blonde frowned this time, and Kara leaned her elbow on the railing beside Lena, placing a hand gently on her wrist.

“Lena... we needed each other. I can’t say that I would have been able to get away from your brother and his men when the time came. I was very weak. You certainly saved my life, and any benefit that you also gained from it was simply extra good luck.”

The brunette shook her head, and looked over her shoulder, back towards the sounds drifting out through the open doors.

“I feel guilty, Kara. I came down to that dungeon fully intending on using you to orchestrate my escape and then... parting ways with you as soon as we cleared Luthoria. And then you... you... ” She gestured at her chest and let her hand fall to the railing again.

Kara chuckled softly and leaned in to smile at her. “And then I ruined your devious plans with my honor and nobility?”

“Oh my g- you are aggravating, Princess Zor-El.”

“I think you’ve told me that before. It’s good that you’re learning of my true nature early on, it will help you cope in the next thirty days.” The blonde grinned at her.

Lena drew in a deep breath and let it out, shaking her head again and turning to face the Kryptonian head-on. “Kara, your family is here thanking me like I single-handedly rescued you from the pits of hell, fighting off demons and soldiers and slaying dragons in the middle.”

Kara reached out and pulled the cloak around the brunette a little tighter, fidgeting with the edges of it gently.

“Princess... listen. You may believe whatever it is that you want to believe, but the truth of this is that I would be dead by now if you hadn’t decided to steal the keys to my manacles.”

Lena looked up into incredibly deep blue eyes as Kara’s fingertips reached up to brush across her cheek.

“Your intentions don’t matter as much as you think they do. And if I’m being perfectly honest with you, I would have saved you even if it cost me my life in the end.”

The brunette frowned deeply, shaking her head. “Why? Who am I to you, Kara? I am a member of a royal bloodline that has been bent on your destruction for years. You should hate me, you should have left me in Luthoria to the dogs.”

Kara fully cupped her cheek now, and looked down at her with a look that insisted on her attention.

“Lena, you are not your brother. You deserve freedom, kindness, happiness. The fact that you lived with him for as long as you did without breaking under the evil or twisting to it yourself is something I will never understand. I can lift this castle into the sky, but I would break in places that you held together for so long.”

Tears slipped down her cheeks freely and Kara reached up with both hands now, brushing them away with her thumbs. Suddenly overcome with emotion, Lena surged forward and buried her face in Kara’s chest, her shoulders shaking with tears.

Gentle fingers carded through her hair, and strong arms circled her tightly. Kara murmured soothing words to her, holding her close.

Lena realized it was the first time anyone had held her while she cried since she was a baby.

She sank into Kara’s arms when gentle hands slid against her back, rubbing in careful circles.

The blonde pressed her face into soft raven hair, and her low voice flowed across her ears.

“Let me take you home.”

Lena stilled.

Was this home?

The sound of the waves crashing along the shore, the scent of peonies surrounding her; the gentle breeze wafting through her hair, the warm cloak tucked around her shoulders; the soft blonde hair brushing her face, the tight arms surrounding her, the gentle tinkling sounds of laughter and crackling fire weaving their way out of the open doors.

Was this home?

Her heart went into overdrive and panic surged in her throat, and she nearly caved to its snaking vines when...

Kara touched her lips to her temple gently.

Lena pulled back with a sharp intake of breath, looking up at the blonde. She was gazing down at Lena with so much worry and care that it nearly overwhelmed her.

No one cared about her this much. Especially not beautiful magical flying strangers with incredible homes by the sea and kind families.

She stepped back from the embrace, clearing her throat and pulling the cloak around herself tighter, under the guise of warding away the night chill. She nodded at Kara and turned back to the hall.

The Kryptonian princess tilted her head to the side in question, but didn’t speak.

She did, however, wrap her arm around Lena’s shoulders as they walked back.

And Lena did lean into her side.


 

Chapter Text


 

The missive had gone out before the sun even breached the horizon.

 

Special Notice from the Crystal Palace

The House of El

&

The Daughter of Krypton

are happy to announce the engagement of

Princess Kara Zor-El of Krypton and Princess Lena Luthor of Luthoria.

A Kryptonian Marriage Festival will begin on the 1st day of the 11th month

of this year and shall conclude in a formal ceremony on the 7th day of the 11th month

of this year. All Allied Monarchs and their representatives, as well as Kryptonians, are

proposed to attend at the behest of Zor-El, King of Krypton. Please respond at

your earliest convenience your intention for attendance.

Bah Rao

 


 

The morning came slowly and peacefully. Gentle light filtered through the tall window in Lena’s room, illuminating the deep colors of the mahogany floor, maroon rug, and navy blue blankets on the bed. She rubbed a hand over her face and inhaled deeply, stretching and allowing herself a few precious moments to wake up.

When she finally sat up, running her fingers through her rich dark hair, movement outside the window caught her eye.

Kara was standing in the grass, barefoot. Flowing black pants that looked soft and stretchy clung to her in the wind, tapering down at her ankles. She was shirtless, in her typical black bralette, and her hair was pulled up into a messy bun at the crown of her head. She was holding a beautiful, shimmering sword and standing on one foot, her back to Lena.

She watched, fascinated, as the blonde moved with incredibly slow and controlled motions into a lunge, lifting the sword high above her head with one arm while the other stretched out before her in a perfectly straight line.

The light caught muscles rippling in her arms and shoulders, shadows planing across golden skin where they dipped into triceps and a well-defined back. She was moving so slowly, yet it was obvious she was expending a great deal of energy. Her skin shone with sweat, and her sword glinted sharply in the rising sun.

Lena watched her slowly sink to her knees in the grass, sitting back on her heels with her sword across her lap. A few loose blonde curls lifted gently in the wind as her head bowed. She took her sword in both hands and lifted it into the air, almost as if it was an offering, before stretching her arms out in front of her and laying the back of her palms on the dewy grass. She stayed in this position for sometime, with her forehead nearly touching the ground, before carefully rising back to her feet. She took brisk steps towards a small pile of belongings to the side, and reverently returned her sword to its sheath. Lena’s eyes were  tracking her path, when suddenly Kara looked up and caught her eyes  through the window. She winked as she disappeared from view, and Lena heard the faint click of a door being opened and shut again.

Lena blinked a few times and pressed her hand over her eyes for a moment, shaking her head.

The sound of running water came through the adjoining walls, and Lena decided that sounded like a fantastic idea. She threw the covers back and took another long, hot shower.


 

After showering and dressing, they were eating a quiet and simple breakfast in Kara’s sitting room. The blonde had tugged the doors open and a cool breeze swirled around them as they ate. Lena shook her head and stared out at the sea, her fingers gently taking apart a pastry.

“Is the weather always so beautiful here?”

Kara followed her gaze out the window and smiled. “Around half the year. We are in the beginning of fall now, and our winters are very mild, but it does get cool enough to warrant heavier clothing. In southern Krypton, there is a mountain range where it snows. The summers here are hot, but the sea breeze cools everything off in the evenings and the water is a perfect temperature for swimming.” She tilted her head to the side, eyeing the brunette carefully. “Perhaps you’ll be here to see it.”

Lena met her side-eye with one of her own, the thinly-veiled comment’s true intention not escaping her.

She chose not to take the bait.

“Are we traveling to Kandor today? I don’t imagine I can continue wearing Alex’s pre-pregnancy clothing, and I have one clean tunic remaining.”

Kara nodded and rose to set their plates back onto the tray that had been left by a member of the kitchen staff.

Her hands on the tray went still, and she stared down at the thick card traced in delicate platinum leafing and pressed with intent. She lifted it gently and sighed, turning back to Lena with it in her hands.

“Princess... you should know...” She held it out to her. “Our announcement was sent early this morning. It should be reaching the closest Allied monarchs and Kryptonians soon. All will have word within a few days.”

Lena’s eyes drifted down to Kara’s hand and she accepted it with numb fingers, barely registering the words.

“The house of El certainly moves quickly.”

“It’s sort of an established trait of ours.”

“I’ve noticed.”

Lena lowered her shaking hand to her lap.

“What should we do? Should we even go into Kandor? Kryptonians are not known for their love of Luthors, Kara.”

The panic in her voice was not hidden very carefully, and Kara knelt in front of her, covering her hand with a warm one.

“I told you back in Luthoria that I would protect you.”

“You can’t be everywhere that I am all the time, Kara.”

The blonde lifted her hand, reaching up to gently press her palm to Lena’s chest, just beneath her collarbone.

“I am with you, everywhere, all the time. You will be safe, I promise you.”

Lena could feel her heart thudding in her chest beneath the woman’s hand. She sighed and nodded, and they both rose to their feet.

“We can leave as soon as you are ready. The journey will take about an hour.”

Lena turned a little paler, and she looked up at Kara warily. “Are we... flying there?”

The Kryptonian princess laughed and shook her head. “No, I thought you could use a break. We have horses in the stables for visitors. I asked to have two prepared last night.”

Lena’s eyebrows rose. “Only two? You don’t travel with your knights? Or squires?”

Kara gave her an odd look, a confused smile turning up her lips. “To move about my own country? Princess, there’s no danger in Krypton. Especially not when you are with me.”

“... ah. I see.” Lena smoothed her hands down the front of her tunic and stared off into space for a moment as Kara cleared away the tray.

Realization was dawning on her that not everyone was mistrustful of their royalty, as they were with Lex.  

Nor did they have reason to be.

What a strange concept.


 

The trip to Kandor was breathtaking. The sun was rising over the Crystal Palace and warming the soil, seeming to bring the entire world to life. They guided their horses through beautiful fields of waving, golden stalks, and over a brook that babbled through a brilliant, verdant forest that surely seemed enchanted. Lena was thankful that her horse certainly seemed to know where he was going, because she was utterly enthralled.

A colorful parrot flew overhead, diving and tracing among the leaves and vines. She sucked in a breath and watched it flutter and alight on a branch a few feet above them.

“Kara, look!” she whispered urgently, pointing at it.

The Kryptonian’s eyes followed her finger, and a slow smile spread across her face. She put two fingers in her mouth and chirped softly.

The canopy of the forest above them suddenly erupted into a rainbow kaleidoscope of feathers and trilling whistles. Lena’s eyes widened and she stared up at the brilliant, shifting colors of hundreds of birds, singing to each other, responding to Kara’s call.

Their horses strolled along, unhindered by the flapping wings, and the birds eventually settled down once more in the branches behind them. Lena stared at Kara, her jaw open.

Kara just grinned at her.


 

Upon approaching Kandor, Lena could tell she was about to experience a shock of culture.

And Lena was beginning to notice a theme about Krypton and its residents. Everything they touched was amazing.

They walked their horses slowly through the main gates of Kandor. Several guards executed swift bows at the waist when they noticed Kara and her deep maroon cloak, draped around her shoulders and across her chest today. She smiled at them and spoke to them softly, reaching up to help Lena down from her horse and handing the horses off for care. Lena stepped into a large and welcoming courtyard, breathing in deeply and taking in everything around her.

Kandor had spires, smaller than the Crystal Palace but still formidable and beautiful, dotted throughout the city. Towering buildings of beautiful stone and glass rose up from the streets, which were full of bustling markets and busy people. Unlike most cities Lena had been to, which were ugly, bland, naked stone, Kandor was full of trees and grass and flowers. Public spaces were everywhere, full of bubbling fountains and playing children.

What really sent Lena off-center were the Kryptonians soaring through the air. They sped around corners, and sailed through the sky; they landed softly on the street beside her or in the grass; they took off abruptly, speeding away to an appointment or home for lunch or back to their businesses.

Kara watched her thoughtfully, before nudging her arm gently with her elbow.

“Shall I show you around, Princess?”

Lena followed her silently, still absorbing everything around her. Kara spoke to her quietly as they strolled along, pointing out monuments and shops, bakeries and schools, musicians in the grass and potters at a wheel.

Occasionally, they were approached.

It set Lena’s arms trembling when a pair of large, gruff men approached them, and she found her hand tangling in Kara’s cloak of its own accord.

The blonde simply reached out to the men and grasped them by the forearms, greeting them as if they were old friends and inquiring after their family. She didn’t introduce Lena, and the raven-haired woman was grateful. When the men left to continue running their errands, their eyes grazed over her chest, blazing with curiosity, but did not ask. Kara turned to her, winking.

“Chan and Louis run my favorite restaurant in town. I stopped in one day to ask for this meat pastry that they make, but Chan told me that it would take a while because he’d accidentally burned them to the bottom of the pot. I was so hungry that I insisted he give them to me anyway, and they were so delicious that they make them for me on purpose now. I call them pot stickers.”

Lena nodded, trying to pretend like she hadn’t reached for Kara out of fear just a few moments ago.

Sometimes they were approached by people like Chan and Louis – business owners that were personally acquainted with Kara. Other times, they were approached by strangers who simply wanted to greet the Princess and wish her well. Everyone either inclined their heads at Lena stiffly, or eyed her warily.

But the children... the children made Lena’s heart jump into her throat. A group of school children walked by while they were standing in front of a shop window, all in a row and dutifully walking single file. Until they spotted the Princess of Krypton, of course.

Cries of joy descended into giggles and squeals, and Lena stared down as Kara was suddenly engulfed in tiny bodies.

“Princess Kara! Princess Kara!!” they chanted.

The blonde answered with a throaty, full-bodied laugh, and she gathered up as many children in her arms as she could fit and lifted them for a hug. They cackled with delight, and she set them down gently.

One shy child had tucked herself behind her teacher, clinging to her pant leg and peering out.

Kara knelt down until she was the girl’s height, reaching both of her hands out slowly and smiling at the girl warmly. Her grin was slow in coming but radiant, and she eventually flung herself into the Princess’ awaiting arms.

Kara pressed her face into blazing red hair and murmured something Lena couldn’t hear. It gave the girl a fit of giggles, and she reached her arms up around Kara’s neck for one more squeeze before the blonde set her back down again.

They waved goodbye to the group as their teacher ushered them off down the sidewalk.

When the Kryptonian turned back to Lena, she was beaming from ear to ear.

And something was fluttering in Lena's chest.

Their walk eventually came to stop before a storefront with glass panels covered in detailed scroll work. Through the windows, Lena could see rows of dresses and tunics and trousers, as well as belts and shoes and jewelry.

Kara held the door open for her and Lena walked into a bright and airy store that smelled of pine and citrus. A few Kryptonians were milling about shopping, but the store owner immediately rushed out from behind the counter when she saw Kara.

She was a short and beautiful woman, and she reached out and took Kara by the hands, squeezing them and grinning up at her, dipping into a curtsy.

“Princess Zor-El, it is so lovely to see you again.”

“Anhani, it is so lovely to be here again! How is your shop? Are you still having issues with your shipments from the east?”

The woman’s amber eyes shone happily against her deep brown skin, and she patted the top of Kara’s hand.

“No, Princess. It seems as if someone took care of an issue I was having with pirates.”

Kara’s eyes twinkled with amusement. She leaned forward and lowered her voice.

“I have... a bit of a favor to ask of you, Anhani.”

“Anything, Princess. Please, tell me what I can do for you.”

Kara stepped back and gestured at Lena inconspicuously.

“I have need for a new wardrobe.”

The shop owner smiled, glancing back and forth between Lena and Kara. She nodded furiously.

“Of course, Princess! We can get started right away! I’ll tag this order for your... your...” she trailed off as her eyes landed on Lena.

Kara cleared her throat and lowered her voice to a soft whisper.

“My wife.”

Lena cringed. She was expecting the woman to glare at her, to make a face of disgust, or gasp in shock. She was expecting her to drop Kara’s hands, to step back, to stare at her with open-mouthed concern.

She was not at all expecting the pool of tears that gathered in Anhani’s eyes, or the way her face split into a smile. She was not expecting her to reach out and grasp at Lena’s hands, her wrists, her forearms, before slowly reaching up to cup her face. She smelled of spiced rum, and Lena found herself leaning into the touch even though every fiber of her body was screaming at her to run away.

“A wife. A wife for the daughter of Krypton. Praise Rao.”

Kara was there, then, anxiously glancing at Lena’s face as she rested a hand on Anhani’s shoulder.

“Anhani, as I'm sure you know... the formal announcement was made only this morning. Your discretion in this matter is... greatly appreciated.”

The woman gave Lena one more warm look before releasing her, turning to Kara and patting her arm.

“Of course, Princess. It will be as if you were never here. Please, come back to the private fitting room. I will have Zheng bring us hot tea.”

The shorter woman latched onto Lena’s hand and practically dragged her with her to the back of the shop.

Lena threw a look of confusion over her shoulder, and found Kara’s mouth twisted in a half smile.

“Should I go for pot stickers and come back, Princess?” she called after the retreating women.

Lena’s eyes widened.

“Kara Zor-El you come here right now! If you leave me here, I swear...”

The blonde laughed and followed the women into the back of the shop.


 

Black eyes glinted from beneath a dark hood. They watched silently as a maroon cloak and blonde hair disappeared into a clothing shop, the bell tinkling over the door gently. An upper lip curled into a sneer and the hood was tugged farther down pale skin, before turning away and melting into the crowd.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

“This is completely unacceptable.”

“It’s perfect.”

“It’s horrendous.”

“You look like the sun!”

“I look like a lemon pastry!”

“That’s even better!”

“I’m sorry but we will not be purchasing this today.”

“We’ll take three.”

Lena leveled Kara with a glare, her arms crossed over her chest. She was draped in sleeveless bright yellow robes with white detailing along the edges. To Lena, it was excruciating to look at.

Anhani’s eyes volleyed back and forth, her fingers reaching out delicately to interject, her soft voice getting cut off at every instance.

When it appeared the women had reached an impasse, she smiled and gently touched Kara’s shoulder.

“Princess Lena’s skin is... very fair. Perhaps she will be better suited to darker colors? I have this particular set of robes in a beautiful burgundy.”

“No thank you, Anhani,” Lena replied. “I would like to move onto something else, please.” Her eyes never left the hole they were burning into Kara’s face.

It would have been a good compromise, but Lena suddenly found herself not in the mood for cutting deals.

Kara glowered at her and the shorter seamstress suddenly found a reason to excuse herself to the front of the store.

Lena’s eyebrow raised arrogantly, as if she was daring Kara to argue with her.

The blonde’s face held an equal amount of frustration.

“You didn’t need to call it horrendous.”

“It is horrendous, Kara.” This sent the blonde pacing about the room.

“It isn’t that bad! All of the clothing you’ve chosen so far is – is –”

“Is what, Princess?”

“Dark!” She threw her hands up in frustration. “Don’t you want to get something with color? We’re supposed to be two young women in love and you look like you’re in mourning!”

“I happen to like wearing dark colors, thank you. They complement my hair. And I am willing to wear color, just not this garish block of cheese!” She tugged at it, huffing angrily. “And despite how you feel, not everyone enjoys walking around dressed as food!”

Kara threw her hands in the air again. “Ugh! You’re so maddening.”

Lena planted her hand on one hip, her face falling into a cold mask. “Why, Princess? Am I not quite the agreeable, subservient wife you were hoping for?”

Her words immediately deflated Kara’s sails. She stared at her, her lips parting, and the hurt that crossed her face almost had Lena sorry she’d said anything.

“Is that truly what you think?”

Suddenly finding herself on the edge of a cliff and unable to back down from it, Lena squared her shoulders and hitched her chin, doubling down on her bravado.

“I think that it would appear as if you are trying to control how I dress, Princess.”

Kara’s eyes darted around the room as if the walls were closing in on her, and she began backing out the doorway. She nearly bowled over Anhani, who was returning with the robes in burgundy, just in case.

Kara stepped aside and let her pass, and the seamstress frowned up at the distress on her face.

“Princess? Are you –”

“I apologize, Anhani. Please take away these robes - the Princess does not like them.” She glanced up at Lena, whose false bravery was waning quickly, and tucked her hands behind her back.

“You will never be told where to go, what to do, whom to see, or what to wear in the Kingdom of Krypton. I am sorry if I have made you feel differently.”

She bowed her head briefly and turned away, glancing over at Anhani.

“Madam, please have all purchases billed and delivered to the Crystal Palace. I will be outside if you require anything.”

She strode out the door without ceremony, leaving Lena and Anhani in the dressing room.

Lena’s shoulders slumped, and she reached up, touching her fingertips to her forehead.

Gentle hands pulled at her collar, and she undid the buttons on the front of the robe. She handed it to Anhani with trembling fingers.

“You must think me a spoiled fool,” she murmured softly.

The woman made a soft humming sound, and turned towards a rack on the opposite wall, combing through the dresses and tunics there.

When she turned back, she had a bright green dress in her arms. She offered it to Lena, who rolled her eyes but put it on.

Deft fingers pulled and adjusted the fabric, placing in pins and making notes on a slip of paper.

The hands stilled for a moment, and warm amber eyes met hers in the mirror.

“Our future is not a reflection of our past, Princess.”

Lena frowned at her, turning to face her.

“What do you mean?”

“Your experiences with your brother and your kingdom are not the same ones you will have here.”

“Mmmm. And how am I to be assured of that? Is it not better to set boundaries and principles from the beginning? Otherwise, you will find yourself seated and silent.” Her face morphed into a determined frown once more, moving aside to gaze in the mirror again. “It is better to be disliked.”

The corners of Anhani’s eyes crinkled, and she gestured for Lena to remove the dress. She tugged it off carefully to avoid the pins and handed it over. The seamstress hung it on a rack with the other garments she’d chosen, turning back to comb through the options once more.

“It would seem to me, in my opinion, that you do not speak of boundaries – you speak of walls.”

“I would have my feelings known.”

“Of course, of course.” She turned back to the Princess, a smile drifting across her face. “But is it possible that your feelings are being influenced by an enemy you no longer face?”

“An enemy I no longer face? My brother? I am certain that he will show himself soon, madam. I am not a fool enough to think that he is gone from my life.”

“You have moved on from the dogs, Princess. The fences and chains you are building will contain nothing but bad memories and crushed hopes.” She turned back to the rack and reached out, plucking a tunic from it.

Lena stared at herself in the mirror.

“All monarchies are the same, Anhani,” she whispered softly.

The dark-skinned seamstress held the tunic up to her, and Lena ran her fingers over a soft and familiar shade of maroon. Anhani watched her knowingly as she slipped it on, and Lena was surprised to find that it fit perfectly. It crossed her chest and pinned at her right shoulder with a delicate but strong golden brooch in the shape of a leaf, excess material draping down her back in a short, fluttering cape. Her bond mark glinted, half-hidden by the fabric.

Anhani’s eyes met her in the mirror.

“But you are not bound to a monarchy. You are bound to a Zor-El.”

She stepped away from Lena and moved to the exit, before pausing in the doorway.

“I have lived a long, long life, Princess. I have seen the house of El in moments of utter happiness and burgeoning sadness; in moments of bitter defeat and glorious victory. I have seen them with new babes in their arms, and I have seen them bloodied from the battlefield. And I have seen the Daughter of Krypton in all her moments of pure, selfless honor.”  

She looked up, and her eyes seemed to go straight through Lena.

“I would not place my bets on the dogs.”

The curtain fell shut behind her.

 


 

Lena left in the tunic.

From the moment she said goodbye to Anhani to the moment she exited the shop felt like an eternity. Her palms had grown damp, and she was suddenly nervous that she was going to encounter an angry Kara.

She was also not used to the feeling of the apology that was sitting on her tongue.

Luthors were not prone to apologies – regardless of the crime committed.

When she stepped out into the sun, she blinked and lifted her hand to shade her eyes. She turned slowly in a circle, frowning.

She thought perhaps she might meet an angry Kara – but she was, in fact, nowhere to be found.

Someone bumped into her shoulder and mumbled a soft apology before continuing on. It was enough to remind Lena that she was completely alone, which set her heart racing. She stared at the passing people, who were regarding her strangely.

Her breath felt like it was shortening in her tightened chest, and she reached behind herself blindly to reenter the shop when a strong hand closed around her wrist.

She gasped and spun into Kara, who was looking at her with that concerned look that Lena had frankly seen far too much of these past few days.

“Princess, are you alright? What’s wrong?”

Lena tugged her wrist out of Kara’s grasp and wiped her sweating palms on her thighs before crossing her arms, looking around at the passing faces.

“Nothing, I just... you weren’t here. I thought perhaps you’d left me.”

Kara looked at her like she’d grown another head.

“Left you? In a strange city? Of course not.” 

“Well where were you, then?”

Kara held up a small wooden dish that was lined with a cloth and lidded, her trademark smile starting to form.

“Pot stickers!”

“Oh.”

Kara’s face began to fall, and Lena remembered that she had things she needed to apologize for.

“They... smell really lovely. Shall we eat them on this bench?” She pointed across the path, to a stone bench beneath a shady tree.

Kara eyed her like it was some sort of trap.

“Are you sure? I can take you back to the palace, if you’d like.”

Lena slipped her arm through Kara’s and nudged her gently.

“I’m sure.”

The blonde ducked her head, before happily guiding her to the bench. She set the wooden dish between them and pulled off the lid, offering it to Lena.

She glanced down into it warily. “This is a pot sticker? It looks a seed pod, like something that would grow into a tree.”

Kara’s eyes widened in wonder. “A pot sticker tree. What I wouldn’t give.”

Lena rolled her eyes. “So how do I eat it?”

“You can just pick it up!” Kara lifted one out of the dish and bit it in half. Her eyes rolled back into her usual elated food pose, and she moaned softly.

The brunette cleared her throat and distracted herself with the food. She picked one up gingerly and bit off a small portion, chewing thoughtfully. It was stuffed with some kind of meat and spices and vegetables, and tasted savory and somewhat tangy.

When she realized Kara was staring at her, she gave her a small smile and waved it in the air.

“It’s good!”

“Good? They’re fantastic.” She lifted two more from the dish.

They ate quietly for a few minutes, watching the children playing in the fountain near their bench. By the time Lena finished her second one, Kara had polished off seven. She scooted the dish with the remaining two in it to Lena.

“Eat these, please – or I’ll just mindlessly shove them into my face.”

Lena took one more out and scooted it back over to Kara.

“You eat the last one.”

Kara’s face shone with pure joy. She covered her heart with her hand and reached out with her other, her hand hovering in the air between them dramatically.

“Oh, sweet Princess. Beautiful, wonderful Princess of the world. You are the sun, the moon, the stars, you shine so brightly – huff.” Kara’s soliloquy was interrupted as a hand shoved her sideways.

“Dear lord Kara, just eat it!”

The blonde grinned and snatched it from the dish, shoving the whole thing in her mouth at once.

Lena just shook her head.

She watched the blonde chew for a few moments and waited for her to finish, before she angled her knees towards Kara and rested her elbow on the back of the bench behind them.

“Kara, I... I’m sorry. For how I responded to you in Anhani’s shop. I think that perhaps it is my turn to admit that I wasn’t being very fair to you.”

Kara’s brow furrowed, and she shook her head.

“No, Princess. You are owed another apology from me. I was only thinking of my own concerns and desires, and not at all considering yours.”

“And I accused you of being a person that you most certainly are not.”

Sapphire eyes found Lena’s as Kara turned herself towards her, mirroring her position. Their knees were nearly touching, and she tucked one leg beneath the other.

“This is true. But we are not always ourselves every second of the day – especially when we feel as if something important is at stake. Who we are can get lost, drowned out by a voice of fear.”

“Yes... I believe that is what happened to me as well.” Lena’s gaze dropped to her tunic, and picked imaginary lint from it. “I have been... so concerned that these past few days are just some elaborately concocted fever dream and one morning I will wake up and everything will be gone. And I’ll be back in cold, lonely, dark Luthoria.” She pretended to chuckle, but it died in her throat.

Kara’s fingers reached out and found the hem of Lena’s tunic, the pad of her thumb rubbing across it absentmindedly.

“This color looks... really lovely on you, Princess.”

Lena smirked. “Even though it isn’t yellow?”

“Yes.” Kara’s eyes captured hers. “It suits you.”

Her words were heavy with connotation, which Lena once again chose to ignore.

“That reminds me...” Kara turned away from Lena, digging through her cloak. Green eyes watched her curiously until she extracted her hand. She held a closed fist out, palm down.

“Hold out your hand.”

Lena did the opposite, recoiling her hands back. Kara’s brow furrowed in question.

“What are you going to put in it?”

Kara chuckled. “What do you think I’m going to put in it? Bugs? We’re not seven, Lena.”

Lena eyed her hand cautiously, slowly extending hers forward.

“The last time I did this, I was 14 and Lex handed me the bloody teeth of the gardener who accidentally cut his vines back too far."

The blonde princess’ mouth dropped open.

“Sweet Rao, what kind of monster...” she whispered softly. “Here.”

She flipped her hand over and opened it slowly, revealing a brooch. It was covered in an array of brilliant gemstones that sparkled in the sunlight, with shimmering golden wings and face.

It was shaped like a parrot.

Lena covered her mouth for a beat, before slowly reaching down. She lifted it gently, her fingertips brushing against Kara’s warm palm, and held it up to the light.

“Oh, Kara... this is beautiful.”

The Kryptonian princess’ cheeks turned pink, and she smiled almost shyly. “It made me think of you.”

Lena stared at it, watching the way the sunlight moved through the rubies and emeralds and sapphires along the body. Her hand slowly lowered to her lap and she stroked a thumb over it. She considered it for a few more moments, before holding it up to Kara.

“Thank you. But you don’t need to buy me apology gifts. I believe that we both said things with intentions we didn't mean, so it wouldn't be fair of me to accept this.”

The blonde frowned and covered Lena’s hand with her own, curling Lena’s fingers around it and squeezing her fist gently.

“I do not buy apology gifts, Princess. I do not think I can purchase your good favor, nor would I intend to. I simply meant to express that I was thinking of you, and that... I thought it would bring you a smile.”

“Mm.” Lena brought the enclosed brooch to her chest, pressing it there tightly. “I am definitely not used to Kryptonian generosity.”

“I hope that one day you will be.”

“Perhaps I might.”


 

Chapter Text


 

A week passed uneventfully.

Lena woke up every morning with Kara outside the window, stretching, posing, and maneuvering her sword. They shared breakfast in the sitting room, and passed the day walking around the palace or visiting the country surrounding the palace grounds.

Kara found Lena to be incredibly adept at learning Kryptonian ways. She was brilliantly clever, and Kara never found her out of step. She officially introduced her to members of the royal council, including Sir J’onn Jones, the hand of the king; Lady Samantha Arias, whom she learned was the Royal Treasurer; and Lady Catherine Grant, Chief Scribe of Krypton.

She also spent time pouring over books in the massive palace library, where Winn kept his office. He was delighted to have a student who was so interested and eager to learn, and they spent hours in front of the tall windows and fireplaces – reading plans, discussing theories, and tracing their fingers over maps and passages of lore.

Lena, on her part, began to truly realize how incredibly in-tune Kara was with the people she considered to be her friends.

And she seemed to consider everyone to be her friend.

She remembered the names of all of the knights and guards, the kitchen staff, the gardeners, the engineers, the stable hands. Lena watched with fascination as she – Kara Zor-El, the future Queen of a country – got down on the ground to play with a puppy that belonged to the son of knight.

Word had officially spread of their engagement, and she was surprised at how quickly the palace staff had warmed to her. It seemed that once they learned she was not going to sprout snakes out of her hands and run them out of their homes with fire, they treated her as if she was just another member of the royal family.

Other Kryptonians, however, were struggling.

One afternoon, Kara took her to visit an orchard that was being harvested by several farmers. They were polite, but their interactions were stiff, their words were brief, and their expressions were icy.

Lena could tell when they returned to the palace that the interaction had weighed heavily on Kara, and she spent the evening by herself in her study. When Lena knocked on the door before heading to bed, she found her staring contemplatively out the window with a drink in her hand.

She tried to ask her about how she was feeling, but the blonde simply smiled her brilliant smile and told her she was alright.

On the day that marked one full week since they arrived in Krypton, a sharp rap came at the door to Kara’s wing. Kara was outside in the grass, cursing in Kryptonian and pulling at some roots. She had told Lena that Alex and Sam had an incredible garden outside of their wing, and she was determined to have one herself. Lena expressed that she was a black thumb, so the afternoon found her curled up in the sitting room with a book, a soft blanket tucked around her lap. She had glanced up to check that Kara hadn’t cut off her own finger after one particularly loud curse when the knock came.

She stood and placed her book on the table, pulling the heavy door open. Kara looked up, shading her eyes from the sunlight so she could see through the windows, smudging dirt across her forehead.

Lena was surprised to find Alura and Alex on the other side of the door.

She curtsied politely and pulled the door open wider to allow them entrance.

“Your highness. Captain Arias. Please, come in.”

Kara stepped in through the open door and wiped her hands on a wet towel. Alura and Alex both stared at her with amusement, though Alura wrinkled her nose at the grimy state of her daughter.

“Princess, you aren’t trying to build your garden again, are you?” Alex said, her words biting with laughter. “It took six months for your grass to grow back again after your last attempt. You should let the gardeners help you.”

The blonde rolled her eyes and reached up with dirty hands, inching towards Alex’s face.

The knight captain stood her ground, her face a calm but dangerous threat. “If you get dirt on me, I will keep you from seeing your niece or nephew until they’re 3.”

Kara recoiled her hands in horror. “You wouldn’t dare!”

“Try me.”

Alura sighed and looked at Lena. “It’s been 28 years of this, Princess.”

Lena smiled up at her.

Kara cleared her throat and turned to her mother once more. “What do we owe the pleasure on this beautiful afternoon?”

Alura straightened, dropping into a more serious tone of voice.

“We are beginning to receive missives with responses to your engagement. So far they have been surprisingly positive, though there are a few outliers. Everyone who has responded is attending – even those who expressed discontent. We have yet to hear back from the core countries that your father is most concerned about.”

Kara nodded, crossing her arms over her chest. “What should we do?”

“There’s nothing we can do but wait – and plan.”

“Plan?” Lena interjected. Alura turned to her with a brief smile.

“Your wedding, Princess. We have three weeks.”

Her eyes widened, and Kara could hear her heart begin to pound. She reached out for her hand, then remembered how dirty her own were. She settled for simply moving closer to her.

“Don’t worry. Kryptonian wedding festivals have a lot of tradition and meaning, so the palace is well-rehearsed in organizing one. We simply need to decide on smaller details. We have plenty of time.”

The brunette nodded, but her tongue still felt thick in her throat.

Alex tapped Kara on the shoulder. “And you, Princess, need to resume your training. You have taken enough time off this past week, and you do not want to be out of shape for your own wedding festival.”

Kara immediately straightened, stiffening her whole body, and pressed her fist to her heart.

“Yes Knight Captain Arias, I will be there Knight Captain Arias!”

Alex narrowed her eyes. “Alright Princess, I see how it is. I will see you in the arena tomorrow morning.”

The blonde grinned at her, holding her dirty hands up menacingly again.

“That’s enough, girls.” Alura interrupted them. “Alex and I have business with Sam. Lena, I would like to begin making preparations with you tomorrow. Shall we meet in the library after breakfast?”

Her eyebrows raised in surprise. “Do we not need Kara to attend as well?”

Alura waved her hand around at the sparse decorations in the sitting room. “Have you seen the state of her chambers? Trust me, she’s far better suited training in the arena with Alex.”

“Hey! I’ll have you know –” Kara huffed angrily.

“Yes daughter, we know. You just haven’t had time to decorate.” Alura smiled at her teasingly and ruffled her hair. “Go to the arena with your ehsh je. Lena and I can handle the smaller details.”

Kara glared at her for another moment, before nodding acquiescently.

The queen’s look turned teasing once more. “Also, Kara... it seems as if I once more need to tell you to go take a shower.”

Alex burst into laughter, and Kara glowered at her mother.

“I was – I was in the dirt! I was gardening! It’s relaxing!”

Lena couldn’t help the giggle that escaped from her chest, and Kara wheeled on her.

“You too, Princess? Betrayed by my own wife. Fine.” She reached over and smeared a smudge of dirt down the white skin of Lena’s cheek.

The brunette gasped and her hand flew to her face, rubbing at it furiously. “Kara!”

Alura just shook her head and turned for the door.

Kara was already making for the shower, leaving Lena standing in the sitting room with Alex while she continued her efforts to remove the dirt from her face.

The auburn-haired woman winked at her mischievously. 

“You know, Princess... if she’s been giving you a hard time, you should come down to the arena tomorrow and watch a training session. It might give you a small sense of revenge for any... frustrations.”

Lena’s mouth lifted into a slow smile, and she shared a moment with Alex before the pregnant woman followed Alura out the door.

“Thank you, Captain Arias. I think I just might.”

 


 

The next morning, Lena nervously tapped on the door to the library. A short-haired brunette with a beautiful face and kind eyes pulled it open, revealing bustling activity and her own slightly haggard look.

“Princess Lena. Please, come in.”

Alura was directing traffic, using a firm and decisive voice while giving directions to the various staff around her. Small groups had formed at the many library tables – some with swaths of cloth, others with bundles of flowers, others with scraps of colored paper.

Alura spotted Lena and beckoned her over. “Ah, Lena. Come, I have been assembling options for you to choose from. Have you been introduced to Lady Lane yet?”

“No, your highness.”

She motioned at the short-haired brunette. “This is my personal assistant, Lady Lucy Lane. She is engaged to Kara’s Guardian, Sir Olsen. I am assigning her to help you throughout this process, since she has some experience with it already.”

She offered Lena a warm smile, which she returned. “That’s a relief.”

“I will help however I can, Princess.”

Lena blew out a breath and surveyed the flurry around her.

“Where shall we start?”

“Flowers!”

***

Three hours later, Lena sank back into her chair. She was overwhelmed with options, and couldn’t help but feel as if Kara had somewhat misled her on the amount of details that needed to be decided upon.

She had convinced herself to suffer politely through the process, but found after a while that she was actually enjoying herself. She had never before considered marriage as something that could possibly be exciting – she had only ever thought of it as a noose, slowly tightening around her neck.

She had surprised even herself with the choices that came easily: color and species of flowers (white peonies), design of wedding signage to be posted in the castle (white with gold lettering), royal feast options (yes to all options, with an addition of pot stickers), and location of the ceremony (the Crystal Hall, which she’d first entered upon arrival to Krypton.)

The choices that stuck in her throat were just as surprising.

Who would she like to accompany her down the aisle? (Maybe later.) Does she have anyone she would like to invite? (Not a soul.) Are there any Luthorian traditions she would like to observe? (None that she would even repeat out loud.)

What position – outside of Princess – would she like to hold within the Kingdom of Krypton? (No response.)

Thankfully, Alura noticed the sadness creeping into the fingers that twisted the silky fabrics laid before her, and motioned for the seamstresses to wait until later. They gathered their fabrics with a smile and a curtsy and retreated to their table.

Lena put on a brave smile. “Anything else, your highness?” The older woman patted her hand.

“I think that’s enough for one morning. Why don’t we reconvene tomorrow? We have plenty of information to begin preparations.”

Her shoulders visibly relaxed, and her smile turned a degree warmer.

“That sounds lovely.”

Alura stood and walked her to the door.

“What are your plans for the rest of the day? I can send for Winn? I believe he is down at the arena currently – likely bickering with Alexandra about armor.”

Lena perked up. “Actually, I was planning on going to the arena myself. Alex invited me to view a training session.”

The Queen’s lips quirked up, and she gave the raven-haired woman a strange smile. “Yes, that sounds like a wonderful idea. Lady Lane will accompany you.”

She gestured for the shorter woman, who appeared at her side instantly.

“Of course! Come, Princess – you will love it down there. The fighting, the sparring, the muscles, the sweating...”

She linked arms with her and nearly dragged her away as the queen smiled after them mysteriously.

 


 

“Princess Lena! This is a wonderful surprise.” Winn took her hands and kissed her cheek, then wrapped her in a hug. Her eyebrows shot up, and she blinked rapidly before tentatively returning it. She patted his back gently.

She isn’t sure she’ll ever get used to how often these Kryptonians touch each other.

The arena was a towering wooden structure made of sturdy timber beams and rock. Lena tilted her head back to look up as they passed beneath intricate skeletons of pine and mahogany, fitted into solid framework that held up the arena seats overhead. Vendors beneath the seats sold food and drink, blacksmiths sharpened swords, and leather workers hammered rivets. Knights and squires milled about in varying degrees of armor, and the air smelled faintly of sawdust, smoke, and mead. Laughter and the distant clanging of metal on metal filtered through the air.

Lucy waved down a tall, dark man in a leather chest plate. Bracers were strapped to his forearms, and a short sword dangled from his waist. His bare arms glistened with sweat.

As he approached, a smile played at his lips as he inclined his head slightly.

“You must be Princess Lena,” he said in a deep voice.

She returned his nod, a pleasant but reserved smile on her face.

“Indeed I am. And who are you?”

Lucy reached out and grasped one of his bracers, tugging him down and planting a soft kiss on his lips. She turned back to Lena and gestured up at him.

“This is Sir James Olsen, Knight Lieutenant and designated Royal Guardian.”

His smile broadened as Lena’s mouth opened in understanding.

“Ah, Sir James. I have heard tales of your skill on the battlefield. If the stories are true, Kara owes you a limb or two.”

He threw his head back and laughed, winding an arm around Lucy’s waist. “The stories may be a bit embellished in my favor. Everyone knows that I was designated as the Royal Guardian to keep her from getting into too much trouble. Kara hardly needs assistance. More often than not, I am simply in her way – but I get my blows in where I can manage.”

Lucy smiled up at him and patted his stomach over his armor. “I am going to steal James away for a few minutes before he needs to return to training. I leave you in Winn’s capable hands, Princess.”

“Thank you for helping me find my way! I certainly would have been lost without you.”

The two offered her warm smiles before disappearing into the crowd.

Winn jutted out his elbow and grinned at her. “Shall we?”

Lena tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and allowed him to guide her into a short, narrow hall with a bright light on one end.

“So, what brings you to the arena on this fine day?” he asked conversationally.

“Alex suggested I come down to observe some training, so I’m taking her up on her offer.”

They stepped out into the brilliant sunlight and Lena squinted to allow her eyes to adjust. Rows and rows of seats stretched upwards over a perfect circle. The ground in the center was golden sand and fine dust, with a ring of red and black stones separating it from a final exterior ring of rich green grass. The closest seats to the bottom stood five feet above the grass, a wall of wood connecting them to the ground. Openings appeared on the eastern side of the arena – arched doorways every ten feet or so. Knights and squired passed in and out of them, disappearing and reappearing beneath the stadium seats.

In the center of the arena, several groups were circled around what appeared to be training sessions. Dummies and rows of swords and shields were lined up, and the source of the metal clanging became apparent.

Winn guided her around to the southern end of the stadium, where the seats were cast in gentle afternoon shadows. A group of squires formed a half-circle in the arena below them, and Lena’s ears picked up on Alex’s strong voice. It was easy to find the pregnant woman among the young squires.

She took a seat beside Winn and crossed her legs, her hands folding in her lap. He smiled and leaned over, whispering to her conspiratorially.

“Alex is going to hate when the day comes that she can no longer bark orders down on the field. I have the feeling that Sam is going to put her foot down soon about the healer’s demands that she rest.”

A beautiful eyebrow arched and Lena glanced at him. “Let me know when that occurs, and remind me to avoid her office afterwards.”

Winn chuckled. “A good call, Princess.”

Alex was pacing along the open edge of the half-circle that surrounded two sparring squires, her hands tucked behind her back as she called out instructions.

“Find your footing, Avery! If your opponent gets you to the ground, you’re going to wind up with a sword in your chest!”

The young squire slipped on the sand, and Lena winced as a blow from a training sword glanced off his arm. He hissed and grabbed at it, jumping back to his feet and backing away as his opponent pressed forward. It was all the smaller boy could do to bring his sword up in time to block the older squire. His heel caught in the sand and he tripped backwards, landing roughly on his ass. His opponent stood over him with his sword point pressed to his chest plate, a victorious smile on his face. The crowd cheered.

The younger squire sighed and scrambled to his feet, his head hanging as he returned his training sword to the rack. The victor was receiving shoulder slaps from the other squires.

“Avery.” Alex called out. “Come here, squire.”

He approached her quickly, his head still hanging low. Lena tilted her head as she watched the auburn-haired woman reach out, placing a hand on the back of the boy’s neck. She ducked her head to look down at him, and it was obvious she was speaking to him, but her voice was too low for Lena to hear.

After a few moments, the boy nodded and straightened up, lifting his head higher once more and smiling up at the Knight Captain. She smacked him on the shoulder and pointed back at the crowd. He took off with his chin high.

“Hmmm.”

Winn’s eyes danced with amusement. “Yes, Princess? Something to say?”

A smile tilted the corners of her lips up. “It appears that our angry Knight Captain has a soft side, does it not?”

He laughed. “She absolutely does. Alex is ever the stoic warrior, but on the inside she’s like a pillow.” He glanced at Lena sideways, and sat up a bit straighter in his seat. “In fact, now is a good time to learn some more Kryptonian lore. You have heard Alex and Kara reference themselves as ehsh je, yes?”

Lena nodded. “Yes, several times. What does it mean?”

“Literally translated, it means sky sister.”

She tilted her head, her lips parting in confusion. “Je means sister? That means that Kara...”

“Calls Alex her sister? That is correct.” Lena’s eyebrows shot up, and Winn held up his hands.

“Let me explain. On Krypton, we have this term for children that are born under specific circumstances. Some Kryptonians believe it is pure coincidence and luck, though most believe that it is an unavoidable fate attributed to the life force. It does not happen very often.”

The mention of the life force caused Lena to sit up straighter, focusing on Winn completely. He nodded at her, noticing her attention.

“Yes, the same life force that connects you and Kara. It connects her and Alex, but in a different way. An ehsh je connection happens when two children are born under completely opposing skies. Alex was born first, to Lord and Lady Danvers of the north kingdom, at exactly midnight in the exact middle of winter. A storm was coming in, and dark clouds blacked out the sky. There was no moon, no stars, no light... but a warm wind blew through Krypton that night, even though the temperatures were some of the lowest they’ve ever been. So half of the ehsh je had begun.”

Lena glanced down at Alex, who had resumed her pacing as she observed another bout of combat training.

“And Kara?”

“Two seasons later, on the day that was the exact middle of summer, Kara was born. It was exactly noon, and the sun was high in a cloudless sky – yet somehow, a cold rain fell across the kingdom. And the ehsh je connection had been completed. Know this: it is not always so easy to bring sky sisters together. Timing and distance are largely unknown, and some may spend lifetimes searching for their ehsh je. Lord and Lady Danvers, however, had their suspicions. They brought Alex to the palace on the day Kara was born, and their birthmarks confirmed.”

“Their birthmarks?”

He nodded. “Small brown marks on their left shoulder blades. They are sisters of the sky, and will be for their entire lives. Lord and Lady Danvers began sending Alex to the Crystal Palace to train as a squire every summer when she turned 5, and she moved here permanently to take her oath as a knight when she turned 18.”

Winn chuckled as Alex reached over and smacked a young squire on the back of his head after he swung angrily on another squire that had bested him.

“Kara tried to get her to take a comfortable position as a throne guard, but Alex was having none of it. She was determined to work her way up from the bottom.” He snorted and shook his head. “She was the Knight Captain within seven years. The youngest one in the history of Krypton.”

Lena chuckled. “That’s unsurprising.”

Winn glanced over at Lena, then nodded down into the direction of a group of knights that had just entered the arena through the arches.

“Kara refused to let Alex do anything alone. She joined her in all of her training as a squire, and attempted to enlist in the knights with her. She’s royalty, of course, so the position that she naturally holds incredibly outranked all of her instructors. After several intense conversations with her mother, and some convincing from her aunt, they created an honorary role for her within the knights. Where Alex was, so then was Kara. Where Alex excelled in leadership and tactics, Kara became a brilliant swordsman. They rose through the ranks together, and when Alex was named Knight Captain it was Kara that buckled the sword on her waist.”

The two watched as the new group of knights began setting up for training. Lena recognized James as he entered the center of their new circle. He rolled his neck, stretching his arms across his chest and pacing in a slow pattern through the sand, testing his footing.

An unexpected thrill raced through Lena when she noticed Kara step into the circle. She was wearing a sleeveless tunic that had the bottom cropped off. It sat beneath the thin leather chest plate that was buckled tightly to her torso, revealing a strip of toned back and stomach just above tight, belted trousers that were tucked into dusty boots. Shadows caught in the muscles of her exposed shoulders and arms. In her right hand she was gripping a sheathed training sword, and she began bouncing on her toes. She raised her arms above her head and held the sword with both hands, further revealing more tanned skin. She stretched from one side to the next, before turning to face James.

Slow shivers trailed up Lena’s spine when she saw the intensity in her face. Kara’s brow was furrowed, her chin tucked slightly towards her chest, her hair pulled back from her face in a ponytail. Strength and danger radiated from her as she began to circle James. When he advanced on her and swung his sword down towards her, she brought the sheathed sword up to block him as if she was bored. She reached up to grab his fist on his sword and used it to shove him aside. He stumbled away, but quickly regained his footing, swinging back around to face her.

Winn’s voice found Lena’s ears, and this time it sounded low and cautious. “The other important lore to understand about ehsh je is the... personality differences in the sisters.”

Lena didn’t look away from the scene unfolding, watching as Kara deflected a second and third attack from James. “What do you mean?”

“It is a known measure of the nature of ehsh je that the sisters tend to be magnetic. Drawn together in so many ways, but opposing forces in others. Sky sisters who are musicians, for example... one will focus on music that is soft and calming, while another will create music that is lively and heart-racing. They are a balance, meant to complement each other. Their destiny relies on this balance.”

He pointed down into the arena, directing her attention to where Alex was tied up in another conversation with a young squire, her hand on her shoulder.

“In this case, Alex is cold, reserved, and untouchable in her everyday demeanor, but approachable and comforting as a leader. Kara, on the other hand...” He gestured back to the training knights, where Kara had finally grasped the sheath of her sword and ripped it away, throwing it hard down onto the sand.

She squared on James and charged.

“She exudes cheer, happiness, and friendliness to everyone she meets. But on the battlefield...“

A gasp left Lena’s chest as Kara flipped her sword around, snatching it into a backhand hold and slamming the fist holding her sword into the side of James’ jaw. He stumbled and she capitalized, bringing her knee up into his stomach. She gripped the shoulder strap of his armor, tossing him like a rag doll down onto the sand. With her back to Lena, she pressed a foot into his chest and drew the tip of her sword against his neck. He slowly raised his hands in defeat, and Lena could see barely-contained control rippling through Kara’s shoulders and arms.

“... she is unforgiving, powerful, and incredibly dangerous.” He finished softly.

Kara reached down and tugged James back onto his feet. He slapped her on the arm and made his way back to the crowd, while the blonde tilted her head from one side to the other, languidly stretching.

Suddenly, her shoulders bunched and she froze. Lena watched her slowly turn around.

Her eyes immediately met Lena’s up in the stands, as if she knew exactly where she was sitting. Lena’s  eyes tracked her hand as it reached up, pressing to her chest below her left collarbone.

Lena inhaled a shaky breath as she looked down at herself, stunned to find her own hand pressed tightly to the same place.

When did she...

Her eyes flicked back up to Kara, who was standing as still as a statue in the sand. The blonde’s gaze had lost none of its intensity or power, and when she trained it on Lena, she felt goosebumps trail down her body like hot water.

Fire settled into Lena’s bones.

The way Kara was staring at her made her feel vulnerable, and an ache shifted through her chest. She was suddenly feeling overwhelmed and out of breath, as if the rest of the world was crowding in on her.

She watched as Kara lowered her sword to her side, then gripped the handle tightly and buried it deep into the sand. She finally broke eye contact and barked something over her shoulder, before stalking back towards the arches beneath the stands. She met Lena’s eyes once more before disappearing beneath the seats.

Lena blinked a few times and lowered her hand from her chest, dropping it into her lap. It was trembling.

Winn grinned at her, oblivious, and clambered to his feet. “Ah! Princess Zor-El wins. Not that that was unexpected, of course.” He held a hand down to her. “Would you like to go down on the field, Princess?”

She looked up at him, rising up in a daze to stand on unsteady legs. “Actually, I think I’m going to head back to the palace. It is too warm out here for me.”

He hummed in approval and placed a hand on the back of her arm, gently guiding her back up to the exit.

“I’ll walk back with you – I have a meeting with Lady Arias soon anyway.”

Lena was barely listening to him, and when he took the lead as they stepped out into the crowded vendor area, she lost him. She stopped and turned in a slow circle, tipping up onto her toes in an attempt to see over the knights.

“Winn??” she called out.

She sighed and took a step backwards into the less-crowded hall behind her, but found herself slamming into a hard body.

Strong hands settled onto her waist, and the smell of peonies covered in new rain sank around her like a cloud. A flush traveled up her neck and into her face, and she instinctively reached down, placing her hands on top of the ones gripping her abdomen. Warm breath found her ear.

“Princess. What are you doing here?”

Kara’s voice washed over her and her eyes dropped closed. “I-I came to see the knights training.”

“Mmmm.”

That voice rumbled through her. She inhaled deeply and gently tugged the hands away, spinning around slowly without moving away.

She looked up into deep blue eyes and immediately got lost. Her lips parted as her eyes traced over Kara’s face.

The blonde stared down at her for several heart-stopping seconds, before she brazenly placed her hands on Lena’s waist again, pulling her close.

Lena’s fingertips found their way up to Kara’s strong arms without her permission, the muscle there rippling beneath her palms.

The rest of the world disappeared.

“Kara, I...” she whispered softly.

The Kryptonian warrior didn’t need an explanation.

She ducked her head down, capturing Lena’s lips with her own.

Lena’s heart stilled. Incredibly soft but intensely strong lips slid against hers, and heat immediately sank into her stomach. She found herself up on her toes, off-balance and dizzy. She clutched at the shoulder straps of Kara’s armor, a soft moan floating up between them.

Kara’s arms tightened around her as her silky tongue slid across her bottom lip. Lena whimpered softly, and her hand found its way to the back of Kara’s neck, pulling her down closer. She tasted Kara’s upper lip, and relished the sound that it elicited from the warrior.

The blonde pressed her lips to Lena’s one more time, before slowly pulling back. Lena’s eyes dragged opened, and she found Kara staring down at her in wonder.

“Princess...”

The sound of a throat clearing loudly startled both of them. Kara stepped back from Lena slightly, her chest heaving.

Winn stood beside them with his hands clasped behind his back, a tense smile on his face.

“Princess Zor-El. Knight Captain Arias has requested you in the sparring room.”

Kara blinked, as if struggling to remember who that was and where she needed to go. She turned back to Lena and nodded, slowly releasing her hold on the brunette’s waist. She swallowed thickly and stepped back, accidentally knocking into a young squire. She murmured an apology and shot one more confused, heart-wrenching look at Lena before turning on her heel and taking off.

Lena simply stood there, fingertips pressed to her own lips, eyes wide.

What in the name of Rao...


 

Chapter Text


 

Kara slammed open the door to the sparring room, startling Alex and the group of squires she was training.

“Kara! What are you...”

Alex’s amber eyes tracked Kara as she paced along a wall, tense and angry. She pursed her lips and turned to the squires.

“That’s enough for this morning. Go get something to eat and be in the arena in an hour.”

“Yes Captain!” They spun on their heels smartly and shut the door behind them.

Alex turned back to the frazzled warrior.

“Alright. What happened?”

Kara stepped towards her, offering her palms up in confusion, her brow furrowed anxiously.

“Alex, there’s something wrong with me.”

“Wrong with you? How?” Alex reached over and pressed her hand to Kara’s cheek, testing the temperature. “Are you ill?”

The blonde shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe I spent too much time around the kryptonite in Luthoria.”

The knight captain frowned and urged her to sit on a tall stool. “What are your symptoms? Should I call for a healer?”

“No, please don’t do that.” Kara pressed a hand over her eyes, shaking her head. “I don’t want everyone thinking I’m some kind of cretin.”

“Cretin?? Je, tell me what the hell is happening. We’ll fix it, whatever it is.”

Kara sighed and mumbled into her hands.

“What was that?”

She abruptly stood again and threw her hands up.

“I kissed her!”

The auburn-haired woman blinked.

“You kissed- ”

“I didn’t even ask her. I just did it! I don’t even remember why I went up there. I was in the middle of training, Alex!” Kara palmed her forehead, eyes full of distress.

“Okay, let’s breathe.” She tugged on Kara’s wrist and guided her back to the stool. “Sit back down, and give me some more information. Please,” she winced, rubbing her stomach gently. “Before this baby breaks my ribs.”

Kara dropped heavily onto the stool and reached out absent-mindedly, pressing comforting hands into Alex’s belly.

“I just feel so strange, Alex. Like I’m being... pulled apart and tied together again.”

Alex pressed her hands into her own lower back and tilted her head.

“Is this about Lena? Is that who you kissed?”

Kara nodded, averting her eyes.

“I was down on the field, and I had just bested James in a round, and suddenly I... I knew that she was here. I don’t know how, or why. I just knew that she was near me and I wanted to be closer to her. And then I was kissing her.” Her eyes dropped shut, and she shook her head. “She must think I’m a creep.”

“Hmm.” A strand of hair had loosened itself from Kara’s ponytail, and Alex reached down and tucked it behind her ear. “Is this the first time?”

“Yes. Well, no. Sort of.”

Alex snorted. “Which is it, then?”

“Something else happened... a week or so ago. She was getting ready for dinner and she had on your dress and she looked...” Kara blew out a breath. “She looked so beautiful, Alex. And then she was in my arms.”

“Did anything else happen?”

“No. I left the room. I chalked it up to lack of food and sleep and your rum, but today... I was so clear-minded. I was feeling better than I have in a long time, in fact.” Kara looked up at her with pleading eyes. “What’s happening to me? Am I sick?”

Alex drew in a deep breath and shook her head. “No, I don’t think you’re sick. I think you’re being Called.”

Kara blinked. “Call... oh my Rao.” She dropped her face into her hands and cursed in Kryptonian. “Called. Oh, Rao. What am I going to do?”

 


 

“Calling? What the hell is that, Winn?”

Lena glanced over at the man’s pensive face as they walked the path from the arena to the palace.

“It’s a term we use to describe when your connection is vibrating along the life force.”

“Oh, I see. Yes, that really clears things up, thank you Sir Schott.”

He rolled his eyes and gave her an exasperated look.

“I wasn’t finished! Calling is what happens as your bond changes. Strengthens. It is not a static connection, and your bands are not fixed within the life force. They shift, they grow, they get smaller. A bonding doesn’t capture all of your bands at once – only the ones tied to the most compatible parts of your souls. Do you see?”

Lena frowned and tugged her cloak around her shoulders as a cold breeze swirled around them.

“So our bond is not fully formed yet?”

“Yes and no. It’s a lot more complicated than that.” His pale green eyes met hers. “When the initial bonding occurs, we theorize that the life force ties together your bands that are the most alike.” He held up his hands and laced a few of his fingers together. “Then over time, as your bond grows stronger, your bands begin to learn how to braid together. New bands are formed, new connections.” He slipped his hands together fully.

“We believe that your bands are linked to your experiences, your emotions. Anything that influences how you see the world, and how you love someone.” He tucked his hands back into his cloak. “You already have many, many bands that you have created in your life. These are strong, and both souls will need to learn how to maneuver through them - together. But when your soul resonates with something new, a new emotion or a new experience you are feeling because of your soul bond, it Calls to you.”

Understanding dawned on Lena, and a chill raced through her. She wasn’t sure it was from the wind.

“What can cause the... Calling... to happen?”

Winn shrugged. “It could be anything. It could be joy, laughter... pride. The first time you look at them and understand something new about them, something that makes them breathe, something that they live for. Your soul bond will Call you, vibrating along the life force, and it will draw you together.”

“What if the emotion is not a good one? Will it drive us apart?”

He tilted his head back and forth. “No, not really. It may initially, when you are feeling angry, or scared. The life force may push you away for some time – but only if it feels the bond is in danger. It will eventually Call you together again.”

They walked along quietly after that, until their feet were crossing into the stone courtyard of the palace. They came to a stop before Kara’s wing, and she crossed her arms, tucking her hands against her side.

Her eyes tracked over Winn’s face.

“What happens if we don’t go? If we stay apart?”

 


 

Alex stared down at Kara, who was doing everything she could to avoid eye contact.

“Do you think that’s a good idea, Kara?”

The blonde shrugged and pushed to her feet, gripping the shoulder strap of her armor and adjusting it distractedly.

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I can fight it, Je. But I feel obligated to try. She didn’t come here for this, she came here to be protected – not mauled.”

Alex rolled her eyes and reached out, tugging on a buckle on the side of Kara’s chest plate that had come loose.

“You’re hardly mauling her. Has it occurred to you that you’re both being Called? The life force would not draw you together if she was fighting it. It would not have even bonded you if you were incompatible.”

“Compatibility isn't the full story, Alex. She doesn’t know what’s happening. I hardly know what’s happening, and I have lived with this knowledge for my entire life. How can she agree to play in a tournament when she doesn’t know the rules?”

The knight captain reached out and caught her wrist, squeezing it gently.

“This isn’t a game, Kara. This affects both of you. I don’t know what will happen if you fight the Calling, but my gut is telling me that this will hurt you.”

“Alex, last night your gut told you to put mashed potatoes on top of pie.” Kara leaned down and pressed a swift kiss to her cheek. “I won’t let anything bad happen. I promise.”

The auburn-haired woman grumbled as the Princess exited as swiftly as she had entered. When she felt a single, petulant kick in her side, she threw her hands up and shrugged.

“Don’t blame me, you know I can’t control her.”

 


 

A small, velvety black bag was slipped into the scarred and calloused palm of a hulking man in dirty brown robes. His boots pressed craters into the mud as rain dripped from the shingles overhead. The black night sky had opened up above them, sending sheets of freezing water down among a dirty bar town. It attracted bad deals, criminals, and people escaping pasts.

It was the perfect place to hire an assassin.

The giant man huffed at the smaller one, who pulled his black hood down lower over his face – protection from the rain, perhaps, or from the sharp memory of his hire.

He glared down at him, a massive brown scar striking a hard line across his face. It was an angry slash, and his lip was permanently curled.

“Where and when?” The man growled.

“Krypton. Three weeks, during the Kryptonian wedding festival – before the ceremony occurs.”

He grunted and weighed the black bag in his palm.

“Kryptonians are extra.”

“There’s more than enough in there. And a bonus, when the job is complete.”

The assassin slipped the bag into his pocket and drained the thick bottle of brown liquid he was grasping, chucking it hard against the wall beside them, where it shattered.

“Who’s the mark?”

“Kara Zor-El.”

The curled sneer crawled into a vicious smile.


 

Chapter Text


 

They didn’t talk about it.

Lena’s mornings were full of wedding planning, her afternoons spent buried in Kryptonian lore.

Kara’s days were simply mind-numbing, back-breaking training.

Outside of dinner, which they shared with the royal family, it seemed as if they hardly saw each other.

It wasn’t on accident.

Kara was up before the sun and moving through her morning routine on the lawn by the time the first rays touched the sky. She was typically gone before Lena was done with her shower.

By late afternoon, she was trudging through the door, covered in dirt and sweat – and one horrifying day, blood.

Lena was in the study when she heard the door open, entering the sitting room with a thick book in her grasp.

“Kara, look at this incredible design for an autoloading crossb - my word, what happened to you?”

Her eyes traced over Kara’s lean form. Her ponytail, normally bright and jaunty, was flagging and dirty. A thick red smear slashed down her upper right arm, and it matched a similar one that began at her temple and wiped back into her hair. It was caked in dirt, and blood flecked her leather armor.

Her arms were shaking, and her eyes showed a reserved fear.

Lena took her in quietly, setting the text down on a table and crossing the room. She hadn’t seen her in this state since they were racing through the dungeons of the Red Keep.

Kara eyed her warily, and she tensed when Lena approached.

“Princess, what happened?”

“It was a rough day of training. It happens from time to time.” She shrugged, trying and failing to appear nonchalant – particularly because her shrug sent her face wincing in pain.

Lena gave her a sour look and folded her arms across her chest.

“Kryptonians don’t bleed, even during rough days of training. This is the work of kryptonite.”

Kara avoided eye contact and turned to slip past her, reaching for the buckle on her shoulder strap.

“Yes.”

Lena moved around the chair and intercepted her with an incredulous scoff.

“Why are you using kryptonite in training? You could hurt each other. Kill each other!”

Kara stopped in her tracks, her fingers still trying to work the shoulder strap.

“Yes, Princess. That is the point.”

Lena blinked. “You are intending on hurting yourself? Are all Kryptonians this stupid, or is it just you and your knights? Where did you even get kryptonite?”

A flicker of anger flared in Kara’s eyes, and she lowered her hand from her unsuccessful attempts at undoing the buckle.

“The intent is not injury, Lena. The intent is to train against the power that draws Kryptonian blood. We can no longer sit idly by and do nothing while our people are meeting their deaths at the bite of kryptonite weapons.” She stepped around Lena, moving towards the hall that led to her room. “And if you must know, we acquired kryptonite when we intercepted a Cogorian schooner that had been looting our western trade routes. Their hold was full of it. It nearly killed the coast guards when they seized the ship.”

A flash of fear gripped Lena’s chest, and she took a step backwards.

“Cogorian?”

Kara picked up on the way her voice caught and paused, turning back to eye her sharply.

“You are familiar with Cogo?”

Lena reached a shaking hand out to grip the back of the chair beside her, her eyes widening as she stared down at a spot on the wall – as if she was somewhere quite far away.

“Yes. I am very familiar with Cogo.”

Kara waited silently for her to continue. She took a few beats and a few breaths before elaborating.

“My brother made an alliance with King Leon, some time ago. I don’t know many of the details, but my understanding of the terms was that Cogo would assist Luthoria in distribution of kryptonite and supply a ready-made navy in the event of an attack from – or on – Krypton.”

Kara fully wheeled on her, mouth agape as she stepped closer.

“You are just now telling me this?! Lena, this would have been useful information two weeks ago!!”

Emerald green eyes blazed with fear and frustration.

“The deal fell through! I did not think that it was a viable alliance! Was it not you who said that that information was not important to you??”

Kara stepped into Lena’s space. “I didn’t think that it pertained directly to an attack on Krypton! How could you possibly know that the deal fell through? Lex could be planning a full scale invasion as we speak! The whole of the Cogorian navy could be off our coast!” She flung a hand out to gesture towards the open water beyond their voluminous windows.

Kara realized it was a mistake the instant Lena flinched.

She watched as a neck tensed, shoulders tensed, face tensed. Eyes squinted shut as she turned her head to the side and leaned slightly away, as if she was bracing for a blow, but not running from it.

As if she instinctively reacted like accepting the pain was better than delaying the inevitable.

Kara immediately lowered her hand and stepped back, out of Lena’s space, out of reach. She sucked in a pained breath and something harsh twisted in her chest.

“Lena, I... I apologize. I didn't mean to raise my voice at you.”

When she realized that no blow was coming, Lena blew out a breath slowly. Without opening her eyes, she sank down into the chair beside her and folded her hands in her lap.

She stared down at them quietly for a few moments before her voice, soft and low, broke the silence.

“I know that Lex’s deal fell through, because his bargaining chip – the price the Cogorian king demanded –  ran away with a Kryptonian Princess.”

Kara’s shoulders slumped and she hung her head, pressing her eyes into her hand. She slowly came around the chair again, carefully positioning herself in Lena’s line of sight, before kneeling down in front of her. She didn’t make a move to touch her, but she was close enough to be able to speak at a lowered level.

“Princess, I am truly sorry. I have had a rough day, though I know that isn’t an excuse. I am frightened, and it isn’t an emotion I am used to feeling. Kryptonite... it makes me feel as if my skin is being seared from my body. It terrifies me to think of it being used on Kryptonian children, husbands, sisters, fathers... wives.”

A tear tracked unbidden down Lena’s face, and it caught Kara’s eye. Without thinking she reached out to wipe it away, but withdrew her touch when Lena’s spine froze.

Her response came, stilted and slow, attempting to thread strength back into her voice.

“I understand. I should have told you sooner. I’ve been avoiding the conversation, but it seems as if I should meet with Alex soon, so I can answer any questions she may have about the armies and strategies of Luthoria.”

Kara nodded. “Yes, I think that’s an excellent idea. I will tell her at dinner to expect you tomorrow afternoon.”

She made to rise, but paused. She watched the beautiful woman before her, subtly shaking in her chair, carefully gathering up the pieces of her resolve and stitching them back together again. If Kara had the strength to punch herself, she would.

She realized the brevity of her error. Lena had spent a lifetime surrounded by violence and anger, and had subsequently built walls upon walls with gates and locks to defend herself. The surest way to get her to slam one shut was to shout at her. Kara very purposefully filed that information away, and it suddenly felt as if something inside her was shifting uncomfortably. She rubbed a palm to her chest absentmindedly and tried to drop soothing, comforting tones into her voice, but she knew it would only get her so far.

“Lena... I promise you that I would never, ever hurt you. I will never allow anyone to put their hands on you in violence, let alone myself. I know that this is not something you have been shown previously, and I am truly regretful that I don’t have the ability to see the future so I could have stolen you away from Luthoria much sooner.” This encouraged a soft smile from the raven-haired woman, but it died quickly on her face.

Lena’s heart was racing and her palms were sweating and she needed something to do besides sit in this chair and stare at the earnest blue eyes of a goddess as they assured her that she was safe. 

Her hands flexed in her lap, and she cleared her throat as she forced a smile back onto her face. She reached up and let her fingertips brush gently across Kara’s dirt-streaked face.

“Come, warrior – let me help you get cleaned up.”

Kara could tell she was lying, that her forced smile was a defense mechanism, that her ability to soothe was not borne naturally but of a need to placate the temper of another. She caught Lena’s wrist gently.

“Princess...”

Lena turned pleading eyes on her, begging her to let it go, for reprieve from the anxious feelings racketing through her.

Kara nodded.

She let Lena tug her to her own bathroom, push her down onto a stool. She let her eyes drop shut as deft, careful hands made short work of the buckles and straps of her chest plate, setting it on the cool tile to be cleaned later.

She tried not to wince and pretended it didn’t hurt when probing fingertips sought out her temple. Lena noticed anyway.

She immediately began filling the sink with hot water, and dipped a soft cloth into it, wringing it out tightly.

Fingers found their way under Kara’s chin, tilting her face up as the hot, damp towel slowly, gently, painstakingly wiped away dirt and blood. Sapphire eyes traced over a concentrated brow as it slanted forward, corners of red lips turning down into an unhappy grimace.

Kara felt that now-familiar ache in her chest, and she let her gaze continue to wander across Lena’s sharp features. 

 


 

Lena rinsed the cloth in the sink, staining the water pink, wringing it again. She worried over Kara’s hairline, making soft sounds of disapproval as she slowly uncovered a frightening gash.

 “How does this work, then? Do you have weapons made of it? How do you wield them?”

The blonde shook her head and received a sharp look of admonishment for not holding still.

“No. We don’t allow kryptonite weapons past the borders – they’re too dangerous. We place tiny quantities in our armor for short periods of time – not enough to make us sick, but they do make us more vulnerable to injury.”

“More vulnerable? I thought you were indestructible.”

“Against Luthorians, perhaps, and most weapons. Kryptonians are capable of injuring each other. But it takes a good deal of effort, and Kryptonians don’t fight each other unless we’re sparring. We don’t allow training to progress that far.” She shut one eye tightly, wincing. “And of course, we heal very quickly.”

“Still, you should be more careful. I...” Lena worried her lower lip, as if debating her words, but finally creased them in acceptance. “I don’t appreciate seeing you injured,” she said honestly. She then immediately jutted her chin up, as if displaying proud defiance somehow lessened the concern in her voice.

The Kryptonian gave her a sloppy half-smile and shrugged, then sucked in a breath when the cloth grazed a particularly sensitive spot.

“Rao, this is worse than when it actually happened.”

Lena rolled her eyes and pressed closer, reaching back to tug Kara’s hair loose from its sagging ponytail.

“I think you’re going to survive.”

A grumble reached the raven-haired woman’s ears and she shook her head, dipping and cleaning the cloth once more before moving to Kara’s arm. She gripped her bicep to lift her arm and get a better look, but Kara hissed and tugged it back when pain shot through her chest. Lena crossed her arms.

“Why is it always the toughest soldiers that are the biggest babies?” She held her hand out expectantly and Kara begrudgingly returned her arm to Lena’s grip.

Lena worked in silence, until an arrogant voice drifted down towards her.

“So you think I’m tough?”

Lena cocked an eyebrow and pressed harder to the slashed skin she was cleaning, allowing herself a small smile when Kara groaned.

The Kryptonian knight sat quietly after that. The exhaustion of the day began seeping into her bones, and Lena could see it.

She finished her ministrations on Kara’s arm and dropped the cloth into the basket beside the sink.

Kara was struggling to lift herself from the stool, and Lena reached down, grasping her forearms and steadying her on her feet.

When she found herself pressed up against the tall warrior for the third time in just as many weeks, Lena felt that same familiar trill course through her body.

Now that this feeling was finally encased in an envelope of context, Lena wasn’t certain if that made her feel better or worse.

She raised her eyes to meet with heavy-lidded oceans of blue that were trained directly on Lena’s lower lip.

The sensations racing across her skin began to gather in her stomach, and she felt her hands tightening involuntarily around Kara’s forearms. She felt as if she was being dragged towards the blonde, as if a rope had been tightened around her torso and was drawing her closer. She smoothed her hands up Kara’s arms with her neck as the intended destination, but her fingers pressed against the fresh wound on the blonde’s arm and the subsequent painful inhale slammed them both back down to reality.

Kara took a step back, and Lena’s hands fell to her sides once more.

She opened and closed them slowly, confused by the way her palms ached and her heart was racing. Kara tucked her hands behind her back in a withdrawn pose, and made a soft noise in her throat.

“Thank you for your assistance Princess. It is extraordinarily appreciated. I think that I should shower before dinner, lest I incur the wrath of the Queen.”

Lena took the hint and nodded. She was halfway out the door before she paused to look back. Kara’s eyes caught hers in the mirror and she saw once more that reserved fear pooling in them. The muscles in her arms rippled as she grasped the edge of the counter in front of her, her knuckles turning white. Lena opened her mouth as if to say something, but thought better of it.

The door clicked softly shut behind it, and Kara pressed her aching forehead to the cool glass of the mirror.

 


 

Lena had been taken.

Her tunic was torn and hanging from her shoulder. Her trousers were ripped at the right calf, and she was barefoot and freezing. Her hair was a tangled mess around her face, and she tasted blood in the corner of her mouth. She was sitting in an awkward heap upon the cold wet wood where she’d been tossed, her hands bound tightly and painfully behind her back.

Battleships bobbed and rolled on black, murky water. The sound of sails cracking in the wind raced across the night sky, the white of the cloth illuminated by a menacing moon. The blood red and brown of a Cogorian flag snapped back and forth at the top of the mast. Gruff sailors in salt-stiff clothes paced across creaking decks, glowering angrily and grinning at her with nothing short of bold-faced malice.

Silent tears streamed down her face.

The mood on the deck suddenly shifted as the sound of boots clicked down a set of stairs from the upper deck.

An ugly man in a sharp red uniform appeared as the sailors parted ranks. His black hair was greased back, his thick beard unkempt. His tanned skin cracked in the corners of his eyes, and his smile turned Lena’s stomach.

Leon.

He crouched down in front of her, and he reached for her chin with hands that ended in black-edged fingernails. She immediately flinched away from him, and his smile dropped. He surged forward and grasped her lower jaw, pushing her face up to look at him.

“Well, boys... it seems as if Cogo will have a Queen after all.”

Cheers erupted from the swaying deck, accompanied by the sound of bottles clinking and shoulders being slapped.

“Go fuck yourself,” she rasped out.

She gritted her teeth at the pain in her neck as he stood, drawing her up with him and forcing her to her knees. The sharp wood pressed into her skin, and she felt bile rising up in her throat as he traced a dirty thumb across her jawline.

“Oh, beautiful girl. There are so many more things you could be doing with that mouth. I’m going to ravage you until you can not speak.”

Another round of jeers permeated the crowd, and a soft sob cut through her parted lips. She lifted her eyes to the sky, sorting through grey clouds that drifted lazily across the pale moon. Her heart pounded hard and she found herself whimpering softly as the ache in her hands got more and more intense. A calloused hand was traveling down her neck and bared shoulder, before sharp fingernails dug into her collarbone.

She searched the sky, and searched the sky, and searched the sky. A flash of maroon, a glint of gold, something. Please.

She found nothing but stars, blinking at her as if unconcerned and uninterested in her horror.

The man’s eyes followed her gaze, looking up at the clouds for a moment before letting out a deep, gut-wrenching laugh. He grasped her chin again tightly, forcing her to look back at him.

“Who are you looking for, sweet Princess?” A slow smile crept across his face, and he reached out with his left hand, motioning someone forward.

“Are you looking for your savior? Your Queen, your Kara Zor-El? She isn’t coming for you, whore.”

Lena’s jaw set fiercely at his mention of her name, and in a moment of dumb courage, she spit in his face.

He snarled at her and reached over, drawing his hand back and slamming it into her cheek. She saw stars and slumped back to the deck, pain rocketing through her cheekbone.

The man who had stepped forward handed the king a round black burlap sack, which he yanked from him angrily.

He turned on Lena, towering over her as he roared.

“Your Queen isn’t coming to save you, Lena Zor-El! The House of El has been dismantled!”

He ripped open the string on the top of the bag and up-ended it. A sickening thud hit the deck in front of him and rolled, and Lena saw a flash of red-streaked blonde hair.

 


 

Kara was sitting in the study after dinner, sipping a sweet drink in quiet conversation with Winn when a blood-curdling scream ripped through the air.

In an instant they were both on their feet, tearing through the wing at super-speeds. Kara’s hand closed around the hilt of her sword and tore it from its sheath as she raced for Lena’s bedroom door. Winn beat her to it and slammed it down with his shoulder, instantly turning the lights up to their fullest brightness.

 


 

Lena bolted upright as her door came crashing inwards. She was blinded by the lights as they blazed on, and was knocked back down by Kara leaping bodily onto the bed. The blonde was standing over her, one foot on either side of her hips, facing away from her in a fighter’s stance with her sword drawn. In the same instant Winn appeared beside her bed and put her at his back, waving around an iron fire poker he had lifted from the fireplace.

They were both shouting incoherently in Kryptonian, loudly challenging an empty room, making fierce threats and promises of maiming and death.

“Oh my g – what in the world are you doing?” Lena shouted over them, sitting back up.

Winn wheeled on her with his fire poker fiercely.

“Princess, you were screaming! Who has hurt you?!” He brandished it bravely, though the fear in his eyes gave him away.

“Tell us, we shall end him!!” Kara shouted from above her, furtively glancing at all corners of the room as if a monster was going to spring out at any moment.

“Good lord, I had a nightmare!! Get down!” She batted at Kara’s calves, though they remained unmoving.

Kara looked down, regarding her upside down and between her legs, her eyes slowly widening in realization.

“You... are not in danger?”

“No! Now get down!”

Kara floated off the bed reluctantly, landing beside Winn. They stood beside each other, an awkward pair, and Winn slowly lowered the fire poker – though his eyes were still moving around the room suspiciously.

Lena gaped at them, then buried her face in her hands.

The horror of the dream was still coursing through her, and the final image before she woke up caused tears to prick at the back of her eyes. They were flowing down her cheeks and wrists before she could stop them.

Kara cleared her throat softly and gave Winn a look.

“Winn... I shall see you in the morning.”

“Of course.” He sheepishly bowed and stole away, mumbling an apology as he stepped over the splintered door he had left on the floor.

Lena’s shoulders shook, and Kara gently placed her sword on the chest of drawers beside the bed. The bed dipped as she sat beside the dark-haired woman.

“Lena..?”

She tentatively reached for her, unsure if she should touch her. When the crying woman finally looked up at her, she found confused and terrified eyes. When her proffered touch went unanswered, Kara dropped her hands back into her lap.

“What happened, zrhueiao? What is wrong?”

Lena silently reached up, sliding her hands across Kara’s neck, before moving them up to cup her cheeks. She ran her thumbs slowly across sharp cheekbones and her eyes followed the path of Kara’s face carefully, as if she was checking her over.

Kara waited quietly, her eyes questioning. Finally satisfied, Lena lowered her hands again and sighed so deeply it seemed to wrack through her shoulders.

“I’m sorry for disturbing you. I... have nightmares from time to time. I will try not to be so loud in the future.”

Kara gaped at her as if she’d said that she had a pet octopus she kept on a leash.

“You’re apologizing for... being frightened? Princess, that’s nonsense. I’m only upset that you are having a bad night. Is there anything that I can do? Can I bring you some tea?”

Lena shook her head and ran her fingers through her own hair.

“No, no thank you. I think I’d rather just get some sleep.”

The blonde nodded and rose slowly. She turned towards the door and made a face.

“I’m sorry about that. I will have it fixed in the morning. Or I can fix it now..?”

Lena waved her hand, adjusting the blankets around herself, fidgeting anxiously.

“It’s fine. Just lean it against the wall there.”

Kara lifted it easily, propping it against the wall, and turned back once more.

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

Lena forced a smile.

“Yes, of course.”

“Alright. Goodnight, Princess.” She reached up and turned the lights off.

“Goodnight.”

 


 

Lena spent the remainder of the night drifting in and out of horrific nightmares. She thrashed and cried quietly, the blankets tangling across her legs, and the air in the room grew chilly as the night wore on.

Sometime in the early hours of the morning, however, as she was skirting along the edge of another nightmare, strong hands pulled the blankets up and tucked them around her shoulders. She flipped onto her back and turned her head as she pressed her face into the pillow, sighing sleepily and mumbling softly about daggers.

Warmth and the gentle crackle of a fire slowly permeated the air.

A solid, comforting pressure draped across her shins, and it was the final key to unlocking peaceful rest. She drifted into a dreamless sleep.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

This very moment in time, in this space, in this blanket, in this bed, was the most comfortable Lena had ever been in her entire life.

She filled her lungs with air that was cool and crisp and wonderful, and let herself come back into her body. She was still tired after an evening full of nightmares, but she felt surprisingly relaxed.

A soft blanket was tucked around her perfectly, and she was warm and cozy. As she gradually woke, she came to the realization that her legs were being gently pinned to the mattress.

She blinked in confusion and lifted her head, her lips slowly parting at the sight that greeted her.

Some time in the night, Kara had dragged a chair over to her bedside. The warrior’s arms and head were now draped across her shins as she peacefully slept, her golden hair spread around her face like a halo. Lena sat up as gently as she could to avoid disturbing her, and tilted her head to gaze down at the Kryptonian. She found her fingers seeking the soft curls, and she carefully slipped them through the silky locks.

The sun was beginning to peek through the window, and she considered the Kryptonian before her. She had never met anyone in her life who was so thoughtlessly selfless.

Lena wondered to herself if this instinct to protect was instilled or genetic. The House of El was well-known for caring for the helpless, lifting the weak, covering the wounded. It had long become a mark of Krypton – compassion and kindness. When Lex had told her that it was a Zor-El in the dungeon, her heart stuttered – she had heard of their bravery and honor, and thought to herself that this was certainly her most assured vehicle of escape.

She realized now that she had had no idea.

Her touch wandered across the hill of a muscled arm, her thumb stroking across the peak of a taught triceps.

And she recalled that strength was also a symbol of Krypton.

Not just their impenetrable skin, or their well-toned bodies. Kryptonian fortitude was envied and admired across the world. They were stubborn and fierce, and when focused on a singular task, were outrageously dangerous. A warm, amber feeling swirled through Lena’s stomach, and she ran her palm across Kara’s shoulder to sink her fingers into the soft hair at the back of the warrior’s neck.

As her nails scratched gently along Kara’s scalp, she made a soft hum of approval and burrowed her face farther into Lena’s legs.

Kara practically purred in her lap like a napping lion, and a small, wafting, smoke of a thought wandered across Lena’s consciousness as she absentmindedly stroked her hair.

Could she love this woman?

Lena frowned, watching her own hand sift through golden locks as if it was independent from her body.

She had known this woman for two weeks- it was impossible to consider.

Did she even truly know what love felt like?

She understood the concept of love. She understood the way Lillian regarded Lex, the pride and joy on her face when he did something she approved of. She watched the way young star-crossed lovers on her brother’s staff fawned all over each other in the kitchen when they thought they were alone.

The closest thing she could ever relate to love was how she felt when caring for the royal horses.

She loved the way they huffed and nuzzled her hands, the way they stepped impatiently in their stalls when she came near, the way their tails flicked when she brushed their manes.

But even that feeling she shored up into a careful box. The first time Lex had ridden one of her charges and it didn’t follow his orders with precision, she watched it being carted away the next morning. So she was careful about the things she chose to love.

Her fingers brushed so incredibly softly against tawny skin, tracing the edges of her jaw, running slowly along the fading pink scar that was a gash mere hours ago.

When she thought of love, the next word that followed it was home.

Homes were built in love. They contained it, and it filled them. She shook her head and gazed down at Kara, a deep breath leaving her chest. If their love was a home, it would be a hastily cobbled-together shack on the edge of a cliff. Teetering and precarious and temporary – waiting for the slightest shift in the breeze to topple it over.

Yet...

A strong hand had slipped up the outside of her thigh, the other tucking itself beneath Kara’s cheek. It was casually rubbing the tense muscle in her leg, massaging out a measure of stiffness, and Lena shook her head incredulously.

She was comforting her, even in her sleep.

A shroud of calm settled around Lena like a veil. This time, instead of running from it or freezing, she simply existed within it. She let it envelope them, and embraced the thrumming in her ribs. Her slender fingers rubbed at a knot in Kara’s shoulder, instinctively finding an angry bump of tension.

Kara groaned into her hand and inhaled a slow, deep breath, before lifting her face in confusion.

“Lena..?”

“Mmm.”

She didn’t halt her fingertips, instead choosing to stroke carefully along the twin muscles in the back of Kara’s neck. The blonde moaned softly and her cheek fell back down to her hand, her eyes dropping shut.

“I’m sorry for falling asleep. I meant to stay up.”

Lena traced her knuckle across Kara’s cheek then, simply looking down at her. It prompted Kara to open her eyes, and Lena half expected her to pull away, to make an excuse, to make for the door.

Instead, blue eyes balanced green ones, and Kara quietly took her in as Lena gently memorized the map of her face.

“Thank you. For staying,” Lena murmured. “For protecting me, even from imagined dangers.”

Kara captured Lena’s wrist and tugged it down. Her better judgement was still sleeping, and she slipped Lena’s hand under the heavy weight of her head, cradling it in her own and pressing her lips to it sleepily before settling back onto it.

She knew that she should be fighting against this, fighting to keep distance and time and space between them, but... she could fight when the sun was in the sky.

“I told you, Princess... I will always-”

Her sentence was cut off by the thick, overwhelming sound of a horn as it sailed across the palace.

Kara’s back immediately straightened, and she turned to stare out the window. Her hand was still in Lena’s, and it was tightening. A fog had crept up with the morning, and it was all pale grey and blue outside – as if the sea itself had gone missing.

The cry of the horn ruptured the silence again, and this time Kara rose. She squeezed Lena’s hand tightly and made to let it go when the brunette reached up and grasped at it.

“What is that?”

Blue eyes found hers once more, this time guarded and careful. She gave Lena’s hand another reassuring squeeze before slipping it away from her grip.

“My aunt.”

She was already making for Lena’s shattered door frame when the smaller girl slipped out of the warm, cozy sheets, shivering when her bare feet touched the cold tile. Her loose tunic fluttered around her upper thighs and she tucked her arms around herself as she followed Kara down the hall to her room.

“Kara, wait. Your aunt? Why does she require the sounding of a horn upon arrival?”

She received a sigh in response, and a shaken head.

“Because she can be absolutely ridiculous sometimes. She was always one for formalities – except, you know, when it comes to following orders or providing accurate battle reports.”

Lena watched Kara rifle through her closet, tugging a long-sleeved black tunic and deep grey pants down.

She leaned against the door frame and watched her go as she disappeared into the bathroom.

“Does she not live here?”

“No, she does not. She has a home she prefers, further inland – but she’s hardly ever there. I don’t know why she doesn’t sell the thing, considering how much time she spends in training.” Kara’s voice drifted out from the bathroom.

“In training?”

Kara reappeared in her bralette, pulling her tunic over her head and winding her long hair into a bun on the crown of her head.

“Yes, she’s never been one to delegate down responsibility. She likes to oversee all training, and as a result spends most of her year in the field.” She dropped down onto her couch and reached for a leather boot, tugging it on before realizing that she hadn’t really answered Lena’s question. She looked up at her as she tightened the laces. “She’s the general of all Kryptonian armies.”

Lena’s jaw dropped slightly.

“O-oh.”

Kara yanked on her other boot, tucking her grey pants into it before tightening it around her calf.

“I’m assuming she’s here to tell my parents that we’re all insane and that she’s taking control of the kingdom to save us from our horrible decision-making.”

Lena’s arm fell to her side, and she narrowed her gaze.

“Are you... joking? You’re joking, right?”

Kara chuckled and stood, sliding open a drawer in the chest against the wall and carefully lifting out a row of shimmering, clinking medals, shining leather belts, and golden clasps.

“I’m mostly joking. She has threatened to stage a coup before, but no one takes those threats too seriously. My father can usually placate her, but my mother tends to inflame the situation.”

Lena watched Kara pin the medals to her chest and buckle a complicated belt around her waist and over her right shoulder. The golden clasps, which Lena recognized as the crest of the house of El, she pinned to her shoulders.

She awkwardly stood in the doorway, feeling more and more under-dressed as Kara slipped her sword onto her belt and reached for her cloak.

“Should I... get dressed? Do we need to be somewhere?”

Kara shook her head as she pinned her cloak to her shoulders.

She was suddenly appearing very regal, and it was just as suddenly affecting Lena far more than she cared to admit.

“I suspect that my presence is going to be required in the Great Hall shortly.” She adjusted her tunic in the mirror carefully and strode quickly to the door. She stopped and gazed down at Lena. The slight heels in her boots made her that much taller than the raven-haired Princess, and Lena found herself tilting her chin up and staring up at the Kryptonian.

“You should stay here.” Her eyes softened a measure and she gently touched Lena’s hand. “Get some more rest. You had a long night. I will send someone over to leave breakfast for you in the sitting room.”

In a moment when she would typically be defiant simply for the sake of defiance – especially in the face of being told what to do – Lena found herself nodding silently.

“Good.”

Kara took a step and paused, then stooped suddenly and pressed a soft kiss to Lena’s cheek, before straightening quickly and making her way down the hall.

“I will see you this afternoon, Princess,” she called behind her, before pulling the door open and shutting it quietly behind her.

Lena was frozen in place with her palm pressed to her cheek, biting her lips to stop the ridiculous smile that was threatening to twist her lips up at the corners.

She shook her head and resolved to get back in bed.


 

“-the most astronomically stupid thing you could have possibly chosen. Do you have any idea what’s happening on the borders of your own country? You sit up here in your Crystal Palace and wander over to Kandor when you feel like mingling with the people, and that is your zone of concern. Never mind the- ”

“Astra. Mind yourself.”

The deep voice of Zor-El cut in as Kara stepped fully into the Great Hall.

His gaze landed on his daughter, and a woman who looked remarkably like Queen Alura turned to face her. She huffed out a breath, anger melting from her face, before opening her arms wide.

“My Princess.”

Kara felt her face break into a smile at the familiar, comforting sound of her aunt’s voice. She quickly pressed herself into her arms, wrapping her own tightly around her aunt’s strong body, pressing her face into her shoulder.

She relaxed into the embrace and decided the best course of action was to remind her aunt of how much she loved her niece – and hope that would be enough to cool her simmering anger.

“Aunt Astra. I’ve missed you.”

The older woman pressed a kiss into the top of Kara’s head.

“I’ve missed you too, little one. I am so happy to see you here, safe. When we received word of your capture I had immediately mobilized a battalion on the norther border, but someone – ” she gazed sharply back at Zor-El.

Kara squeezed her again hard before she could finish, and pulled back to gaze lovingly up at her aunt.

“Well the important thing is that I’m back now, isn’t it?”

The anger seemed to fade again, and Astra nodded reluctantly.

“Yes, of course.”

She grasped Kara’s shoulders tightly once more, before letting her go and turning back to face Zor-El and J’onn. They were seated in their respective chairs at the end of the Great Hall, the fog rolling slowly along outside the windows behind them.

Kara moved towards them, but stayed on the steps just between her father and Astra instead of taking her own seat beside Zor-El.

“What brings you to the Crystal Palace this morning, Aunt Astra? I’m assuming from the conversation when I entered that it isn’t to respond to my wedding invitation.”

Astra bristled at that, her arms crossing over her chest tightly.

“No, it isn’t. Princess, whatever this is with the Luthorian girl- ”

“Lena.”

“- it is causing unrest.”

Kara allowed herself a deep breath, before squaring her shoulders.

“I’m certain that it has. But in time, the Kryptonians and the Allied countries will eventually find something new to be angry about, and the rabble will turn to rouse about something else.”

“There have been casualties.”

Kara’s squared shoulders suddenly fell, and she took a step back down towards her aunt. Her father and J’onn murmured softly behind her.

“What?” she whispered.

Astra fixed her with a gaze full of steely intent, but it was softened by sadness and concern.

“Along the border to Dunol. Thrall’s men... his kingdom is not taking it well. There have been skirmishes. A half-Kryptonian soldier took an arrow to the chest and two Dunolans went down in the scuffle.”

Kara turned to look up at her father, her face full of sorrow and accusation.

“Did you know about this?”

His pursed lips gave her the answer she sought, before he even nodded.

She stared down at the white tile of the floor, her heart slamming against her ribs. She felt tears pooling angrily at the corners of her eyes, and she clenched her fists tightly to ward them away.

“When?”

“Two days ago.”

Kara rubbed a palm across her eyes, before tucking her hands behind her back in resignation.

“I’m assuming you are here to dissuade us from moving forward with the wedding.”

Astra shook her head. “No, I think we are beyond that at this point. Do I think it’s the most asinine thing you’ve ever done? Yes. But now that you’ve stepped in it, you’ve stepped in it, and we need to deal with wiping it up.”

Kara’s face flushed red with anger and no small measure of shame and sadness.

Blood was now on her hands. This was no longer a theory, a possibility to be wary of – it was real, and it had just become deadly. She set her jaw.

“I should go to Dunol. Someone needs to speak with King Thrall, to provide him reassurances.”

“That’s a terrible idea,” Astra countered. “You’re hardly Thrall’s favorite person right now – I doubt that passing through his borders and coming to his home is going to endear him to you further.”

Kara held her hands up in frustration. “Then what would you have me do? Or did you travel all this way to report on the death of one Kryptonian?” she finished bitterly.

“Kara.” Zor-El’s deep voice washed over. “Enough.”

J’onn leaned forward from his seat beside the King, clearing his throat softly.

“Your highness, if I may... I do think that the best course of action now is for someone to travel to Dunol. I believe it should be us.”

Zor-El shifted his attention back to Astra, who lifted her chin a notch higher.

"What say you, General?"

“I agree. With other countries, I believe a simple missive would suffice – or they may even be willing to bide their time until the wedding, to determine if an evil alliance truly has been struck. They can afford to wait. In the case of Dunol, their proximity to Krypton, his military capacity, and his history with Lex Luthor... this is certainly an instance where a gesture of good will and good faith would do a lot of good.”

Zor-El nodded and rose almost immediately, with J’onn following suit.

“Astra is right. J’onn, please send someone ahead of us to alert border parties we will be passing through this evening.”

“Yes, your highness.”

“And J’onn... send someone diplomatic, please.”

When the man had made his exit, Zor-El made to follow him.

“Father.”

Zor-El turned to Kara, and she could see his face full of measured anger, frustration, and sadness.

“I’m sorry.”

He shook his head and reached for her hand, pressing his fingers to hers gently before dropping it again. He spun on his heel and took off after J’onn.

Astra took his place before her, and settled her hands on Kara’s shoulders.

“Unfortunately, I will be following behind them. I can’t stay.”

Kara nodded, anxiety seeping into her face.

Her aunt tucked a finger under her chin and lifted it. Kara’s eyes moved back and forth across a hardened expression, and she reached up to grip the older woman’s elbows tightly.

“Please... don’t let anyone else get hurt. Not at my expense.”

Astra pressed a gentle kiss to Kara’s forehead and cupped her cheek gently.

“Zor-El will talk some sense into Thrall. You know your father is his favorite of the allied monarchs.”

She rolled her eyes in manufactured exasperation, to hide the building tears. Astra kissed her temple again and hugged her tight.

“I will be back to visit again, before the wedding. We can talk then about how much of a bonehead you are.”

Kara nodded and received a final nudge before Astra went the way of Zor-El and J’onn, leaving her alone in an empty Great Hall.

She stepped to the window, where the unusually heavy fog was building up along the cliffs. She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the window, her eyes dropping shut.

Guilt pressed into her like a heavy key, turning and unlocking the feelings of anxious dread she had been stamping down for the past few weeks.

Her worst fears were coming to fruition – she was responsible for the deaths of others, through her own reckless behavior.

A tear chartered its way down her face and she leaned against the cool glass of the window.

She began to question if she had made the right choice.


 

Chapter Text


 

When Zor-El returned the following morning, he summoned Kara to his office.

She stood to the side of the room, her arms crossed, gazing pensively out the window with a frown that couldn’t mask her true feelings.

The porter who had summoned her clicked the door shut behind her, and it was suddenly only Kara and Zor-El.

He gave her time.

When a weary sigh finally pressed away from her lips, he leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs.

“Come sit, daughter.”

She sank into a cushioned chair in front of his desk, leaning as far back into it as she could, as if hoping she could sink deep, deep down into the plush seat and disappear.

She attempted to keep a calm, stoic face, but the way her hands ran along the edge of her tunic gave her away.

Zor-El leaned forward and placed his elbows on his desk, giving her a knowing look.

She hated that look.

It was the look he gave her when he knew something that she didn’t want him to know. It was the look he gave her when she and Alex had stolen away in the middle of the night to consume the bottle of mead Kara had lifted from the kitchen. It was the look he gave her when she insisted that she hadn’t been on the field training with the squires, even though her boots were covered in mud and the Knight Captain had ratted her out.

It was the look he was giving her now, and it conveyed that he knew she was wracked with guilt – and that she was trying, and failing, to be a stoic warrior who accepts that death and the battlefield are a causality. One begets the other.

Except there hadn’t been a battle – only a dumb princess with notions of grandeur and an inescapable desire to prove herself.

And now three people were dead.

“Father, I- ”

He held up a hand to silence her.

“No more apologies. What’s done is done. We will perform the usual rites for the Kryptonian soldier and our condolences have been expressed to Thrall and his men. He has been placated for now, but I suspect that further conversations will need to occur in the coming weeks.”

She nodded silently, her eyes fixed to the rich, worn wood of his desk.

“We’re extending invitations to your wedding festival to the people of the Alliance.”

Kara started, grabbing at the arms of her chair tightly as she sat upright.

“Come again?”

A confident, powerful gaze fixed on hers, and Kara watched a muscle tick in her father’s jaw.

“It is late now, and we do not anticipate that many will be able to make the journey. But I feel as if this is the best course of action to encourage a strong, continuing Alliance.”

Kara stared at him for a beat, her heart pounding in her chest, and debated calling a healer to come examine his head.

“Father, with an invitation to the allied monarchs, their representatives, the lords and ladies of Krypton, and leaders of Kandor, our numbers were already in the low thousands. Do we even have the security, the resources? There could be as many as - ”

“Ten thousand.”

Her heart stuttered and she sank back against her chair heavily.

“I’m sorry?”

“We are expecting ten thousand.”

“That is insane!”

Kara rose to her feet angrily, her fingertips pressing into his desk, turning her knuckles white.

“You are putting the entire kingdom in danger! We do not have the man power for this, the border security issues alone are a nightmare!”

Zor-El pierced her through with icy blue eyes, his lips a hard, straight line across his face. He didn’t move, not even a fraction of an inch, and his eyes alone caused Kara to lower herself back into the chair behind her. He continued to glare for several moments before his even, low voice stretched across the desk.

“I am not putting this kingdom in danger through my actions, Princess Zor-El.”

His implication was heavy in his words, and a hand tightened around Kara’s heart as hot tears sprang to the corners of her eyes.

“We have an obligation to the kingdom of Krypton and the House of El to stop this domino effect before it reaches its conclusion – which is war.”

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk before him, and leveled her with his intense stare.

“You and Princess Lena will be married here, in Krypton, in two weeks, before the whole of the Alliance if it deigns to appear. There can be no question that Krypton has not made a political relationship with Luthoria. This must be a marriage borne of love, passion, and perhaps even impulsive youthfulness – it can be nothing less. You can make it nothing less.” He turned away from her, crossing his legs as his eyes found the peaceful blue sky outside the window. “Or more Kryptonians will die.”

A tear rolled down Kara’s face, and her nod was silent but noticed.

When she rose to her feet again, this time as if fighting against the weight of a hundred thousand souls, he shifted his eyes back up to her face – and this time, they were full of turmoil. Her own matched his.

“I must go speak with Princess Lena.”

Zor-El nodded in acquiescence and stood as well.

“I know that you are feeling guilt. These are your people, sometimes I think even more than they are mine. But your duty to your country now must take precedence over everything. Guilt, fear, anger, sorrow, everything. Put it aside. Do your duty, Princess.”

She set her jaw despite a tear tracking down her face, and gave him one more short nod before spinning on her heel and walking away.


 

Winn got to Lena with the news before Kara did.

She found them in her study, where Lena was staring at him in open-mouthed shock.

“Say that again.”

“Ten thousand attendees.”

“Ten thousand?!”

Ten thousand!!!” Winn repeated with glee. “It’s the largest Kryptonian wedding festival in history!”

Lena sat on the edge of the desk, unsteady, and searched for Kara. When her eyes finally landed on her face, it was cringing and apologetic. Lena glared at her. Winn’s smile faded into glancing confusedly between them.

“Did you know about this?” She watched Kara’s shoulders slump. “You did.” 

She shot back to her feet. “You knew and you didn’t tell me. Your mother and I have been planning this wedding for weeks! We were expecting at most two thousand. Did you think I wouldn’t notice, Kara? That a few thousand turned into ten thousand people celebrating our wedding? Did you think I simply did not know how to count?!”

“Um... that’s my signal. Your highness.” Winn bowed at the waist before scurrying towards the door. Kara wheeled around on him.

“Winslow Schott the Second! You better get back- ” The snapping of the door cut her off and she dropped her forehead into her hand, massaging her temples.

“Kara.”

The blonde sighed and steeled herself, slowly turning back towards Lena. “Yes, Princess?”

Lena crossed her arms and leaned her hip on the desk, a beautiful eyebrow arched in annoyance.

“Do not Princess me right now, it will not perform any favors for you.”

Kara closed one eye tightly and scrunched her face up, before ultimately giving in to the knowledge that this conversation was unavoidable. She stepped over to the beautiful bar beneath a tall window and poured herself a small drink, then paused and poured a second glass, turning back to offer it to Lena. When it was not accepted, she set it down on the table between them, leaning against the arm rest of the couch there.

“In my defense... I was just informed myself.” She looked down into her drink, swirling it gently.

Lena raised her eyebrows expectantly. “Informed? You’re acting as if you had no choice. This is our wedding Kara, how could it not be that we have some measure of control? That I have some measure of control? Or is this the point where the dynamic shifts and I become your subservient wife?”

Kara’s eyes flashed up at her, angry. She set her drink down beside her, untouched, and stood full height.

“When will you let this notion go? I will never expect that of you! You are my equal here, Lena. I will never force you to do anything you do not wish to do – including staying here, continuing to be married to me, participating in a Kryptonian wedding, any of it. You are free to leave as you please!”

“You say that I am your equal, and yet I didn’t appear to be important enough to help make this decision for our own wedding, Kara. Didn’t you think that I would have something to say? There a hundred security concerns! This kind of attention is going to draw Lex right to us, and with that amount of people it’ll be all too easy for him to slip someone past the borders. Didn’t it occur to you that I might have concerns, and that my input would be valid?” She threw her hands up and pushed off from the desk, placing her palms on her hips and pacing in agitation.

A deep sigh traveled past Kara’s lips. “Of course. Of course I did. I came here as soon as I found out.”

She made her way to the couch and sat on it, catching Lena’s eye and patting it gently.

“Would you please come sit with me for a moment?”

Lena eyed her angrily from where she was pacing, making no move to join her. Kara folded her hands in her lap.

“You don’t need to stop being angry with me. I understand. But just... let me explain. Even if it doesn’t change how you feel.”

The brunette blew out a breath and joined her on the couch, stone-faced. “Explain, then.”

Kara looked her in the eyes, radiating sincerity and sadness.

“My father chose this. I did not. We have many allies and we trade with many other countries, and they are not all friendly with your brother. We do not want to risk...” She sighed and dropped eye contact. “We do not want to risk further casualties.”

Lena frowned. “Further casualties? What does that mean?”

She was met with silence. She reached out and touched her fingertips gently to the top of Kara’s hand. Kara stared down at their hands.

“Our marriage announcement does not have... quite as many supporters as one could hope.” She shook her head angrily. “Several days ago, a couple of skirmishes broke out along the border of Krypton and Dunol. Everything has been sorted out now, but my father had to ride to their capital to assure King Thrall that Krypton has not made a political relationship with Luthoria. When he returned, this was the choice he had made. To keep Krypton safe.”

With that name, realization fell over Lena. Her back rounded as she dropped her forehead into her hands. Kara reached for her knee.

“Your brother...”

“Beheaded the Dunolan king’s niece. I know,” she whispered softly.

Kara watched her quietly, trying to tamper down the surge of emotions blazing through her.

She failed.

Her face dropped into her hands, and her shoulders shook. She pressed her eyes into her palms and silently cried, her trembling fingers pushing back against the tendrils of hair along her hairline.

A warm, gentle arm slipped around her shoulders, and Kara found herself with her face pushed against Lena’s chest and a comforting hand against the back of her head.

Fingers threaded through her hair and stroked soothingly along her scalp, and Lena held her up as she cried into her collar. She waited patiently until her tears eventually subsided.

Without thinking, Lena turned and pressed her lips to the side of Kara’s head, murmuring to her softly.

“How many? Casualties?”

Powerful hands gripped the front of her tunic, and the response came as a haggard whisper.

“Three.”

Lena’s arms tightened around her. She held her close in a way that she had never held anyone before. She had no idea if this was how you appropriately comforted someone – it just had seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

She held her for ten, twenty, thirty minutes, before her soft whisper gently disrupted the silence.

“I... I know that you are upset. I am very sorry that you are feeling this way. I am very sorry that those soldiers have died.”

Her hand slipped slowly down Kara’s back before pressing back up again.

“But... for what it’s worth.” She tilted her head back until Kara’s face lifted from her chest to look up at her. “I will be grateful for the rest of my life that you chose to come to Luthoria that night.”

An emotion dawned across Kara’s face, rising slowly like the sun, and she sat back on the couch. Lena’s arms dropped to her sides again, but she found one hand captured between Kara’s. She stared down at it, and Kara’s thumb skirted along the back of her hand.

A hundred words flitted across Kara’s tongue before she gave voice to them.

“At this moment, I don’t know what kind of sacrifices I’m willing to make for you, or your freedom,” came the warrior’s hoarse response. “I wasn’t expecting to feel this way. My people are incredibly important to me, and I do not take their deaths lightly – especially at my hands. But I just...” Red-rimmed blue eyes sought hers, and they were full of anguish. “I just realized that if I had the choice to do it over again, I would.”

Lena squeezed her hand gently.

They sat in companionable silence for a while longer, processing their own individual newfound feelings,  before Kara cleared her throat softly.

“There’s something else, Princess. And you don’t have to give me an answer now, you can take your time and think about it.”

Lena’s brow furrowed in confusion as Kara continued.

“I know that in the past you have mentioned leaving. And you are free to leave as you please. Travel the world, experience everything it has to offer. And I still think that is a wonderful plan, one that you should follow through on until your heart is full of happiness and experiences and life.”

Lena tensed.

“But you want me to stay.”

“If you’re willing... I would really like it if you stayed. If only for a while longer.”

“How long?”

Kara sighed, shaking her head. “I don’t know. Perhaps a year? Krypton is balanced very precariously right now, on the edge of a thin blade. I am... very concerned that things are worse than my Father is telling me.”

Lena searched her eyes silently for a moment, weighing her heart against her head.

“We need to really sell our love to the Alliance, don’t we?”

Kara nodded quietly, her eyes remaining fixed to the back of the couch.

Lena blew out a breath slowly. She knew that she was currently experiencing a safety that the Kryptonians did not need to provide for her.

If she was honest, the best thing for Kara and her family would be if she stole away in the night, called the whole thing off, and returned to Luthoria. She knew that it was dangerous for her to be on her own right now, so slipping into the shadows was impossible.

Yet for some reason, these Kryptonians were invested in her. They seemed to care about her, and if she was continuing to be honest to herself, she was beginning to care about them.

Ten thousand attendees, a promise to stay for a full year... she’d be surprised if any of them made it out alive.

Her eyes caught sight of deep blue ones, and something clenched around her heart. Kara had done everything she could for the last month to keep her safe, comfortable, and happy – when she could have left her in the Lilliana River back in Luthoria. She could truthfully send her sailing out of Krypton with nothing but the clothes on her back and a good luck, and it would make their lives all the more easier. Sure, there would be some fall out, but nothing compared to marrying a Luthor.

Yet she hadn’t done that. None of them had even suggested it.

She inhaled deeply and squeezed the hand in her grasp. “I will stay.”

The Kryptonian blew out a breath and impulsively kissed the back of her hand before releasing it.

“Thank you,” she whispered breathily.

Lena felt a surprising calm settle onto her shoulders at her decision. An anxiety, perhaps borne of uncertainty, had been roiling in her stomach for the past several weeks – and she found it suddenly much quieter.

Kara leaned back against the couch, crossing her legs and reaching for her drink. She rested her arm on the back of the seat and turned to Lena.

“So now what?” Lena asked.

“Now... I suppose that now is as good a time as any to tell you the details of a full, traditional Kryptonian wedding.”

Lena’s eyebrows rose, and she found the edge of her mouth turning up into a smile. She settled back onto the other end of the couch and slipped her shoes off, tucking her bare feet beneath her and taking a sip of her drink before waving her hand. “Alright then, Princess. Regale me.”


 

Chapter Text

 

Day One - Duty


Seven Days Before the Festival

“Alright then, Princess. Regale me.”

As you now know, a traditional royal Kryptonian wedding lasts for seven days. Kryptonians live by a set of virtues that we attempt to exemplify in all aspect of our lives, and these virtues are reflected in our marriages and wedding ceremonies. There are seven total - one for each day of the festival.

The first of these virtues is duty. We will be expected to greet arriving monarchs as ambassadors throughout the day, and we will take audiences of Kryptonians and Alliance members in the Great Hall with my father before the welcome feast."


 

It was the morning of the first day.

Lena had watched in wonder the week before as the beautiful, open fields around the Crystal Palace were suddenly filled with soaring tents, small camps, fires, laughter, the clashing of swords, the smell of food, the prance of horse hooves, and people.

So, so many people.

They sang, they drank, they danced into the night. A hundred different heights, races, relationships. They co-mingled peacefully, and though there was an occasional fist thrown from too much wine, all was forgiven in the light of the morning.

It was the most incredible thing she’d ever seen.

The Allied Monarchs and certain members of Kryptonian leadership, of course, were given chambers in the Crystal Palace. Lord and Lady Danvers from the northern kingdom, for example, quartered with Alex and Sam.

The fields were reserved for sojourning people of the Alliance. Estimates had been conservative – Kryptonian borders and ports were heavily clogged, and it could take an entire day to pass through. But they began arriving as early as Monday, and pass through they did. A quick sample count of the surrounding fields put the numbers at closer to 13,000.

The sun had risen, and the smell of cooking meat drifting in from the fields was heavy in the air.

Kara had been up and dressed before dawn broke, citing an errand that required her attention, and that she would return to collect Lena before they were due in the Great Hall.

Lena tugged in annoyance at the gold cloak pinned to her dress. It felt odd on her back, and her mounting anxiety at what was the start of a very stressful week only further exacerbated the situation. She regarded herself in the mirror before her, eyes tracing over carefully pinned hair, lined lashes, and delicate collarbones exposed above a deep maroon dress that draped across her shoulders. She chose it because it was simple and comfortable, but also because it closely resembled the colors of the House of El.

If she cared to admit it to herself, she mostly chose it because she thought that it would make Kara smile.

She wasn’t wrong.

When she greeted the blonde princess in the hall outside their wing later that morning, the Kryptonian immediately grinned and reached out, catching the edge of her dress between her fingers and rubbing the soft material.

“You always look wonderful in this color, Princess.”

Lena tried to shrug away the compliment, but couldn’t hide the way her cheeks colored. Kara tilted her head to the side, and stepped around behind her.

“Ah, your cloak is a bit twisted back here. Is it alright if I...” she paused, waiting for permission.

Lena glanced at her over her shoulder. “Please, it’s been driving me crazy all morning.”

Kara untwisted the cloak and Lena sighed in relief when it finally settled into a comfortable position. The blonde smoothed it out gently over her back, and Lena felt a warm sensation move through her when her hand lingered on her waist a second longer than necessary. When Kara cleared her throat and stepped back, offering her arm to Lena, she found herself missing the feeling.

She slipped her arm through Kara’s and they made their way towards the Great Hall to receive the first round of wedding guests. Lena’s eyes trailed down Kara’s dress uniform - a beautiful deep blue tunic with a high collar and gold threading that hugged in exactly the right places, long, flowing sleeves cuffed over strong wrists, and a beautiful golden belt at her waist with her sword hanging at her hip. The crest of El was pinned to her chest above a neat row of medals. Her familiar cloak hung from both shoulders, and her trousers and boots were more formal than their traditional utilitarian versions. Her hair was pinned back from her face in an elegant, feminine half-ponytail.

Kara caught Lena eyeing her, and the brunette reached over with her free hand and patted Kara’s arm gently. “You look wonderful too, Princess Zor-El.”

She thought she saw the Kryptonian swell a little, but she bit back her smile.

 


 

“Your majesty, may I present King Davide and Queen May Sommers of Vathlo.”

The call rang through the Great Hall, and an enormous man with long black hair and deeply tanned skin strode through the door with a much, much smaller woman behind him sporting an enormous belly. He wore an elaborate white tunic with a brilliant sky-blue cloak, and his deep voice boomed across the space like thunder.

“Zor-El! My old friend. It is so good to see you again, especially no longer under the auspices of pretending to like Thrall’s company!”

King Zor-El threw his head back in laughter and climbed down from his seat, greeting him with a clasped forearm and an arm thrown around his shoulders. He briefly pressed their foreheads together and pulled back to grin at him.

“And it is good to see you again, Davide. Though I would not speak so loudly. Thrall is not here yet, but his ears are everywhere – and I doubt my daughter and her bride would take very kindly to open combat during their wedding. Queen May, you are looking absolutely stunning, as usual.” He leaned down and she pressed her forehead to his before pulling him into a tight hug.

A jovial laugh echoed through the hall, and the large man nearly sent Zor-El flying with a slap on his back. He grinned, flashing white teeth.

“That is the main difference between Kryptonian weddings and Vathlothian weddings! We relish open combat. It’s good for the blood!” He lowered his voice, but it still sailed through the air as he leaned in towards the king, locking eyes with Lena as he waggled his eyebrows. “And good blood makes for fast heirs.”

Lena’s eyes widened as her smile froze on her face, her cheeks flaming the color of her dress, and she felt Kara start next to her.

Thankfully, Queen May intercepted on their behalf. She sucked her teeth and laid a sound smack on the King’s shoulder, frowning at him. He ducked his head and rubbed his arm sheepishly. Though it certainly did not affect him, it was amusing to see this giant man brought to bear by a woman one third his size.

“Davide! Do not talk of such things right now. They are just to be wed this week! Let them live life before you push them into making babies.” She rubbed her own stomach absentmindedly, shaking her head in disapproval. He just shrugged at Zor-El, who gave him a small smile. “Now greet these lovely Princesses with me so we may be off to a hot bath and a nap.”

Kara slipped an arm around Lena’s waist and pressed her lips to her cheek, using the opportunity to murmur into her ear softly. “Formal Vathlothians greetings are somewhat strange. Do not pull away, we do not mean to offend.” Lena nodded imperceptibly and smiled at Kara as if she had said something sweet to her.

The King approached them and cupped Kara’s face in his enormous hands. For a heart-stopping moment Lena was certain he was going to kiss her, but he simply pressed his forehead to hers and closed his eyes. She covered his hands with hers and closed her eyes as well. He whispered something to her in a language Lena did not understand, before pulling back and smiling down at her. He wrapped her in crushing hug and set her back on her feet, moving on to Lena as May took his place behind him.

His hands were warm and surprisingly soft on her face, and she mirrored Kara’s actions. His words and the scent of sandalwood washed over her like a gentle wave, and she found herself somehow feeling calmer, though she could not understand what he was saying. When he was finished he hugged her tightly, but just before he let go he whispered loudly “Fast heirs!”

“Mah’lo! Go!” He was smacked again and shooed out of the way by his wife. He grinned and let her.

She stepped into Lena’s space and pressed her forehead to hers. In the same manner as her husband, her words soothed Lena and brought a peaceful smile to her lips. When she pulled away, the Queen captured her wrist and pulled her hand down to place it gently on her enormous belly. Lena froze, marveling at how firm and round it felt, staring down at it in amazement. She smiled kindly at Lena.

“Do not rush. There will be time for babies. There is not always time for friendship. Create one first, and then move on to heirs.” She patted Lena’s hand on her belly, then reached for her husband’s arm.

“Come Davide. I need to be off my feet for a while.” He wound an arm around her with surprising gentleness and bowed his head to Zor-El.

“King Zor-El. We will see you tonight at the welcome feast. Thank you again for our invitation, and we are looking forward to this week in your kingdom.”

“And we are looking forward to your company, King Davide. I hope that your accommodations are exactly to your taste, but if there are any issues please don’t hesitate to let the staff know.”

He grinned at his friend and nodded his head again once, escorting Queen May out of the hall.

When Zor-El returned to his seat and became involved in a quiet conversation with Sam, Kara turned to speak with Lena.

She found her somewhat shocked, her hand hovering in the air where it had been placed on the Queen’s stomach.

Kara eyed her curiously, before reaching out and lowering her hand for her. When she still seemed frozen in place, Kara stepped in front of her and ducked her head down to catch her eyes, bringing her hands up slowly to grasp her shoulders.

“Lena..? Are you alright?”

Wide green eyes met hers. “... Heirs?”

Kara rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Don’t pay them any mind. They have heirs to spare. Queen May is with their tenth and eleventh child currently. Vathlo is a small island, and they find themselves with entirely too much free time on their hands.”

“Heirs.” Still, Lena stared at her.

Kara shook her gently. “Lena. Are you listening to me?”

When she finally seemed to loosen from her daze, she leaned in to whisper frantically at Kara. “I am... and you are... How, though? How would we even have heirs?”

Kara blushed and leaned closer. “Lena, do you think that this is the best venue for this conversation?” she whispered.

“But Kara, I don’t understand. I am a woman and you are a woman, to produce heirs we would need- "

Fingers pressed to her lips to silence her, and Kara glanced around them to see if anyone was listening.

“Lena! I promise that we can have this conversation later, but I would sincerely prefer not to discuss our sex life in public spaces.”

Lena’s eyebrows shot up so hard it seemed as if they may hit the ceiling. “Our- our-”

As if in sudden realization of what she’d implied, Kara’s eyes widened and she cringed. “I didn’t mean... Rao. Obviously we don’t have a sex life. I just...” Lena could see sweat forming near her hairline. “Can we please speak of this later?”

Just as Lena opened her mouth, the sound of a trumpet blared through the hall, signaling the arrival of another guest. Kara sighed with relief and turned back towards the door.

Lena simply stared at a fixed point in space, her emotions a tangled mess in her stomach.

Their sex life?

 


 

The morning passed as a blur, and Lena found herself riding waves of emotions. Most greetings were short and polite. Some were as warm and friendly as Davide and May, such as when King Menon and Captain Lazari arrived from Bolenth. The king apologized for the absence of his wife, who had elected to remain in Thon with their daughter who was still nursing and too young to travel. Captain Lazari congratulated them both with a massive, enveloping hug.

Some greetings were very tense.

Royal families of countries that had been wronged by the elder Luthor brother stared at her coldly, barely deigning to acknowledge her in formal introductions. To her credit, Kara immediately picked up on the tension coiling in Lena’s body and pressed a gentle hand to the small of her back. Lena found herself leaning back into it, grateful to have an anchor.

The arrival of King Thrall and his wife, however, was downright icy. The words he exchanged with Zor-El were short and succinct, but when he turned to greet Kara and Lena his voice contained barely-concealed malice. A dark grey fur rested on the shoulders of a thick man, his hair a rich chestnut, his beard neatly trimmed against his face. The Queen was pale, with brilliant blonde hair, angled cheekbones, and rosy lips.

If they hadn’t been glaring at her with contempt, Lena would have found them both incredibly beautiful.

Lena had never been more relieved at Kara’s protective tendencies than when she took a subtle step in front of her, tugging Lena partially behind her until she was pressed into the back of her shoulder. She found herself slipping her fingers into the silky material of her cloak with her left hand, while her right hand trailed down Kara’s arm and tangled their fingers together. The blonde squeezed her hand tightly, reassuringly, and Lena felt instantly comforted.

“King Thrall, Queen Ravena, it is so nice that you have traveled so far to-“

A deep, angry tenor cut her off, and deep brown eyes pierced her through.

“We came to ensure the peace between Dunol and Krypton in spite of your marriage to a Luthor, Princess, not because of it. We are not here to celebrate.” Venom dripped from his voice at the mention of Lena’s name.

Kara’s eyes narrowed and a barb poised on the tip of her tongue, ready to be unleashed, when she was cut off by her father.

“King Thrall, it is going to be a very long week for all of us if we can not at least practice civility and temperance.”

The angry king rounded on Zor-El, his lip curling. “Civility? Her brother, that monster-“

“Is not here.” Zor-El finished calmly. “Nor will he ever be, unless it is to lay down his arms and answer for his crimes. As I stated in your capital two weeks ago, Krypton and Luthoria have made no alliances as kingdoms. The only binding you will see between the two stands before you, and their relationship is both private and uninfluenced by politics.”

Thrall sniffed in disbelief and grumbled, his posture still tense. His wife remained cold and silent beside him.

“Be that as it may. There are things to be answered for, and discussions to be had.”

Zor-El nodded, his voice appeasing and low. “You will have the discussions and answers you seek, Thrall. But it will not be in this moment, in this hall. Now your journey, I’m sure, has been long and arduous. I invite you to relax in your provided chambers until this evening, and I would be happy to speak with you again after dinner. I have ordered a special casket of mead from Fjord Nell for you – I thought perhaps we’d crack it open tonight.”

This finally seemed to ease some of the tension from Thrall’s face, and he raised an eyebrow. “Master Gracie’s honeyed wheat brew?”

“The very one.” Zor-El smiled.

Thrall waited a beat, then gave a sharp nod and spun on his heel, heading for the exit. His wife silently followed him, and Lena did not feel her body relax until all sounds of his footsteps had faded.

Kara’s eyes were flashing angrily, and she turned to her father. “How could you let him speak to us this way? He is the king of nothing but ice and rocks, useless and angry-“

“That is enough, Princess.” Zor-El’s firm voice cut her off, and he gave her a sharp look from his seat. “King Thrall is a man who has experienced great pain at the hands of a mad king, and he is to be sympathized with and endured.”

“His pain does not give him cause to inflict more, especially upon a member of the house of El.” Kara responded, her voice tight.

Zor-El nodded at her, meeting her eyes with his grounded gaze. “You are correct. Be that as it may – it is your duty as a Kryptonian princess to practice patience, kindness, and charity. You are to be wed – consider this the first test of your values, warrior.”

Lena found Kara’s hand gripping hers tightly. She released her cloak with her left hand and brought it around to their tangled right hands, rubbing her fingertips gently along the inside of Kara’s wrist. She tilted her face up towards Kara’s ear.

“It’s alright, Princess,” she whispered softly. “It’s only for a week.” Kara gave her a glance over her shoulder that radiated danger, and Lena could still see irritation storming in her eyes.

She pressed the length of her body into Kara's side purposefully, and tried to slip comfort into her tone. “It does not bother me when you are by my side,” she murmured soothingly.

She felt then as if something passed between them - something green and gentle, warm and reassuring. Something like soft moss along the forest floor, spongy and verdant and light grey after a pleasant rain. It wrapped languidly around Kara, unseen, unheard, but felt in every cell. It ghosted along her jaw and settled comfortably in her chest.

Kara inhaled and exhaled deeply, and the anger finally seemed to melt from her body.

She turned back to her father. “I apologize. Thank you for preventing me from speaking something childish. If you do not mind, I believe that our morning has been quite long enough, and I would like to escort Princess Lena back to our wing before we begin receiving citizens.”

Zor-El rubbed his beard and a deep sound of approval rumbled through his chest.

“You may take your leave.” Lena tucked her hand into Kara’s arm and they turned to exit the hall before Zor-El’s clear voice rang out again.

“Princess Lena.” They stopped and turned back to him, Lena’s heart pounding in her chest. She was rarely addressed directly by Zor-El.

“Yes, your majesty?”

“It is not a common day that the temper of my hot-headed daughter is so easily cooled. I think that I will not underestimate your influence and power in the future.” His eyes twinkled with amusement as Kara’s shoulders bunched.

Lena offered him a small smile and a brief bow of her head before they turned for the door.


 

Chapter Text


 

Receiving citizens of Krypton and the Alliance turned out to be Lena’s version of a waking nightmare.

After a brief lunch they returned to the Great Hall, where several brilliantly carved chairs had been placed at the far end in a staggered pattern. Zor-El’s seat sat evenly with Alura’s, who was noticeably absent – Zor-El apologized on her behalf and cited wedding preparations.

Kara sat to his right side and just slightly behind him, with Lena to her right.

J’onn, Alex, Sam, and Cat Grant were seated at a table to the left of Alura’s seat, notebooks and pens prepared to take notes of their meetings.

Slowly, one by one, Kryptonians and countrymen of the Alliance brought forth concerns, questions, and issues for the Kryptonian monarchy to resolve.

There was the occasional land dispute. Concerns with taxes, quarrels about trade laws, requests for charitable donations.

But their concerns were, overwhelmingly, that a Luthor was poised to enter their ranks.

Lena wished more and more as each passed through the Hall that she could melt into the ornate chair beneath her and disappear.

After the first few, Kara had reached over and grasped her hand tightly. She found herself once more grateful for the anchor.

Each concern was met with the same tone and answer from Zor-El: Krypton has not made a political alliance with Luthoria.

An hour into the afternoon, Kara snapped.

A Zithan lord stood before them currently, tall and dark and proud in his brilliant red robes and turban. His accent, thick and beautiful, voiced once more a concern that Lena Luthor meant to cause the Alliance harm.

Kara slammed to her feet, her eyes blazing. Lena grabbed for her hand to tug her back down, but found a firm palm pressed to her chest, pressing her back into the seat. She grasped at Kara’s wrist and plead softly.

“Kara don’t, really- ”

“No, this is quite enough. Father, how long will we sit here and give the same answer to the same people? How long will you force me endure a baseless attack on my wife, who is guilty of nothing but an incorrect last name?”

Zor-El pursed his lips thoughtfully, and turned to the Zithan lord.

“Lord Av’dul, do many of your people feel this same way?”

His deep voice answered slowly. “We are... divided, your majesty. We believe strongly in redemption, but never at the price of destruction.”

The king nodded, and folded his hands in his lap. Kara bristled as his usual speech rolled off his tongue.

“Sir, I apologize for any distress that this union has brought to your people. I can assure you my daughter marries only for love, and that Princess Lena is fully prepared to remove her associations with her previous name in favor of becoming an integral part of the House of El. I am also prepared to place all faith and trust in her word and her honor in this matter. We hope that your attendance here throughout this week will convince you of the same.”

The Zithan lord seemed to find this answer at least somewhat acceptable, for he then bowed at the waist and requested permissions to be excused, which Zor-El promptly granted.

Lena watched tension gathering in Kara’s back and forearms, and squeezed her hand gently.

“Father, I will hear no more of this. At the very least, allow Princess Lena to leave.”

Zor-El shook his head silently. “There is no need, Princess.” He called out to the royal crier at the door. “Jonathon, that will be enough audiences. The Princesses will address the Alliance as one at the welcome feast this evening.”

Relief moved through Kara, but she quickly tensed again when a call came from the entrance to the Great Hall.

“Wait! No, please. You must listen! Please!”

A woman was struggling to make her way past a palace guard. She was wearing simply blue robes, and carrying a small bundle in her arms.

“Your highness, please. I’ve been waiting all day.”

Zor-El had a denial poised on his tongue, when Lena’s clear voice rang through the empty space.

“Let her through.”

She stunned even herself, opening and closing her mouth slowly as Kara and Zor-El turned to look down at her in amusement.

“Your highness, my apologies. I don’t...”

He chuckled and looked at Kara. “Watch that one. She’s going to be running Krypton right under your nose.”

“Now that’s something I’d like to see.” Kara murmured, laughter twinkling in her eyes.

Zor-El turned back to the door. “Come, Kryptonian.”

The palace guards released her and she pushed past them, hiking the bundle in her arms higher and approaching carefully. She seemed suddenly overwhelmed by her surroundings, looking up at the arching white marble above her with wide eyes, before remembering she came here with a purpose.

She did her best to bow before Zor-El, given what she was holding, and righted herself slowly.

Her plain brown hair hung around her shoulders, giving her a simple appearance, but her face was lovely in the way that Lena was learning was purely Kryptonian.

“Your highness, I need your help. Please... my daughter...”

She tugged down a bit of the cream-colored cloth covering the bundle in her arms and Lena’s heart stuttered at the face of a pale baby with rosy cheeks.

Zor-El uncrossed his legs and leaned forward, his face suddenly full of concern.

“What is the matter, madam?”

Tears filled the woman’s eyes, and she shook her head. “I do not know, your majesty. She went to sleep and refuses to wake. She’s been like this for three days.”

Kara sank back into her seat beside Lena, her eyes distressed. Zor-El turned to J’onn.

“Sir Jones, quickly – get the castle healer.”

He rose swiftly and disappeared down a side hall.

Her earlier tears fell, and the woman whimpered softly. “Thank you, your highness. Thank you.”

J’onn returned with the healer in minutes, as well as Lady Eliza Danvers. They both gently took the baby from the woman’s arms, and she stood anxiously beside them as they checked her over. The woman followed the healer back to the palace clinic, and Lady Danvers waited until they had disappeared before turning back to address the three.

“Well?” Zor-El asked expectantly. “Have you seen this before?”

Eliza nodded. “Yes. A few times, particularly in the southern kingdom.”

“What is it? What can be done?” Kara asked, her voice a pitch higher than normal.

Lady Danvers shook her head sadly. “Unfortunately... nothing that I have seen. Sometimes they come out of it, but... sometimes they never wake.”

Kara and Zor-El both sat back in their seats heavily, but a memory was pricking at the back of Lena’s memory. Something she’d read once, in a set of books she stole from her brother...

“I think I can help.”

They all turned to her, wearing equal expressions of confusion.

“You are trained as a healer, Princess?” Eliza asked cautiously.

The raven-haired woman shook her head as she stood, taking the few steps down to the main floor of the Great Hall quickly.

“No, Lady Danvers. But I think that I have read about this before. And if you’re saying that the chances are already poor... I would like to try.”

Eliza glanced at Zor-El, who gave a nod of encouragement. “Bring her to the healer, Eliza.”

They were away quickly, and Kara turned to her father as she stood and made to follow them.

“Do you think she’ll be able to help?”

Zor-El regarded her with years of wisdom behind his eyes.

“I think that if she does, it will be a remarkable win for the outcast Princess.”

 


 

Kara paced anxiously in the hall outside the palace clinic.

It had been hours, only interrupted by Lena calling for a squire, whom she quickly sent on a trip into the forest surrounding the palace for an herb. She disappeared once more, only reappearing to take the plant from the squire when he returned.

The blonde slumped against the wall outside the door, a feeling of anxiety roiling through her.

They were already walking on a thin ledge...

A sharp cry of a woman pierced through the door, and dread seized Kara’s heart tightly.

It was swiftly followed by the shrieking wail of a baby.

The door flung open, and Lena exited, beaming in a way that Kara had never seen before.

She stared at her in wide-eyed shock, a slow grin creeping across her face.

“Princess... you did it!!”

Lena laughed that hearty, deep laugh that tugged at Kara’s chest, and she was suddenly overcome with the urge to sweep the woman off her feet in a hug.

So she did.

She spun her in several circles and Lena squealed softly, laughing breathlessly when Kara placed her back on her feet.

Tears filled her eyes as Kara once more hugged her tightly, and she wound her arms around the tall woman’s neck, her grin pulling at the edges of her face.

“I did. I did do it.”

Kara pulled back and beamed down at her.

“Princess... I think that we have found your official royal position here at the Crystal Palace.”


 

Chapter Text


 

The stars were swirling overhead, beaming and iridescent and glowing brilliantly down on a deep blue world, tinted with teal and silver.

Thrills raced along raised skin, naked and a little broken and whispering with sweat.

Gentle lips ghosted across a collar bone, pressing carefully, poetically, into a glinting golden symbol.

Warm hands slipped down curved sides, the barest hint of fingernails scraping across velvet skin.

A racing heart thrummed in ear drums, blood rushing through veins, scarlet heat pooling in cheeks and lips and unspoken places.

Teeth slipped down the swells of breasts, heaving like the swells of the sea, crashing along the coast of pale sands and pale skin.

Sharp hips are pressed down into the softest blanket laid upon the softest grass, and the soaring, private white walls rose up around them, shuttering the world away.

Slender fingers threaded into golden hair that meandered down a yielding belly like a river flowing home.

Tahv Zehdh... Pil khap, zhao.

A breathy moan drifted through the night breeze, feathery and light as air.

Trembling knees were parting, in the same way the leaves part when the morning sun breaks through sky.

Gentle whimpers transformed to throaty groans as a silken kiss, pressed there, there, and finally, finally there-

Knock knock.

“Princess?”

Lena gasped and rocketed up from the bed, her lungs filling with air and collapsing just as quickly as she tightened her grip on the sheets. She stared down at herself in confusion, then out at the dark sky beyond the windows, grey and lit with a half moon.

Her legs were shaking, and her knuckles ached from grasping the fabric.

“Lena?” came the call again. “Are you alright, Princess?”

“Y-Yes!” She pressed fingertips to her forehead and frowned as confusion raced through her. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure..? Your heart is beating very hard, did you have another nightmare? I can come in and sit with you.”

Lena tugged the blankets up over her chest and stared at the turning doorknob with panic.

“No! Please, it’s quite alright. I’m fine. Just a nightmare, as you said.”

The door knob quietly returned to its place. A few moments passed, and Lena felt a warmth radiate through her chest. She closed her eyes and reached for the mark on her skin, her fingertips tracing along it slowly.

Kara was sending her peace, and it flooded through her like warm water.

“Please let me know if you need me. I’m just next door.”

“Thank you, Princess,” Lena whispered softly.

When she was certain that Kara had stepped away, she dropped her face into her hands and breathed out a deep breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.

She slipped her legs out from beneath the blankets that were suddenly too warm, and pressed her feet to the cool wood floor.

She lifted the glass of water from the small table beside the bed and brought it to her lips, drinking long and slow. When she placed it back down on the table, she held onto it tightly, as if she needed some kind of tether to reality.

Her eyes searched beyond the window once more, but all they found were white caps rolling in from the deep.

She sucked in a lungful of air and gently probed the memory of a dream that somehow felt like the most real thing that’s ever happened to her.

It was as if she could still feel it all around her.

Caresses moved across her skin, and she shivered at their ghosts.

And she missed them.

 


 

The feast that evening had been surreal.

The tents, the people, the food, the dancing, the music.

Feelings of unrest still slivered through the aisles, pushing up against barriers and tinting the atmosphere.

But something else was there, too.

Whispers were darting around like wildfire, jumping from one camp to the next. Heads turned, lips murmured, and it was as if the air itself had shifted somehow. Words like healer and miracle and blessing wove their way through conversations.

Kara pressed a forearm to the cool glass of the dark study, leaning into it and staring out at the moon and the deep blue water as she slowly sipped a drink.

It was about halfway through the evening before she realized what it was.

Faith.

It was slipping into the eyes of guests, Kryptonians, royalty, travelers alike. They walked past their table, brilliantly lit with warm fires and sparking candles, to bow and wish the Princesses well.

Hums of faith were starting to vibrate along their voices. Perhaps not as far as acceptance, no – there were still rims of caution around their gaze, eyes narrowed just a little farther than normal, distance just a little longer than normal.

But faith... faith could be world-changing.

Faith in Kara, that she chose to marry a formidable ally instead of a treacherous enemy.

Faith in the House of El, for accepting that choice with grace and magnanimity.

Faith in Lena, to lead them not into destruction but out of a darkness.

A smile toyed at Kara’s lips, and she finished her drink, setting it gently down on the table beside her.

Perhaps they would come out on top of this, after all.


 

Chapter Text


 

Day Two - Charity


Seven Days Before the Festival

“The second day is Charity.”

Lena’s eyes lit up, and Kara noticed her leaning forward.

“What must be done?”

A smile split Kara’s face, and a small chuckle pushed its way up from her belly. It brought with it an unanticipated feeling of fondness for the raven-haired woman before her.

Of course Lena would be excited at the prospect of performing kind deeds.

“We will be visiting hospitals and clinics in Kandor, as well as an orphanage.”

Surprise crossed Lena’s face, and she sat back in her seat. Kara tilted her head and gave her a knowing look.

“What is it, Princess?”

Lena settled her face back to neutral once more, as if suddenly becoming aware of herself.

“I... I am simply surprised, that’s all.”

“Why? Surprised that we have sickness in Krypton? Or that we have orphanages that require charity?”

Lena met her eyes. “I think... I just thought that Krypton would...”

“Have better social services?” Kara propped her elbow up on the back of the couch, resting her temple on her fist. “Krypton has an economy, like any other country. It varies and fluctuates over time. We are certainly better off than many other kingdoms, and we do have quite a few plans in place to provide for our people. But, as with any nation, there will always be those who fall through the cracks. Kryptonians are not exempt or invulnerable to vices, and there are those who are dealt hard lots in life.”

Red lips pursed, and Lena touched her knee gently.

“I didn’t mean to imply that I think any less of your people. I apologize for any offense.”

“No offense, Princess. It is simply a reality of the world. We do what we can to care for those less fortunate, and we encourage them to overcome life’s obstacles and be strengthened by them. Samantha Arias is a perfect example of what can be accomplished in this manner.”

“Sam is... was- ”

“She was an orphan at a young age. Her father was a Daxamite, and prone to drinking. He was flying home one evening and got disoriented, and flew too high. He ran out of air and... well. He fell.”

Lena cringed as Kara continued.

“Her mother... It doesn’t go well when the bonded soul of your own ends before its time. Her own parents were gone and she had no siblings, so she left Sam on the steps of an orphanage and flew away. She was never heard from again.”

“... wow. That must have been so hard for her.”

Kara nodded, but then looked at Lena earnestly. “That is why it is so important that time and money are given to them, and that it is known that they are not alone – and that they have glorious futures awaiting them.”

“I am very much looking forward to this day, then.”

 


 

The sun had not yet broken over the horizon as Lena and Kara stepped through the door of their wing and into the courtyard; the sky was tinged with pinks and deep blue and royal purple. A chill had settled in the morning air, and the dew that clung to the grass and the trees was frosty.

Their breath steamed before them like a fountain of air, swirling around them in a pale white cloud.

Without speaking, Lena reached out and grasped the edges of Kara’s cloak, tugging it around her tighter. She reached up and tucked a strand of wispy blonde hair behind Kara’s ear, and her fingertips ghosted along the warrior’s jawline.

Kara watched her quietly, before reaching up and taking Lena’s hand between hers.

“Lena... are you alright?”

The dark-haired woman furrowed her brow and nodded, but didn’t pull her hand away.

“Yes. You just... feel anxious.”

Kara laughed, her breath puffing out as a cold vapor.

“How do you know how I feel?”

Slender fingers closed around her wrist and guided her hand down to press into Lena’s chest, her eyes never leaving Kara’s face.

“Khap raozh, zygai.”

The Kryptonian words rocketed through Kara like a meteor, and she stepped into Lena’s space without a second thought, reaching down to gather Lena’s cold fingers in her own as a smile split her face.

“Did you... are you learning Kryptonian, Princess?”

Pink flooded into Lena’s cold cheeks, and she blinked as she averted her gaze, but didn’t step away.

“I simply thought that it might be prudent to learn the language of my new people.”

Kara tilted her head, before bringing their hands up to her own chest. She pressed the backs of Lena’s hands into her warm sternum, tugging her close until there was no space between them.

Lena dragged her gaze up to Kara’s face, which was radiating with an emotion she couldn’t quite pin down.

“That means a lot to me, zrhueiao.”

Green eyes widened, and Lena was suddenly overcome with a desire to be closer to the tall Princess. She fisted her hands into the front of the maroon cloak, tugging her down as she lifted onto her toes.

Surprisingly warm lips pressed to Kara’s cold cheek, and it felt as if the sun had risen on Kara’s skin. Her arms slipped around Lena and tightened, but in an instant the smaller woman was gone again.

Lena pulled her cloak tighter around herself and stood at the edge of the courtyard, looking back at Kara over shoulder.

“Come. Your family is waiting for us.”

A smile traced across Kara’s face, and she mumbled something about bossy Princesses as they strolled through the morning mist towards the Great Hall.

 


 

It wasn’t until after breakfast that Lena learned they would be flying to Kandor.

She narrowed her eyes and glared at the blonde beside her, who ducked her head and pretended to be very interested in the conversation Winn and Sam were having about tax rates.

She couldn’t ignore the sharp kick she received to her ankle underneath the table, however.

Kara grunted softly, before turning to give Lena sad puppy eyes.

“I’m sorry, truly. It’s just so much faster to fly, and we have many places we need to be today. Think of the kids.”

She fluttered her eyelashes at Lena and pouted out her bottom lip. The brunette chewed the inside of her cheek and speared her with another look, before rolling her eyes and sighing heavily.

“Fine. But you owe me.”

Kara propped her cheek on her hand and rested her elbow on the table, leaning in close and lowering her voice.

“And what would you like in return, Princess?”

Heat instantly flooded Lena’s neck and face, and she nearly dropped her fork. It clattered loudly on the dish as she turned to stare in shock at Kara’s dopey grin.

“I- I- ”

She was thankfully cut off by Zor-El rising to his feet and announcing that they needed to begin their journey to Kandor.

 


 

The flight was unexpectedly cold, but thankfully short. Lena curled up in Kara’s tight grip, burying her face in the strong column of Kara’s neck while her fingers gripped the shoulder of her tunic.

It didn’t escape Kara that her touch was much more familiar than it had been on the flight from Bolenth to Krypton. Instead of stiff uncertainty and terrified clutching, it had transformed into a comfortable closeness that seemed to assuage her fears instead of amplifying them. Her temple was pressed to Kara’s jaw, her face tucked carefully away from the wind – and when they finally touched back down again on the soft grass in Kandor and Lena released her hold of Kara’s tunic, fingertips gently made their way to the back of the warrior’s neck, where they remained until she was safely on her feet again.

 


 

The main hospital in Kandor was their first visit, and Lena was beyond thrilled – and terrified.

At the end of last night’s feast, Zor-El and Kara had stood before the whole of the Alliance and announced their intention to name Lena the chief of scientific and medical research for the kingdom of Krypton. It made her chest swell with both pride and fear – particularly when she realized she would now be expected to take the lead and a vested interest in the inner workings of the Kryptonian hospitals they would be visiting.

Something else had happened that evening as well, just after the announcement had been made – Kara had misread the look of wonder on Lena’s face as panic, which caused her to quietly lean down towards the Luthorian Princess.

“Do not worry – we are creating the position for you. It can simply be ceremonial, if you’d like. That way it will be easier if... in the future, you know...” Kara looked away, and Lena watched her eyes fill with sadness. “If you would like to leave.”

Lena opened her mouth to respond, but the blonde warrior had straightened again and was caught up in a conversation with a Prince from Xan before words could make it past her lips.

She wasn’t even certain what she would have said.

Now, as they were greeted warmly on the front steps of the shimmering white hospital, Kara was looking at her anxiously as introductions were being made.

Zor-El had just announced her to the hospital staff by her new title, and a dozen pairs of eyes were on her, waiting.

She met Kara’s look, and decided right then that she did not appreciate the uncertainty roiling through those deep blue eyes.

Lena cleared her throat and stepped forward, plastering a brilliant smile on her face and extending her hand for the hospital’s Chief Healer.

“Good morning ma’am – it is so lovely to meet you. I am looking forward to an open and propitious relationship with you and your staff in the coming years.”

The Chief was so delighted that she immediately began tugging Lena into the open doors, already full of questions about her treatment methods of the sick child, her preferred methods of research, and her ideas for distribution of medical information within the kingdom.

Lena was so caught up in the conversation that she entirely missed the raised eyebrows and looks of surprise that passed between Kara and Zor-El behind her.

 


 

Lena had been a hit among the medical community. The staff of the hospitals and clinics they visited were captivated by her; all notions that she may possess some type of hidden Luthorian agenda cast aside in favor of hanging onto her words with rapt attention.

Kara was fascinated to see Lena in what appeared to be an element for her, and she continued to feel that now-familiar tugging at her chest as the morning arched into the early afternoon.

After a brief lunch (pot stickers, of course), they were scheduled to visit Kandor’s largest orphanage.

They traveled north through the city until their surroundings began to shift. There were fewer shops, but even more parks, and the buildings were slowly changing to more uniform homes of tan stone and red brick. They walked along a cobbled street, and Lena began to notice more and more children playing – in the parks, on the sidewalks and street, in the trees over head. They would gasp and giggle when they saw their party, but older children would stop younger ones from running towards Kara, whispering in shushed voices that today wasn’t the day for that.

Lena caught the blonde warrior winking at them all the same.

A short stone wall began to rise up along the sidewalk, with a tall arch in the middle. There was no gate, but a beautiful wrought-iron sign was affixed to the underside of the arch above their heads.

It read “Arias House.”

Kara caught Lena’s questioning eyes, and nodded at her.

“This is where she grew up. When she was named Treasurer of Krypton, she established a fund to further the education of the children that live here – beyond the traditional schooling offered to all children in Krypton. They renamed it after her, and she is their patron.”

The woman herself was standing just inside the archway, a small smile on her lips. Alex stood beside her, a proud and slightly teary look on her face (though she would never admit to it).

Zor-El clasped her forearms tightly.

“Lady Arias. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to participate in this with us.”

She bowed her head.

“Your highness. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything – these children are truly remarkable.”

“In no small part thanks to you.”

She gave him a brief nod, before turning to lead them up the path behind her.

Lena tucked her arm through Kara’s, who reached over and patted her hand.

Gravel crunched gently beneath their feet as they made their way up the winding path. Lush, green grass surrounded them, and children of all ages were running through it bare foot or napping beneath the towering trees that provided ample shade. A small, clear river meandered along the eastern edge, and though it was too cold today, Lena could easily imagine them splashing and playing through it in the warmer summer months.

What could easily pass as a small castle rose up before them. It was all warm beige stone and glinting windows, with a bubbling fountain in front of it and bright red doors.

A tall man stood before it, his hands tucked behind his back, but he promptly bowed at the waist when Zor-El and Kara approached.

“Your highness.”

“Headmaster Jox-Ko. Arias House has never looked better.”

He clapped the tall man on the shoulder and he straightened with a twinkle in his eye.

“Well, you know. We’ve started hanging them up by their big toes when they misbehave.”

Lena gasped softly and tightened her grip on Kara’s arm. Zor-El chuckled and turned to glance at Sam.

“Is this true, Lady Arias?”

She nodded gravely.

“Yes, your highness. It’s far less cruel than when I attended – back then they would send you up to the tower with nothing but water for three days and hope a passing dragon didn’t find you to be easy prey.”

The dark-haired woman looked up at Kara in shock, but the blonde nodded along, humming softly.

“That reminds me of when Father used to leave me out on a rock in the sea and I would pray that a trench demon didn’t swim by.”

Lena finally notice the amusement crinkling the corners of Kara’s eyes and the smile she couldn’t keep off her face. She narrowed her eyes and blew out a breath of irritation, shaking her head and disentangling her arm from Kara’s, who was full on laughing by now.

She crossed her arms and Alex caught her eyes. She shook her head in commiseration with Lena.

“My apologies, Princess. Our family thinks that they are rather hilarious.”

Lena uncrossed her arms and pushed past them, crooking her arm out for Alex.

“Fine, then. We shall leave them here with their jokes while we discuss important matters.”

The auburn-haired woman tossed her head back and laughed, hooking her arm through Lena’s.

“Then we shall.”

As they strolled arm in arm through the front door, Zor-El exchanged his second look of the day with Kara.

He leaned down as they followed the two women in.

“You know... I think we’re growing on her.”

“I think you may be right, Father.”

Just ahead, Lena whispered to the pregnant knight beside her: "Are there really dragons in Krypton??"

 


 

To an onlooker, their visit to Arias House may have seemed like an innocuous trip – a standard afternoon from the visiting royal family, there to see how things were run and to appreciate the benefits of their charitable donations.

But for Kara, it became something much, much more.

They visited classrooms. They visited the libraries, the kitchen, the headmaster’s offices, the gardens, the dormitories. They learned about new methods of play that were being incorporated into classes for younger children, to help them cope with potential past tragedies. They learned the set of rules that governed the house (it was short, and revolved mostly around respect – except for one oddly specific rule about flying into the library rafters that Sam quickly changed the topic away from), and they learned the actual punishments used for misbehaving children (book reports and gardening responsibilities.)

Between their visit of the library and the kitchen, however, they lost Kara’s attention.

It was their trip to the nursery that set her off track.

It was a cool, shadowy room with a few rows of occupied cribs. Soft carpets padded the floor to stop footsteps from echoing in the space. Tall windows filtered in soft afternoon light, and curtains were drawn partially closed for small, napping eyes.

Headmaster Jox-Ko had just introduced the head caretaker of the nursery when a sad wailing began to drift up from a nearby crib.

They all turned towards the sound, cringing in apology and beginning to back out of the room, when Kara noticed Lena peering down into the crib at the crying child. Without hesitation, she reached down and lifted the unhappy baby into her arms, settling him on her hip and steadying him with a soothing hand on his back.

Tears tracked down a reddening face and hiccups floated up from his chest as his mouth twisted into a deep frown. His fingers fisted into Lena’s cloak as they locked eyes.

“I know, little one. You are upset. But it’s okay – you are safe here.”

Her voice was soft, and lilting – that same mellifluous honeyed tone when Kara heard her laugh for the first time.

The world dropped away, and the blonde watched, captivated, as the small boy appeared to understand Lena. He pitched forward slowly, twisting his head to the side and settling against her chest. The occasional hiccup still drifted up, but Lena tucked her arms around him and rubbed soft circles into his back, and he was soon sleeping once more – a thumb between his lips, while the other hand still had a strong grasp of Lena’s cloak.

She turned back to them, the baby quietly sleeping in her arms, and gave them a charming smile.

“Shall we continue?”

They all quietly stared at her for a beat, before the caretaker nodded slowly.

“... yes, Princess.”

Lena trailed after them as the headmaster and caretaker gave them a brief tour of the nursery, but Kara remained rooted to the ground she was standing on.

All she could do was watch, enraptured by the sight of this dark-haired woman who had suddenly and so powerfully constructed a hold on her heart.

It felt as if she could barely expand and contract her lungs to inhale the required breath. Her heart pounded in her ears, over the sounds of the rest of the world, and she simply stared at her.

Something incredibly, incomprehensibly, unequivocally deep inside her had shifted in that moment.

It was as if a wall that had once been made of stone was now suddenly a pane of clear glass. It was if she had been missing a color in her vision for her whole life, but it was now shining all around her. It was if she had always been just a little bit too warm, and now felt perfectly content.

Lena slowly turned and caught her eye, and it felt the same as it had that day in the arena.

In Kara’s eyes, the room went dark around her. The only thing she could see now was Lena, lit as beautifully as a masterpiece – but it wasn’t this Lena before her.

This was Lena from the future, a vision.

She was draped in a deep maroon cloak, her dark hair falling around her shoulders in soft waves. The cloak dipped down, revealing naked shoulders and the tops of bare breasts, the crest of El catching the light. A small bundle was cradled in her arms, the soft cloth of the cloak wrapped around it tightly, a shock of platinum blonde hair peeking out from the top. Emerald green eyes were watching her quietly, and a gentle voice drifted to her ears.

“Don't worry. We were safe, zygai.”

She reached a hand forward, her brow creasing.

“Safe from what, zrhueiao?”

“What did you say?”

The warrior blinked rapidly, and the rest of the world came back into focus. A hand was squeezing her forearm gently, and she looked down at Lena – in the present, once more. She was looking up at her with concern, the baby now silently sleeping in his crib once more. The rest of the party had moved out into the hallway, joking quietly and preparing to visit the kitchens.

“Kara?”

She shook her head, attempting to blink away the confusion and the remnants of the vision.

“Nothing, Princess. I’m sorry, I was just talking to myself.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! Of course.” Kara smiled down at her. “Let’s go see if the kitchen has any pot stickers.”

Lena looked as if she didn’t quite believe her, but didn’t press the issue.


 

As they left the nursery, Lena couldn't shake the feeling that she had heard herself speaking to Kara - though she hadn't said a word.

 


 

 

Chapter Text


 

The feast that evening was similar in many ways to the one before, but it veered down a different path once dinner had concluded.

Zor-El stood from the head of the royal table, raising his cup and his voice so it was booming out across those who were close enough to hear it.

“Kryptonians!” A rowdy cheer went up from the crowd, who were now several pints deep in mead and wine.

“Members of the Alliance!”

Another cheer, louder this time, washed over them. Lena took a sip of her wine and set it down gently, furtively glancing at Kara, who had a mischievous smile on her face.

“Princess, what is happening?” Lena whispered to her.

Kara slung an arm across the back of Lena’s chair and leaned in to be heard over the crowd. Her lips were pressed nearly to the edge of Lena’s ear, and her breath skimmed along her hairline, sending goosebumps along her shoulders.

“The word for the second day does not translate very well from Kryptonian – it is called Urkynon, which means roughly charity, or altruism. It is a day of gift-giving – mostly from the Crystal Palace to the Kingdom, but also from the King and Queen to the betrothed.”

 Lena’s head swung around again, just as Zor-El was addressing the crowd once more.

“Welcome to the second day of the wedding festival of Kara Zor-El and Lena Luthor!”

Alura stood then, slipping an arm around Zor-El’s waist. She had been absent for the first few days of the event, but now that many of the moving pieces of the wedding were firmly secured, she made her presence known. She addressed the crowd herself.

“On this, the second day of their wedding festival, we would like to bestow upon our daughter and her betrothed several gifts – to honor both their union and the House of El.”

She turned towards the women, raising her hand and beckoning them. They both rose quickly, joining her and Zor-El. The crush of guests waited silently, in a brisk anticipation that Lena also shared – along with coils of nerves moving through her stomach at the sight of hundreds of people staring at her. Zor-El’s clear voice rang through the air once more.

“To our daughter’s betrothed, Lena Luthor of Luthoria – I bequeath the royal dagger of El.”

Lena stared in shock as a knight approached them, unwrapping a plain cloth package that belied its exquisite contents – a dagger that, at first glance seemed to be a simple steel blade; but upon careful review, revealed itself to be etched with the finest filigree of leaves and vines. A leather scabbard lay beside it, the crest of El burned indelibly into it.

Her breath caught in her chest, and she felt suddenly very overwhelmed.

She could feel her heart beating hard in her chest, and tears threatened to spill from the edges of her eyes. She sucked in a shaking breath and pressed her hands flat against her own stomach, as if she couldn’t bear reaching out to pluck the dagger from the cloth. She recognized that it had been an awkwardly long amount of time that she had been staring down at it, and a murmur waved through the crowd, but she felt frozen. Even Kara’s steady hand, pressed to the small of her back, was doing little to assuage the tightening she felt in her ribs.

In the end, it was once again Zor-El that came to her rescue. He took the dagger and scabbard gently from the knight and fitted them together, holding it out casually towards Lena as if he was handing her a glass of wine.

“Don’t worry, Princess,” his deep voice rumbled as he mouth quirked up into a grin, “This old thing? It’s hardly even an heirloom. I think my grandfather bought it for my grandmother because he was tired of her threatening to steal his sword and stab him with it. He figured this probably wouldn’t kill him.”

A laugh bubbled up from Lena’s stomach and she wiped at the corner of her eye gently, finally reaching out and taking it from him. A part of her didn’t believe him, but the lie made the cool metal feel a lot lighter in her hands than it had looked a moment ago.

She weighed it gently, wrapping her fingers around it decisively, and held it tightly against her chest.

“Thank you, your highness. I will cherish it.”

Alura motioned for the next knight to come up, this time carrying a much bigger cloth package. Lena eyed it timidly.

“And as my gift to you, Lena of Luthoria, our daughter’s betrothed – armor, worthy of a Princess of Krypton.”

The knight pulled back the top layer of cloth and revealed a leather chest plate of deep, rich amber and brown. It was cut similarly to Kara’s, but modified to allow for more room in the chest and a more narrow waist and shoulders.

This time, Lena didn’t hesitate to reach out and run her fingers across it the polished leather. Her lips parted and blood thumped through her, and she felt something stir in her that she’d never felt before.

Lex would have never allowed to her to wear armor or carry a weapon, and she had spent a lifetime tamping down the desire to do both. In one evening, the Zor-Els had reignited a desire for strength within her that she had long thought dead.

Her fingertips traced a black pattern that had been dyed into the upper right shoulder and sloped down the chest towards the lower left side, her brow furrowing as her eyes focused in on the design until it became clear to her. She threw her head back in delighted laughter, pressing her palm fully down onto the chest plate.

It was a parrot.

Brilliant wings soared along the upper chest, and the pattern that sloped down toward the left side were the outlines of a long tail of feathers.

She grinned up at Alura, who was smiling at her with a knowing look.

“I was told that this design would be of some significance to you.”

Lena turned her head to glance over her shoulder at Kara, who was still smiling at her mischievously.

“Yes, your highness... it’s perfect.” She reached out and grasped Alura’s hand, squeezing it gently. “Thank you. Thank you both.”

Kara gently took the dagger from Lena and deftly buckled it into the holder in the small of the chest plate’s back. The knight wrapped everything once more and stepped away from the table with the promise of delivering it to their wing.

Zor-El held his hand out for Kara, who had been quietly hovering in the background.

She stepped forward and he pulled her into what would be a bone-cracking hug for anyone else. He gripped her shoulders and pulled back, looking down at her face with fatherly love.

It made Lena’s heart ache for her own father – long gone, and perhaps not worth missing, but missing just the same.

The knight approached the table this time with a long, thin box of deep mahogany. Kara seemed to understand what was inside it before Zor-El said anything, because her eyes were already welling with tears. Alura stood beside him, and they both looked down at her fondly.

“For our daughter, on this second day of your wedding festival, we present to you the sword of the House of El.”

The knight flipped the lid of the box up, revealing a shimmering sword. It was polished steel, the handle woven through with gold and platinum, the winding symbol of El stamped solidly into the base where steel met hilt.

Kara reached down into the box, her fingertips brushing against soft maroon velvet, and grasped it around the handle tightly. She lifted it from the box carefully, sword point down towards the ground, and pressed her fist into her chest as she turned to Zor-El, two silent tears tracking down her face.

Lena looked on, and the brevity of the moment weighed upon her immediately.

Zor-El squared his shoulders before her, and the crowd dropped into relative silence. His gaze was suddenly pensive and serious, his voice low and vaguely threatening.

“With this sword, I charge you with protecting the Kingdom of Krypton; with protecting the tradition and dignity of the House of El; and with protecting the honor and life of your wife and heirs.”

Lena watched Kara’s knuckles turn white as she gripped the hilt tightly, her eyes resolute, her stance powerful.

“I will, Father.”

“You will make me proud, Princess – as a warrior, as a wife, and someday as the ruler of Krypton.”

He leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead, and the crowd suddenly burst into raucous cheers once more. Music filtered through the crowd again, and Kara was laughing with her mother. The intensity of the moment slipped away like smoke. Alex had stepped up to the table, and was waiting among the others to hug Kara and admire the sword.

Lena stepped to the side and watched the scene unfolding before her.

Golden hair glowed brilliantly in the dancing firelight, and blue eyes shone happily as they crinkled in the corners from laughter. Shadows flickered across toned muscles in Kara’s neck and shoulders, and full lips pulled gently across teeth as she smiled.

She turned from the conversation she was in and briefly captured Lena’s gaze, winking at her silently. It sent her stomach into flips.

In that moment, Lena Luthor realized she was falling deeply in love with Kara Zor-El. 

 


 

Angry eyes silently pierced through the smoke and the crowd that had gathered before the royal table. They were shuttered beneath a dark hood, glinting and dangerous. A scar marred the treacherous expression. A drunk man stumbled in front of the giant, splashing him with mud and apologizing to him in a stilted slur. Nothing but a menacing growl came from beneath the hood, and those within hearing distance of him decided it was in their best interests to go find another cup of mead.

One final glare was thrown at the laughing family before the man spun away on his heel, striding off into the darkness.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Day Three - Honor


Seven Days Before the Festival

 

“So the first day is Duty, then Charity. What is on the third day?” Lena sipped her drink slowly and watched a smile overtake Kara’s face.

“Ah. The third day is Honor.” Her chest puffed slightly, and she tried to hide her grin. Lena raised an eyebrow at her over the rim of her drink.

“And what are you so excited about, Princess?”

“The day of Honor involves tournaments! Feats of strength, agility, endurance, skill in combat. It is my home arena, and I am very confident.”

Lena squinted at her, slowly lowering her glass.

“Why would Honor be associated with combat?”

Kara cleared her throat and looked down, straightening the edge of her tunic.

Lena narrowed her eyes. “Kara Zor-El.”

Blue eyes met hers and teeth worried her lower lip before she pursed them in defeat.

“Kryptonians enjoy combat as a sport. In sports there are... prizes. Winning one would be... a great honor.”

Realization settled into Lena’s chest, heavy and exasperated.

“No. Absolutely not.”

Kara’s eyebrows shot up. “No? What do you mean?”

Lena set her glass down on the table, harder than she intended to, and shook her head.

“I am not a prize to be won in a tournament, Kara! I will not be paraded about for show and fought over by sweaty, bleeding warriors.”

Kara reached for her hand, covering it gently. “Please, you misunderstand. You are not the prize.”

Lena stared at her warily.

“The honor of marrying you is the prize.” Kara patted her hand.

Lena rose to her feet and threw her hands in the air. “That is the same thing, Kara!”

The blonde looked up at her in confusion, scooting to the edge of the couch. “You do not think that marrying you is an honor, Princess?”

Lena paced the room. “Well of course I do! But it isn’t one that is meant to be fought over! I... it is... we... we’re already bonded!” She sputtered angrily.

The Kryptonian frowned, settling back against the couch and tilting her head to the side. “You’re... upset because we’re already bonded?” Her eyes widened. “Oh! Are you concerned that I will lose? I won’t lose, Princess. I’m a very skilled warrior-”

“No! Ugh. No, Kara.” She sat back down, turning her body to face her. “I’m upset because... I don’t know, really. It just feels strange, to be fought over. It feels like... like something Lex would arrange.”

She dropped her hands to her lap and rubbed the pad of her thumb over the back of her other hand. It was soon covered by Kara’s. She looked up into concerned blue eyes.

“Lena, Kryptonian wedding games are nothing like the world Lex lives in. They are full of tradition, honor, purpose. It is a rite of passage for a warrior, a mark of pride for them that they carry forward with them into their family.”

Lena’s chest ached at the sincerity in her voice and the way she said the word family, and a deep sigh rolled through her.

“... Will you get hurt?”

Kara straightened her shoulders and grinned at her.

“Not a chance!”

 


 

“She’s getting killed, Alex!” Lena leaned to the side anxiously, trying to peer through the dust clouds at the scuffling forms on the ground.

Alex squinted into the arena, nodding her head. “Yes, it does appear as if she’s lost her footing.”

“Lost her foot- ” Lena glared at her, gesturing down at them. “Shouldn’t someone do something about it?!”

The red head smiled at her like she was crazy, laughing and shaking her head.

“Of course not! Kara would kill anyone who interfered. She won’t yield. Feel free to shout encouragement to her though! It is considered a great honor to be cheered by the bride.”

The brunette dropped her eyes down into her palm, rubbing her temples. “You stubborn Kryptonians.

A sound of “oooh” waved through the audience and she snapped her head back up.

“What is it? What’s happening??”

Sam, seated at Alex’s right, starting jeering down into the arena along with the crowd.

“COME ON KARA! FOR FUCK’S SAKE, GET  UP! ARE YOU GOING TO LET HIM HIT YOU LIKE THAT?!”

She then leaned down and covered the sides of Alex’s belly with her hands. “Whoops. Sorry baby, you didn’t hear me saying those things.”

Alex rolled her eyes and winced at the sound of a particularly loud shot as it landed.

“Wow. This is not going well for her. James must have fought with Lucy last night.”

Suddenly, the sea of dust parted and Kara came tumbling through it with James. They were engaged in the hand-to-hand round of combat, and Kara had pulled his name from the bowl of competitors who cast in at their chance at fighting the Princess.

Lena stared in horror as a fist landed square across Kara’s cheek and sent her sailing into the wall directly beneath their seats with a dull thud.

Alex smacked her on the knee and gestured down at the blonde, who was struggling to get up. “Now is your chance!”

Lena threw her hands up in the air. “What do I say?!”

Alex and Sam both grinned at her, shrugging. “She’s your zygai! Just... encourage her!”

Frowning down at the scene unfolding before her, she gasped when James lunged for Kara as she sat slumped against the wall. She blew out a breath of relief when James found a boot in his chest and was promptly shoved backwards, sliding through the dust. Kara got to her feet, though she was still a bit unsteady, and crouched to prepare for his counterattack.

As James shot back to his feet and began to charge again, Lena stood in a panic and gripped the edges of the barrier in front of her, filling her lungs with air.

“JAMES OLSEN, IF YOU MARK HER FACE BEFORE OUR WEDDING DAY I WILL PERSONALLY COME DOWN THERE AND KILL YOU!!”

He stopped dead in his tracks and his jaw dropped as he stared up at the stands, which were now roaring and jeering down at him. Kara’s head instantly swiveled toward the sound, and she grinned up at Lena before turning back to advance on James.

He returned her smile, putting his fists up near his face and waiting for her, then throwing a punch that only connected with air while Kara slammed her fist into his stomach.

“Oof!” He bent at the waist and grabbed at her, using her to hold himself up. She put him in a loose headlock and patted him on the back roughly. She could feel his shoulders shaking with laughter.

“She’s pretty vicious, your bride.”

Kara tossed her head back and laughed. “You don’t know the half of it. I'm glad that it is you down here and not her."

By the end of the round, Kara came back for a victory.

James knelt before her, offering up a braided band of maroon, deep green, and gold. She accepted it from him, then tapped his shoulder. 

"Rise, sir! You fought well." She clasped his forearms and grinned at him, before they parted ways. The crowd began filing out of the stands until the next tournament began, while squires in training put on a show at one end. 

Kara made her way to the stands. While the king and queen chose to sit in the royal box above the crowd, Lena insisted on getting as close as possible. Alex and Sam volunteered to accompany her, and she suspected that the two men sitting to her left and behind her were knights.

Their seats were on the edge of the arena, which were lifted four or five feet in the air. Kara was not permitted to leave the arena until the games had concluded, but she made her way her down to the bottom of the stands below Lena.

She leaned against the wooden wall, calling up to her. "Hello Princess! Would you do me the honor?"

She held up the braid to Lena. 

Lena stood from her seat and bent down, gently lifting it from her hands. 

"What do I do with this?"

Kara tapped her bare upper arm. "Tie it here, please."

Lena carefully knotted the braid around her arm above her bicep, pulling it tightly so it wouldn't slip off. 

Kara rested both of her elbows on top of the wall, leaning into it and squinting up at her in the sun. 

"Are you having a good time, Lena?"

The dark-haired woman could tell that Kara was trying to sound casual, but her tone was underpinned with anxiety.

She suddenly felt guilty at how she had responded those weeks ago. It was obvious that this tournament was incredibly important to her. 

She rested her hand on the wood beside Kara's elbow, leaning down. She smiled at the streaks of dirt on her cheek and forehead that did nothing to detract from her beauty. 

Lena hesitantly reached out, then cupped her cheek and rubbed her thumb across a smudge, wiping it away. 

"I'm having a wonderful time, Princess Zor-El."

Kara smiled widely at her. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but at the same moment a trumpet began to play, signaling the announcement of the next tournament and competitor. 

Kara nodded her head back towards the center of the arena. 

"Honor is calling." She flashed one more brilliant smile before turning away, and it tugged at Lena's heart fiercely. So fiercely, in fact, that she thought it might break her.

"Kara!"

The blonde turned back and Lena reached down, gripping the shoulder strap of her leather armor and hauling her up onto her toes, planting a gentle but decidedly firm kiss on soft lips. 

She tasted like salt and red wine and cinnamon, and Lena kissed away the whimper that escaped her mouth. 

Cheers rippled through the crowd and Lena slowly pulled back, looking down into shocked blue eyes. 

"Win for me."

Kara's lips parted as she stared up at her. 

"Y... yes, Princess. Of course. Anything." 

Lena carefully set her back on her feet, casually brushing some dust off the shoulder of her chest plate. 

"Good. And try not to drag it out for so long this time – you worried me in the last round."

"Yes, Princess." Kara nodded in a daze and turned back to the announcer. 

Lena settled back in her seat and adjusted the edge of her tunic, crossing her legs and folding her hands in her lap. 

She eventually noticed Alex and Sam staring at her. 

"Yes?" She raised her eyebrows. 

Alex just shook her head. "You know, you typically want the warrior to win in these games."

Lena frowned. “Of course I want her to win."

"Well that’s going to be very difficult now that you've broken her."

They all turned down to the arena, where Kara was wandering slowly back in the wrong direction. A knight flagged her down and guided her to the podium.

She watched as the blonde went to reach into the large, ornate brass bowl, and paused. She turned back to Lena and caught her gaze, staring at her intently.

Lena raised her chin high, arching an eyebrow, and nodded to her once.

Kara’s trademark grin returned, and she dove in to acquire her next victim.

 


 

The next tournament had been archery, and though Lena was nervous, Kara won handily.

It was followed by a longer stretch of break, in order to allow the participants to eat and get out from the harsh sun in a cloudless blue sky – which was beating heavily down and warming the sand, despite the cool breeze swirling through the arena.

Kara had left their wing early that morning, before the sun rose, to walk the arena and make last minute adjustments to her armor and weapons. It had surprised Lena, then, when she heard a knock on their door an hour before she was due for the tournament.

It had been Alex and Sam, who had informed her with kind eyes that it was customary for the bride of a warrior to wear her armor during the tournaments. They were there to help her put it on for the first time, and make any necessary adjustments.

While she was certainly not accustomed to wearing it, and the new leather was still rather stiff, Lena found it growing more and more comfortable as the day wore on. She had elected to wear a long-sleeved black tunic beneath it, with tightly fit black trousers tucked into her leather riding boots. She pulled her hair up into a high ponytail on the crown of her head, and Alex had ensured that the dagger was safely buckled along her belt line at the small of her back.

When she stood before herself in a mirror, she was surprised at how much she enjoyed the way she looked in the armor – but it was nothing compared to the second and third glance Kara threw her way the first time she caught site of her in the stands. Lena would have been lying to say that she hadn’t preened a bit, perhaps at the expense of Kara’s concentration.

As the break neared an end they settled back into their seats, Alex chewing happily on a leg of turkey while Sam nursed a cold mead. Lena sat on the edge of her seat, bouncing her knee anxiously and gazing down at the commotion in the arena. After a few minutes of this, Alex reached over and clamped her free hand down on Lena’s knee.

“Princess. Your nerves are causing this incredibly strong Kryptonian inside me to kick me. Do you know how pleasant it is to be kicked in the ribs by a Kryptonian? I’ll spoil the surprise for you. It isn’t pleasant.

Lena sat back in her seat sheepishly and apologized. “I’m sorry, Alex. I’m just... I feel very off about this fight. Something doesn’t feel right.”

Energy was thrumming through her body, and the symbol on her chest was burning. She pressed into it beneath the leather chest plate, wincing.

Sam eyed her carefully. “Doesn’t feel right in what manner, Lena?”

She remained with her gaze fixed to the sand beneath them.

“I’m not sure. It just... feels as if Kara is in danger.”

Alex looked to Sam, who frowned and began tracing her eyes over the audience.

“It is not unusual for bonded souls to feel uncomfortable when their partners are in danger. An energy vibrates along the life force, moving from one soul to the other. In special circumstances, it can even cause an energy transfer between bonds.” Sam and Alex exchanged a knowing look, and Alex jumped in.

“It is also... part of the intent of the tournament.”

Lena frowned, finally turning to look at them. “What does that mean?”

“Ah. Well... creating a strong bond requires many emotional connections, through time and circumstances. A tournament allows for the bonded pair to experience danger, anxiety, loyalty, respect, pride... and typically, the worse the fight, the stronger the bond.”

Deep green eyes narrowed, and even Alex leaned back a bit into Sam’s shoulder to put some distance between herself and the Luthorian woman. Her voice sound calm and measured, but it was edged with a certain undertone of danger.

“So... you’re telling me... that you do this on purpose?” She gritted out.

Sam gave her a tenuous smile, and Lena once more found herself burying her face in her hand and muttering about stubborn, stupid Kryptonians.

Alex gently patted her knee. “It will be alright, Princess.”

Lena nodded, though her brow remained furrowed and her skin continued to feel as if it was vibrating.

When the trumpets sounded and the announcer called that the final tournament would be a sword fight until yielded, she was gripping the edge of her seat.

Below them, Kara faced her and caught her eye, thrusting her hand into the bowl for the final time to draw an opponent. Lena nodded at her, but her heart clenched tightly. Kara pulled the scrap of paper and handed it to the announcer.

“HEAR YOU! In this final tournament for the hand of Princess Lena Luthor, a sword fight until yielded, the defender will be Princess Kara Zor-El!”

The crowd roared and Lena clapped, just to give her hands something to do. When they finally settled down again, the announcer cleared his throat.

“In the position of her competitor... Drexxel of Vathlo!”

A giant, well-built man strode forward from the edge of the arena and Lena’s stomach clenched. He was easily a foot taller than Kara, with a chest like a barrel. His was wearing a sleeveless black tunic beneath a black leather chest plate, black trousers, and black boots. His sword was long and thick, and he carried it in one hand like a club. His face was completely shielded by a black mask, and glinting black eyes stared down at Kara.

Chills raced through Lena’s body and she shook her head.

“Oof. Baby, what is your concern?” Alex grumbled down at her stomach, and Sam reached over to press her hand against Alex’s belly.

“Alexandra. What’s wrong?”

The auburn-haired woman shook her head, rubbing her side. “I’m not sure. Your child is trying to make their exit through my rib cage right now.”

Down in the arena, Lena watched Kara carefully. Everyone but the opponents had left the ring, and the battle horn was about to be sounded. Kara weighed and tested the heft of her sword over and over, rolling her shoulders and bouncing on her toes.

She narrowed her eyes as she watched. Kara was moving slower somehow, was less light on her feet.

Something was wrong. She could feel it.

When the horn echoed across the arena, Lena found herself white-knuckling the edges of the barrier in front of her.

The man wasted no time, hefting his mighty sword and stepping into Kara’s space, swinging it down with an incredible amount of power. Kara barely had time to deflect it, shunting it off to the side and stepping away. Her foot slipped in the sand and she caught herself on her hand, scrambling to her feet and bouncing out of reach.

She did not garner herself much of a reprieve, however – he was soon in her face again, swinging it with both hands this time. It connected with the edge of her sword, and the sound rang into the sky. If it hadn’t been made with Kryptonian steel, it surely would have snapped.

Lena’s heart leapt into her throat as she stumbled again, to her knee this time. She watched as Kara reached up with her free hand and pressed her hand to her chest as if in pain.

She felt a burning fire fill her own chest, and she was suddenly incredibly uncomfortable with the heat surging through her body.

The whistle of the massive sword warned Kara of its approach and she dove out of the way, rolling onto her shoulder and leaping to her feet, running backwards to keep out of reach.

He was relentless. He followed her at every turn. With every swing of his sword, Kara came within inches of losing a limb, or her life.

Lena turned to Alex and Sam, who were watching silently with matching frowns, food and drink forgotten.

“Is this how it is supposed to go?? Someone tell me that I’m not crazy. Is not something amiss?”

Alex didn’t even look at her, struggling to sit up straighter in her seat. “You’re not crazy. Something is certainly wrong here. Kara isn’t even attacking – she’s evading, and barely at that. She is the best sword wielder in Krypton.” Alex snapped her fingers at the man sitting behind her – a knight, as Lena suspected – and beckoned him closer.

“Go get Sir James. Tell him to report immediately to the arena and to interfere with the tournament at all costs if it appears that the Princess is in mortal danger.”

“Yes Captain.”

He melted into the crowed quickly, and Lena turned back to the fight.

Even the crowd was eerily silent as their Princess slipped in the sand again. The giant raised his sword and brought it clanging down upon hers, and it finally knocked the sharp metal out of her grasp. It slid several feet away, and Lena could see Kara struggling to get back to her feet. It was as if she suddenly weighed a thousand pounds, pressed to the ground by some invisible force. The man loomed over her, reaching up for his mask and tugging it off, dropping it to the ground.

Fear rocketed through Lena like a hot knife when she saw the deep brown scar that traced from his right temple down to his left jaw.

It was unmistakable.

She was on her feet in an instant, turning to Alex in a panic.

“That is not a Vathlothian warrior! That is a Luthorian assassin!”

Alex and Sam immediately leaped up. The auburn-haired woman shoved her wife towards the exit to the stands. “Get the knights and get down there! GO!!” Sam was off, tearing through the crowd while Alex turned back to the scene. The man was towering over Kara, who now seemed as if she could barely lift her head.

He raised his sword high in the air again.

Lena looked around the arena with wild eyes and tears streaming down her face and saw no one. Her chest tightened and she realized that everyone was going to be too late.

The world suddenly slowed, as if she was under water. The barrier tore at her hands as she vaulted down onto the sand.

She vaguely heard Alex screaming behind her, but she was in the arena now.

And oh, was she in the arena now.

The energy that had been thrumming through her body suddenly surged, charging her veins. Her muscles crackled with it, her jaw set tightly. The crowd was a muffled blur as she sprinted through the sand, bending down on her way to wrap her fingers around the hilt of Kara’s sword.

The Sword of the House of El.

She gripped it tightly, and it sang in her grasp.

It felt warm, and balanced in her palm. It felt strong, but pliable. It felt like silk, and steel.

It felt like Kara.

The moment her body was between the assassin and Kara, she swung it up, hard and fast.

It was as if she had struck a tree – unyielding, volatile, dense.

But she had also become a solid, immovable mass. The metals of their swords rang against each other, and she cried out harshly as she held control over the vibrating Kryptonian blade. With the most incredible effort she’d ever put into anything, she raised her foot and pressed it to the man’s chest – shoving him backwards.

He was forced to break his stance, stumbling back. She took advantage of his misstep and swung the sword high above her head again, bringing it down on top of him. He barely had time to bring his sword up to deflect her. But then she was stepping into his space again, swinging her sword again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Now she was relentless, ruthless in her pursuit of blood. Sweat streamed down her face and she could hear nothing but the sound of her own voice, roaring in anger, and the ringing of steel on steel.

Her last blow twisted the sword out of his weakened hands and forced him down to his knees before her.

She shoved the sword forward and tore through the strap holding his chest plate in place, ripping it from his body along with some flesh.

The chest plate dangled from one side, exposing the area above his heart, and she jammed the tip of Kara’s sword into the muscle there as his blood dripped into the sand.

He looked up at her, his lip curling in contempt, and spat on the ground at her feet.

“I know who you are, assassin,” she growled.

He glared at her, his face devoid of any emotion, even as she twisted the sword point into his skin. He bared his teeth at her.

Suddenly, his voice came: a hoarse, chilling, singsong laugh.

“Lex Luthor is looking for you, little Lena...”

Her eyes filled with rage, and she could see red fire inching in from the edges of her vision. She raised the sword above her head, poising for a final blow.

Then let him come.

As she tightened her grip to swing the sword down upon him, a powerful hand covered hers and stopped her. Another hand snaked into the assassin’s hair from behind and yanked his head back, and a knight pressed the edge of a sharp blade to his throat, forcing him to his feet. She turned to her blocker, expecting to see James or another knight, but was shocked to see the deeply troubled face of one King Thrall.

He slowly lowered her hand, and gently took the sword from her. Her blood was still racing angrily, and she tilted her chin up to glare at him defiantly, challenging him.

His eyes focused past her at the knights that were dragging the snarling assassin away, then looked down at her again with an expression that resembled... respect.

“We will take this Luthorian scum from here, Princess. You did well.”

She glared at him for one beat more, then nodded and turned on her heel to the knights that were surrounding Kara.

“Step aside!” she shouted. They immediately parted, and she dropped to her knees beside Kara. She had gone pale, and Lena cupped her face gently.

“Kara. Can you hear me?” A muffled groan was the only response she got, and her heart seized in her chest.

She tore the dagger from behind her back and immediately cut through the straps holding Kara’s leather armor in place. She peeled it away and yanked it off of her, examining it carefully.

There.

Tucked in the seam that pressed against Kara’s shoulder and neck. A green, glowing crystal the size of her finger. Way more than they used in training, and more than enough to kill a Kryptonian.

“Damn it!” She cast her eyes around before they landed on a Vathlothian warrior. “You! Come, please.” He ran to her side and knelt beside her. She yanked the crystal from the armor and handed it to him.

“Take this far, far away from Krypton. As far away as you can get it. Put it in the ocean. Do not let any Kryptonians touch it, and do not lose it. Go, go now!” He wrapped his hand around it and bowed his head, sprinting for the arena exit.

She turned back down to Kara, who was already regaining some of the color in her cheeks. She stirred softly and blinked up at the sun.

“Lena..?” Her hand reached out blindly.

“I’m here, Kara.” She grabbed it, tucking it against her chest as she reached over and smoothed the blonde locks from her sweating, bleeding forehead. She could feel tears building in her eyes and she pressed the back of Kara’s hand to her lips, then hid her face in it.

She was quickly losing steam. The energy coursing through her body had been spent, and it suddenly felt as if she’d been trampled by a hundred horses.

Kara’s hand cupped her cheek and her thumb wiped away a tear. Lena looked down at her and did her best to smile, patting her shoulder gently.

“Are you alright, my love?” The endearment rolled past her lips before she could stop it.

Kara’s eyes brightened, and her lips curled up slowly. “Mmm, yes... thanks to you.”

Suddenly, James and Winn were there with a stretcher. They gently transferred Kara to it and lifted it off the ground, quickly making for the exit without her. Lena struggled to her feet and found a strong hand grip her upper arm, hauling her up and steadying her. She looked up to see Zor-El.

“Your highness! What are you doing down here?”

He stared down at her as if she’d lost her mind. “Oh, well, you know. I thought I would check to see if my bloodline was going to be carried on or if the House of El was to be promptly ended.”

She closed her eyes, shaking her head. “I am sorry, your highness. That was a very silly question of me. I think... I think I am not feeling very well.”

He wrapped an arm around her waist and guided her towards the exit. “Come. Let us go check on our Princess, shall we?”

Lena nodded and leaned on him heavily. “Thank you.”

As she slowly made her way to the exit, the crowd was suddenly on their feet. They were cheering and screaming, and the roar washed over her like a warm breeze. She blinked up at them, her lips parting as she realized they were cheering for her.

Zor-El chuckled beside her.

“You know... that’s the first time in the history of Krypton that anyone has ever fought and won for their own hand in marriage.”

 


 

Kara recovered quickly from her ordeal in the arena.

Lena did not.

By the time she stumbled into the medical bay in the arena, Zor-El was practically carrying her. Kara gently pushed away the healer that was examining a cut on her forehead, and stood to greet her father. She reached down and wrapped an arm around Lena’s waist, catching her as she collapsed.

She lifted her into her arms and gently placed her on the examining table.

“Healer, come here please.” She frowned down at her, stroking her fingers through her hair. He stepped up to the table and immediately grabbed her wrist, pressing the back of his other hand to her cheek. Kara crossed her arms and watched him work.

“Is she going to be alright?”

The healer frowned and checked her eyes and breathing, testing her reflexes and measuring her pulse again for good measure.

He made a face. “I do not know, Princess. I can not find the issue.”

Zor-El stepped up to the table, his eyes filled with deep concern.

“She has been drained of the life force.”

Kara’s eyes widened and she started, uncrossing her arms. “The life force? How does this happen? Will it return?”

He nodded gravely, pressing a hand down gently to Lena’s forehead.

“She called it to save you. It does not happen very often – and only when a bond is immensely strong. Only when both sides of the bond are extraordinarily powerful.”

The blonde warrior’s fingers were suddenly trembling as they reached out to circle Lena’s wrist.

Zor-El’s voice floated softly down onto closed eyelids and shuddering breaths.

“Your Princess’ blood holds many secrets, Kara.” His gaze flicked up to Winn, who was watching quietly from across the room. “It may be time that we seek in earnest an answer to our questions about the first golden crest of El.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Healers surrounded Lena while scholars and advisors murmured softly to each other in corners, thumbing through texts and scribbling on paper with pens and pencils. Kara hovered impatiently, arms crossed, pacing back and forth. The third time she nearly ran over a healer, Winn had gently guided her out the door with a firm reassurance that he wouldn’t let anything happen to her and he would let her know the second they had more information.

She was standing in the dim hallway now outside the medical bay. Particles swirled through shafts of sunlight that pierced between the wooden slats above them.

Her eyes darkened and her heart began to pick up its pace, her fists clenching tightly at her sides.

The medical bay door opened and shut behind her.

She knew it was Zor-El before he ever said anything.

They stood together in that shadowy hall, Kara taking in deep but quickening breaths while Zor-El drew himself up to full height beside her.

She slowly turned to him, and their eyes met. Their minds went to the same place, and Zor-El gave her one short nod.

They both strode rapidly down the hall. Arena attendants, knights, and healers bowed their heads and murmured acknowledgements as they moved aside, allowing room for Princess and King to cut through their midst.

They passed through doors, down halls, deeper and deeper still into the depths of the arena, until the only light was from flickering gas-powered lanterns on the walls.

They approached a sealed door with several knights around it, including King Thrall, James, and one highly agitated Knight Captain. Sam stood close to Alex, concern causing her brows to pitch together as she pressed a palm to the small of her wife’s back. They were speaking in hushed tones, but Kara picked up the end of the conversation as they approached.

“I do not care who was responsible for the list of competitors. You are her guardian and my Lieutenant and if you were anyone else I would have you put outside these walls immediately for dereliction of duty- ”

“Alex please calm down, your heart rate is too high- ”

“Captain, I promise you that I will find our breach in security and they will be...”

James trailed off when he noticed Kara and Zor-El approaching, stiffening his spine and bowing before addressing them in a formal tone.

“Your highness. Princess Zor-El.”

King Thrall immediately stepped to the side, his thick hand reaching for the Kryptonian king’s elbow.

“Zor-El. If I may have word?”

They stepped out of earshot, leaving Kara standing before the other three. James cleared his throat.

“I would like to express my sincerest apologies for this matter, and provide you reassurances that this will never happen again.”

Kara’s fists remained clenched at her sides, but she knew better than to direct her anger towards her allies.

“It is done. The blame for this does not rest on one head alone.” She turned to Alex. “I trust that you have a plan in place to address these security concerns?”

Alex nodded, anger blazing in her eyes. “It is already in action. If there are any more infiltrators, we will find them by sun down.”

“I trust you, Captain.” Kara stepped closer, momentarily softening her eyes, and pressed gentle fingertips to the side of her belly. “Now please, je. Go to your office and manage this from there. It will make this day exponentially worse for me if something were to happen to you or the baby.”

Amber eyes glared at her fiercely for a moment before her shoulders finally sagged in compliance.

“I will send a squire with a report as soon as I have word.”

Sam guided her away, and as soon as they had disappeared from eyesight and earshot, Kara’s head snapped back around to James. Flames had returned to her deep blue eyes.

“Is he in there?”

Danger glinted in his own dark eyes, and he nodded slowly, anger ticking in his jaw.

“Yes he is, your highness.”

Her head swiveled to the side and she caught sight of her father and King Thrall rejoining her.

Unspoken words passed between them.

She squared herself on the door, red flickering on the edges of her vision, and growled without turning away her gaze.

“Open it.”

James grasped the thick iron handle and twisted it down, yanking the heavy, creaking door open.

Pale light shone in from a small square window near the ceiling, and dust rippled through the beams before settling on cold stone floor. The room was empty, save for four stone walls and a giant man, chained to and seated on a giant stone block in the center of the room.

Kara, Zor-El, and Thrall stepped through the door. She glanced over her shoulder and nodded once, and James swung it shut behind her with a slam.

Beady black eyes peered at her haughtily, and Kara’s shoulders tightened.

“Do not look at me, creature.”

A sneer curved into a smile, his eyes remaining locked on her face, alight and dancing with challenge.

“What’s wrong, Princess? Are you afraid - ”

His words were cut off by the sharp edges of a fist smashing into the center of his face. The chains on his waist kept him anchored to the stone, but his upper body was flung to the side. His nose broke and flattened downwards, instantly drenching him in blood; his cheekbones shattered, and an eye immediately began swelling shut.

Kara stayed in his space as he cried out and spluttered, spitting blood and several teeth onto the stone floor beside him. She silently watched him, waiting for him to drag his shuddering body upright again.

When it took longer than she cared for, she reached down with one hand and grasped the front of his tunic, hauling him back up onto his ass. She leaned down, her face only a few inches from his, and waited.

His good eye cast down towards the ground, and she released him slowly.

“Good.”

She straightened again and regarded the slumped assassin before her.

“Now that we understand each other... let’s talk.”

 


 

Something was crushing her skull.

An elephant from the far off Scarlet Jungle had been brought to her as a wedding gift. It wanted to be with its mate, and someone stole it away and brought it to her, and now it was angry and sitting on her head.

She was sure of it.

Lena groaned, trying to roll onto her side to hide her face away from the light that was somehow managing to stab through her eyelids.

A strong hand pressed into her shoulder and hip, keeping her still, and even that small pressure sent pain shooting through her body.

“Ssshh, Princess... you must lay still.”

Kara’s voice washed over her, cutting its way through the fog that had wrapped around her brain. She tried to wet her lips, but her tongue was just as dry.

“Kara?” she croaked.

A gentle hand settled on the top of her head, stroking through her hair.

“I am here, Lena.”

She braved cracking an eyelid open long enough to realize that she was now in Kara’s bedroom, in Kara’s bed, before whimpering and slamming it shut again when the fading sunlight poked the elephant on her head and made it dance.

“Why... mmmm. My head.” She reached up and pressed a palm to her temple, attempting to massage away some of the sharpness. She winced, and every movement felt like fire. She flexed her fingers and her joints creaked angrily.

“Why do my hands hurt so much?” she whispered.

Kara’s own hands wrapped around her aching fingers, shortly followed by the soft brushing of lips across her knuckles.

“Because you used them to save my life,” Kara murmured against her skin.

Lena groaned and tried to turn onto her side again, curling away from the windows. She was suddenly aware that she was freezing, and shivers wracked her body.

Kara frowned and reached down, grabbing a soft blanket from the foot of the bed and tucking it around her tightly. She struck the fireplace with a fierce beam of fire, setting it roaring, and turned to run her fingers through Lena’s hair.

“Lena... are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Lena’s body trembled, and it felt like her veins had turned to ice water.

“I’m so cold, Kara. What’s happening to me?”

The blonde warrior pressed the back of her hand to Lena’s neck and she felt goosebumps rising beneath her touch.

“I... I don’t know. Let me go get a healer.”

She sprang to her feet and went to make for the door when Lena’s hand shot out and caught hers.

“No, please. Stay with me.”

Kara frowned down at her, smoothing hair away from her forehead.

“Princess, let me go get you a healer to make you feel better.”

Lena shook her head and pushed down the blanket beside her, shivering down into the mattress as she pressed her face into the pillow.

“Please... lay with me. I’m so cold. Please?”

The Kryptonian paused, internal conflict battling in her chest between Lena’s wishes and common sense dictating that she should go get a healer.

In the end, Lena won.

Kara slipped behind her as Lena attempted to roll onto her side to make room, whimpering as her sore muscles screamed at her.

“Ssshhh, shh... It’s okay. Come here.” She gathered Lena up into her arms and pulled the blanket up higher. The raven-haired woman slowly turned into Kara’s embrace, her nose tucking into the crook of her neck as her hands curled up between them. Strong arms circled her and rubbed soothing circles into her back, warmth spreading from every place Kara touched.

She sighed deeply and Kara pressed her face into the top of Lena’s head, holding her close as her shivers subsided.

To Lena, Kara’s body heat warmed her faster than any fire. She pressed her palm into Kara’s chest and her fingers slid through the fabric of her tunic, before she grasped it tightly and drew herself closer.

A deep, shuddering breath released from her chest and she finally dropped into a more peaceful sleep.


 

Tears pricked sapphire eyes as they stared down at the beautiful woman in her arms.

The one who would be her wife.

The one who was becoming so incredibly important to her.

A lone tear tracked its way down her cheek, and Kara inhaled deeply into Lena’s soft hair.

“Zrhueiao... you beautiful woman. What am I going to do about this?”

She double-checked that the blankets were tucked tightly around them before drifting off to sleep herself as the sun set, burning and fiery, on the sea outside their window.


 

Chapter Text


 

 

The sun rose on the fourth day of their wedding festival. A peaceful mist blanketed the shore and fields beyond the palace, snaking through silent tents. It covered muddy footprints and slipped between waving leaves.

Lena’s eyes slipped open slowly. Her mind tugged forward the remnant of a distant memory – the sound of steel clashing on steel, the sour taste of sand and sweat, the incessant drumming in her temples, and the coursing of icy blood through her veins. She sent a careful probe into her skull, sighing in soft relief when the sharp ache seemed to have receded.

Her body itself was sore and tense, but the stiffness in her joints felt almost welcome.

In the fog of her sleep, she had a sense that the alternative to her stiff joints would have been far, far worse.

When her consciousness sank further into reality, she sucked in a deep breath and became fully aware of her body – which was being pinned beneath the solid weight of a Kryptonian warrior.

Sometime in the night, Kara had rolled on top of her. A tangle of blonde hair was nestled on her chest, Kara’s arms askew on the pillow on either side of Lena’s head.

Her own arms had slipped beneath Kara’s, and were locked tightly behind the blonde’s back.

Lena blinked slowly.

Her hands unfurled, and she found herself pressing them carefully down into the muscles of Kara’s back. Her first instinct was panic – she had never been this physically close to someone before who wasn’t causing her harm. Memories of pain, anger, and fear bubbled up in her throat – but she pulled in another deep, shaking breath, and found that the panic was easier to push away than she’d anticipated.

The second wave of emotions that coursed through her was riding the heels of both a complex instinct of nurturing that she’d never felt before, and the unexpected sense of contentment that had settled into her bones.

A feeling was gripping her heart, something unfamiliar and indescribable. It slipped down her skin, curled around her ankles, and dragged up her stomach, until it resolved beneath her collarbone. She was overcome with an urge to press her face to Kara’s, press her lips to her eyelids, her forehead, her cheekbones, but she tampered it down. Her eyes instead roved over the strong, chiseled features of the face pressed into the rise and fall of her chest.

Her hands, of their own accord, began to slowly smooth down the strong elevations of Kara’s shoulders and back. A soft groan escaped the Kryptonian’s lips, and Lena watched in fascination as the blonde breathed out an appeased sigh and snuggled down closer.

The hem of Kara’s tunic had ridden up to her lower back, leaving a strip of tan skin exposed above the waistline of her pants.

Lena’s fingertips found the skin there, and she was mesmerized by its velvet texture. They traced lines and patterns in the small space available, until it suddenly felt like it wasn’t enough. The figures and diagrams she was drawing pushed ever up, in smooth, concentric circles, slipping the hem of the tunic up with her touch.

Her palms settled slowly on the warm skin of Kara’s sides, and her thumbs stroked carefully across the hard, muscled ridge she found there.

“Mmmm...”

Lena froze as Kara shifted on top of her, a rumble moving through her chest. Powerful hips rocked into her, slow and hard, and Lena suddenly became very aware of the way Kara’s hip was pressed tightly at the apex of her thighs.

Her nails dug involuntarily into the soft skin beneath her hands, and the sharp intake of breath above her signaled that Kara had joined her in the land of the waking.

Her head raised slowly, and half-lidded blue eyes met widening green ones.

A soft pink color rose into Lena’s cheeks, her lips parting. Kara’s eyes tracked down to watch her tongue slowly wet her lower lip, before raising to meet her gaze again.

“I... I’m sorry. I wanted... I thought...” Lena struggled to find an explanation, and it didn’t escape her that Kara’s tawny skin was still pressed beneath her hands. She came up empty.

“I’m sorry.” She finished softly.

Kara pressed her hands down on the bed beside them, slowly pushing herself up. Her hips leveraged down tighter into Lena’s legs, and a soft sound whispered past her lips. An unreadable expression crossed Kara’s face.

Lena divested her hands of Kara’s tunic, bringing them up instead to skim along the edges of Kara’s elbows until they were dragging up her arms. She felt a deep pull to sink her fingers into the blonde hair cascading down around her like a waterfall, but felt as if she’d already crossed a boundary too many for one morning. She resorted instead to gripping onto corded biceps.

Deep breaths were being pulled, in and out, through the lungs of the warrior above her. She was somehow both as still as a stone and thrumming with energy. Lena’s stomach swooped when she lowered her head, and the soft tip of Kara’s nose brushed slowly against hers. Warm breath washed over her lips, and the raven-haired woman reversed her earlier decision and buried her hands in Kara’s thick blonde hair.

“Lena... I...”

She paused for a breath, but Lena tugged her down until their foreheads were pressed together.

Her heart pounded hard in her chest, and their lips were a hairsbreadth apart. An exhale closer, a single sigh away...

Knock knock knock.

Kara groaned, her forehead slipping down to drop on Lena’s shoulder as she collapsed back down on top of the smaller woman. Lena’s arms instinctively came up to circle strong shoulders again, and an irritation rocked through her.

“Yes?” Lena called out.

Kara’s lip quirked up, and she raised a brow in amusement. Her laughing tone murmured next to Lena’s ear.

“Are you taking charge of this one, Princess?”

The door creaked open before she could respond, and her mouth shut tightly as she leveled the squire with a tempered but withering look.

His eyes widened and he immediately turned away, snapping to attention and averting his gaze from the bed.

“Your highness! Queen Alura seeks to know if a healer should be sent over to your wing to assess the Princess.”

Lena pursed her lips and she felt Kara’s shoulders shaking with laughter on top of her. It was plain that the squire was addressing Kara, which only served to feed Lena’s agitation.

“No, the Princess is feeling just fine. I will stop by to visit with a healer later in the afternoon.”

His mouth opened and closed, and he struggled to address Kara without turning to look at her.

“Princess Zor-El..?”

Lena felt Kara’s lips smiling against her shoulder, before she cleared her throat and deepened her voice authoritatively.

“You heard her, squire. Please tell the Queen we will be joining them in the Great Hall for breakfast shortly.”

“Yes your highness.”

He swiftly turned, slipping away as quickly as humanly possible. The door clicked shut behind him, and Lena once more felt Kara laughing.

She cocked an eyebrow and looked down at the warrior in her arms.

“Something is amusing you, Princess Zor-El?” she commented sarcastically.

Kara rose up onto her elbows and grinned down at her.

“I was thinking only that you will make a formidable Queen some day, Princess Zor-El.”

With a swift kiss pressed to her cheek, she was off, leaving Lena sitting up in a daze. She watched her stride barefoot into the bathroom, catching a complete eyeful of the rippling muscles in her back as she tugged her tunic overhead and dropped it behind her.

The thought that she should join her raced through Lena’s mind like a bolt of lightning, but she quickly shoved it on its way and shook her head, getting up and making her way to her own bathroom.

Today was going to be a nerve-wracking day.

 


 

 

Kara discovered during breakfast that she had been evicted from her own wing of the palace.

Her fork drooped in front of her mouth, still full of eggs, while she stared at Lena.

“Sorry, come again?”

Lena kept her eyes on her plate, carefully spreading jam on her bread, and reaffirmed the statement she’d made that stopped Kara in her breakfast tracks.

“Yes. You are hereby banned from our wing until I clear you to return.”

Kara’s stomach dumped into her chair and rose into her throat at the same time when Lena said the words “our wing”, but she pushed those thoughts aside for future examination.

She slowly lowered her fork back down to her plate, carefully wiping her fingers on her napkin and clearing her throat.

“Would you mind telling me why I’m not allowed in my own home, Princess?”

Alex smacked her sharply on the shoulder as she was reaching for another roll.

“Stop asking questions, je. You know what day it is. Don’t you think Lena might have a good reason?”

Kara grumbled and rubbed at the aching muscle, picking her fork back up.

“I guess. But you better not be painting anything.”

 


 

 

Six Days Before the Festival

 

“Sam had a brand new set of armor made for me. She spent weeks trying to get my measurements for it without me knowing, but she’s about as subtle as a horse in a library.”

A snort crept up before Lena could stamp it down, and she shook her head.

“And what did you get her? On the fourth day of your wedding festival?”

“A brand new accounting classroom at Arias House.”

“Wow. What an incredibly thoughtful gift.”

Alex smiled quietly as they strolled through the palace halls together.  Their conversation was low, and their pace was slow to accommodate Alex’s rough gait.

When Kara had told her that the fourth day of the wedding festival was Reverence, and explained that it was a day for the betrothed to present each other with gifts, she instantly knew in her soul what she needed to do.

The next day, she caught up with Alex in her office and asked her if she would accompany her on a walk.

At first, Alex thought it was to finally engage in the conversation about Luthoria that had been left to the wayside by the arrival of Astra. But Lena made it clear that it was regarding something else, and Alex didn't push - for now.

“So what are your plans? Do you need help?”

“Yes, actually. That’s why I asked to speak with you.”

“Kara really loves food, so you can’t go wrong with that.”

“No no,” Lena interrupted with a chuckle. “I mean I have an idea. I just need your help with the execution.”

Alex took a step a little more tenderly than she intended to, and her swelling feet protested. She winced and reached out, hooking her arm through Lena’s. The brunette stiffened her arm and held her up as best she could as they walked.

“Well, alright then. Who are we executing? Is it the chef? Because I swear he’s been giving me fake bacon for weeks, so I’d be willing to help you with that.”

Lena stared at her in horror, and Alex’s eyebrows shot up.

“Ah... you meant... I see. The execution of a plan. I’m on board now.”

The dark-haired woman shook her head.

“No executing, please. I’m hoping that I’ve left that life fully behind me.”

Alex leaned into her and sighed deeply.

“You have, I suppose. Zor-El hardly ever lets me execute anyone these days. I was down to one a week before the baby, and now I’m not even allowed to lift a sword!”

Lena’s eyes widened in shock and a few small colors of fear, before she heard Alex laughing beside her.

“Kara was right... you really are fun to tease.”

“You’re both insufferable!” Lena exclaimed with an eye roll.

Finally, they arrived at their destination: the front door of the Arias wing.

Alex gave her a small smile and squeezed her arm gently.

“So how can I help, Princess? I’m assuming you didn’t walk me back to my wing because you’re suddenly very concerned about whether or not I take my afternoon nap.”

Lena laughed, shaking her head.

“No, Captain... I’m far more interested in your garden.”


 

Chapter Text


 

Nerves were coursing through Lena like tiny pulses of lightning, and it was starting to become more and more apparent that she had survived quite an ordeal yesterday. It felt almost as if her bones themselves were aching, and exhaustion pressed heavily into her shoulders.

 Kara had disappeared for the morning, as she had hoped, but not without many furtive glances back and numerous reassurances by Alex that Lena would be alright.

She had claimed preparations for Lena’s gift, which sent her stomach twisting in a whole new set of knots – but she chose instead to focus on the task at hand.

And she tried not to study too deeply the implications of how important this had suddenly become to her.

Lena paced along the smooth cobblestone path outside of the enormous glass doors that lead to their sitting room, her brow creasing with anxiety as she watched the palace groundskeepers work. Her arms crossed tightly in front of her, and it felt like rocks were forming in the back of her neck.

“Princess.” Alex called from her seat inside the sitting room. “Why don’t you come have a seat? The groundskeepers apprentice for many years before they’re allowed to touch a single flower petal. They can handle this.”

Lena shook her head, not even bothering to glance over her shoulder in Alex’s direction.

“No, I would very much like to watch.”

She could hear Alex sigh a groan of long-suffering, followed by the sounds of shuffling and faint straining. A few moments later, the auburn-haired knight was at her side, rubbing a hand absentmindedly over her belly. She surveyed the land before them and blew out a long breath.

“Wow. This looks amazing, Lena.”

The Luthorian Princess stopped pacing for a moment, emerald green eyes tracing over this space that had become sacred to her.

In just a few short hours, dozens of groundskeepers and their apprentices had utterly transformed it.

Where there was a long, rolling expanse of green grass before – framed by a pale blue sky and cerulean ocean in the distance and soaring white walls to the side – was now a tranquil, inviting oasis.

A large, arching pergola had been erected over the cobblestones, stretching from one side of the doors to the other. It was framed in dark wood and the bases were surrounded by cream and grey stones, invoking the design of the arena that Lena was entranced with. It was tall – Lena had taken extra precautions to ensure that nothing would block the incredible view of the sea – and the keepers had woven rich green vines through it that would produce fragrant white and purple flowers in the spring.

Matching trellises had been raised halfway up the walls on either side, covered in the same thick, green snaking vines. Waving ferns and short shrubs lined the edges, and a small half-circle of rose bushes on the right side surrounded newly-placed cobblestones, topped with a stone table, benches, and several potted trees that provided shade from the brilliant sun. A circle had been sunken in to one side and carefully lined with dark stones – perfectly suited to contain a fire on chilly nights. Cords of firewood has been stacked neatly beside it. A large, empty expanse of grass in front of the doors to Kara’s room had been left untouched, to allow the warrior room for her morning routine.

Small clusters of flowering bushes dotted the rest of the space in even, careful rows – specifically designed to allow for several species of flowers to bloom in every season. The last touch – which the groundskeepers were assembling now – was a small fountain that would bubble with fresh water. It was surrounded by a ledge, and Lena was secretly hoping it would attract more of Krypton’s colorful avian population.

A hand slipped into the crook of her elbow and squeezed. She smiled and turned, expecting to see Alex, but was stunned to find that its owner was Alura. She stammered and hurried to incline her head.

“Your highness, I didn’t realize you were coming today.”

“I have been, admittedly, very busy these past few weeks.” Alura smiled at her. “But I must say, there’s nothing like watching your only daughter’s potential assassination to make you slow down and take a moment.”

Lena let out a breath slowly, nodding with a far-off look in her eyes.

“Yes, I can certainly understand the sentiment.”

The hand on her arm squeezed, and Alura pulled her gently into the grass to stroll through the groundskeepers as they quietly worked.

“On that line, I believe thanks are in order, Princess.”

A strange sense of panic seized Lena’s chest. Alura caught the look in her eyes and pulled her up short, reaching down to clasp Lena’s clammy hand between hers. Lena rushed to speak.

“Please, your highness, I was simply doing what anyone would have done. What Kara would have done.”

The Queen’s eyes narrowed shrewdly, a glimmer of amusement flickering through them so quickly it was as if it had never happened.

“You’re right, Princess. It is what Kara would have done.”

Lena nodded, hoping that the way her hand trembled wasn’t noticeable.

“But it isn’t what anyone would have done.” She caught Lena’s wide, stressed-out gaze and held it steadily.

“I will not admit that I understand what is transpiring between you and Princess Zor-El. I understand the need for your relationship from a political stand point, and I commend you on your dedication to that task. Causing others to believe that you are naught but young lovers is the safest road to travel right now.”

Lena’s heart hammered in her chest, and it felt suddenly as if the vines surrounding them were beginning to snake around her throat.

“But I have noticed the way you interact with each other when the public is not present – at family meals, or walking through the courtyard. Trust that I know that my daughter is beautiful – I have seen brokenhearted knights and scholars alike follow her through the palace like ducklings.”

The internal monologue rambling through Lena’s head right now was urging her to find somewhere to sit, immediately. Strong hands seemed to sense her weak knees and Alura squeezed her wrist gently, acknowledging the roiling anxiety in Lena’s eyes.

“I only mean to say that I am beginning to believe that there is something quite extraordinary happening here. There are pieces of this puzzle that haven’t quite been adding up, and no matter how much conventional knowledge and logic we throw at it, nothing sticks.”

The softer words of reassurance slowed the quick pulse in Lena’s wrist, and she took in a shaky breath. A groundskeeper slipped behind them with a large piece of trellis, forcing them to step aside – and out of the center of that moment. It gave Lena a precious few seconds to catch her breath and attempt to dislodge herself from the spinning wheel that her brain had become.

She wiped her hands on the front of her trousers, and when her eyes met Alura’s again, the older woman’s were full of quiet, cautious questioning.

“When you are ready, I would love to have a conversation with you regarding your lineage – or at least, what you can remember of it. I believe that the key to solving some of these mysteries is determining who your real mother is.”

The world came to a stop – including Lena’s hammering heart. Despite the chilly air, her body suddenly felt sweaty - and the internal monologue shifted from urging her to find a chair to urging her to flee at once.

“I... I’m not sure what you’re referring to, your highness.”

Her spine stiffened and her eyes darted to the sides, measuring the distance between them and the ears of the laboring groundskeepers. Alura watched her with interest.

“It is not a secret to me or Zor-El that there is a question of your heritage. We are unconcerned, for our part – Krypton does not bear interest in “pure” bloodlines, because the mark of El tends to overpower all others. It is, however, exceedingly pertinent to a set of your duties and responsibilities for Day Five of this festival and the duration of your marriage, Princess.”

Clever blue eyes pinned her down for a long stretch of silence, and Lena was finally forced to fully face her.

“What would you like to know?”


 

Chapter Text


 

Their conversation was stalled, for the time being – Winn had appeared, joy playing with the creases of his eyes, to escort Lena to Kara.

Lena’s fearful gaze sought Alura’s, but the Queen smiled briefly and nodded.

“Go, Princess. That impatient warrior is waiting for you.”

She slipped her hand into the crook of Winn’s arm, but turned back in the moment before leaving.

“Your highness... my dress.”

Alura frowned. “Is something amiss? Anhani is coming this afternoon to do the final fitting.”

 “Nothing is amiss – I was hoping that you would join me. Perhaps we can speak then?”

Surprise slowly lifted the Queen’s furrowed brow.

“You would have me attend your dress fitting, Princess? This position is normally reserved for...”

“The mother of the betrothed.” Lena smiled wryly. “It seems as if I am short one of those, at present. I would be honored if you were there in her stead.”

A fierce conversation occurred that was only visible in Alura’s eyes as they danced across Lena’s face. Finally, she clasped her hands together in front of her and nodded.

“I will be there.”

Lena curtsied and inclined her head, before allowing Winn to lead her away.

Alex appeared beside Alura, and both of them watched the raven-haired woman depart.

When she had passed through the doors into the sitting room and out of earshot, the knight captain leaned closer to the Queen of Krypton.

“I am thinking that perhaps Princess Lena of Luthoria is far more politically savvy than we originally understood.”

A slow smile crept across the taller woman’s face, something indiscernible – perhaps briefly resembling pride –  shining in her eyes.

“She is a clever girl, indeed.”

 


 

Winn was refusing to give her hints. As they strolled across the courtyard, she tried everything in the book – promises of reward, threats of punishment, beguiling him with fluttering eyelashes, reducing him to a quivering lump with rage. He simply smiled at her and shook his head.

“I am deeply sorry Princess. While your show at the arena yesterday was truly remarkable, Kara Zor-El has had years to perfect her knowledge of my weak spots – and she is not afraid to exploit them.”

Her shoulders slumped and she huffed, but amusement was still dancing in her green eyes – though her stomach was twisting itself into ropes again.

As if he was picking up on her roiling emotions, Winn pulled her slightly closer, pressing their shoulders together.

“We’re almost there, Princess. Don’t worry.”

It was a few more minutes before Lena realized that he was leading her towards the stables.

Kara was waiting outside with two horses, saddled and ready to go, and a brilliant smile on her face. She waved as they approached, and Lena’s heart caught in her chest as Kara’s golden hair caught in the sunlight. Warmth blossomed through her.

“Good afternoon, Princess. Has your day been well?”

Lena found herself grinning, Winn suddenly forgotten beside her.

“It’s been... rather stressful, actually.” She laughed softly.

“Well I’m sorry for that. Hopefully it’s about to get better.”

Their eyes met and held for several long moments, a gentle wind teasing strands of hair as they stood before each other.

Winn glanced back and forth between them, before clearing his throat and executing a short bow.

“Your highness! I will be off. Safe travels.”

Kara blinked from her reverie.

“Thank you, Winn!”

He waved a hand over his shoulder and began the trek down the path back to the palace.

Kara was tightly gripping the reins of two horses – one that Lena recognized as Kara’s mount, a tall, grey mare with a shining coat and mischievous eyes. The second was a horse that Lena had only ever seen briefly in the stables – a deep, chocolate mare, with a timid personality but soaring intelligence behind beautiful brown eyes.

Ana, Kara’s mare, stamped a hoof gently. The second horse nickered softly, turning her neck and bumping Ana with her nose.

Lena reached up tentatively, before smoothing her hand slowly down the horse’s cheek, until she lowered her head to nuzzle her soft nose into the Princess’ hand. She huffed out a gentle breath, her lips searching Lena’s palm for a treat.

Kara watched her quietly, a slow smile spreading across her face.

“Do you like her, Princess?”

Lena nodded, enthralled with the way the horse’s soft mane felt as it slipped through her fingers.

“Good. She’s yours.”

Lena’s lips parted and she turned to Kara with a start, unbidden tears instantly springing to her eyes.

“I... Are you... sure?”

Kara laughed, reaching up to pat at Ana’s neck.

“Yes, of course. She is part of your gift, Princess.”

The dark-haired woman turned back to the horse with delight, suddenly overcome with laughter, and she wound her arms carefully around the mare’s neck – who was content to snuffle through the brown hair as the breeze lifted it from the small woman’s shoulders.

When she finally stepped back again, her cheeks were shining with tears.

“Thank you. Thank you so much.”

And then Kara’s arms were full as Lena’s deceptively strong ones wrapped around her waist, her face pressed into her shoulder. She squeezed her tightly and wished for a year filled with this moment, but she knew that they still had a journey to make.

“Come, Princess. We have some travelling to do.”

 


 

As the horses cantered quietly across an open expanse of fields, pine trees and the dusty silhouette of mountains rising in the distance before them, they spoke softly – of horses, of their childhoods, of their dreams.

Lena learned that her new mare’s name was Leia, and that Leia and Ana were a bonded pair that disliked being separated. Kara reasoned that they would be spending a good deal of time together, and it made perfect sense that she should belong to Lena.

It made the Luthorian Princess feel a surge of happiness rocket through her veins.

She also learned that Kara spent many years absolutely terrified of horses because she had been thrown from a particularly ornery pony when she was four – but when Alura’s mare, Jynn, had given birth to a shimmering grey foal, she was besotted. She went to the fields every day as she grew, laughing and playing until the horse was too large to roll around with. She still disliked riding her, but Ana was a patient and powerful horse. And when the stable hand had come up from the south fields gently leading along a deep brown mare he’d found wandering along the treeline, Ana immediately took to her. She whinnied and huffed and stamped her feet until the chestnut horse had been placed in the stable beside hers, and they spent their days nipping at each other and wandering through their fields side-by-side.

Lena smiled through the story, reaching down to card her fingers through the soft mane.

They rode in silence for some time, the pines slowly sifting through the field around them.

“Where would you have gone?” Kara asked.

Lena looked at her curiously, tugging the reins gently to guide Leia around a boulder.

“What do you mean?”

“After we escaped. If I had not taken you to Krypton with me – where would you have gone?”

“Mmm.” Lena allowed the gentle rocking of the horse to distract her for a few moments, before breathing out a deep sigh.

“To be honest with you, Princess, I was hardly expecting to survive at all.”

Kara frowned deeply, watching Lena’s face. “But you must have had some kind of plan. No one does something so bold without at least the glimmer of hope that everything will work out.”

The raven-haired woman pursed her lips and nodded, eyes glued to the landscape rising up before them as the began cresting a hill.

“Ansom.”

Blonde eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“The desert town, across the Dandahu Ocean?”

Lena nodded.

“Sweet Rao. Why there?”

The response she received was a noncommittal shrug.

“It seemed like the farthest place from Luthoria I could possibly go.”

Her tone made it clear that the talk had ended, but Kara had the distinct feeling that there was much more to that choice than she was willing to discuss.

Their conversation was interrupted by the top of the hill, offering a view down into a small valley.

Snow-capped mountains reflected on the calm surface of a glassy lake, crisp sheets of ice already floating along the edges of the shore. Trees lined the distant bank, but filtered out again along the coast closest to them. Grass that was normally green and full of life was in a golden-brown state of hibernation. The trees were slipping into the rich, mottled colors of fall, and puffy white clouds floated aimlessly through a pure blue sky.

Along the eastern bank of the lake stood a wooden structure – small, but with a tall profile, topped by a sloped roof and wrapped in a porch. Smoke curled lazily from a stone fireplace.

Lena looked on in wonder, drinking in the sights before her.

“Kara... this is stunning. We don’t have anything like this in Luthoria.”

The blonde eyed her somewhat sadly, but still answered her with a bright smile.

“I promised you the freedom you were seeking.”

Lena turned to her in wonder for the second time that day.

“Do you mean... is this..?”

Kara nodded, squinting down into valley.

“I have named it Urvish, which means “Peace” in Kryptonian. But you are free to rename it, if you’d like.”

Lena’s heart began a now all-too-familiar pounding, and she realized that she was pulling down on Leia’s reins too tightly when the horse stamped gently beneath her. She loosened her grip, turning to Kara with a voice tinted in fear and confusion.

“Am I to stay here, Princess?”

Kara stared over at her in horror.

“Rao, no! I am so sorry, Lena – I did not mean to give you the impression that this was to be your permanent home.”

She tugged Ana closer and reached out, grabbing onto Leia’s saddle horn and looking into deep green eyes earnestly.

“Urvish is meant for you to use if you’re ever feeling... trapped, or scared, or anxious. It is a peaceful retreat, where you are free to be whomever it is you would like to be. It is your safe space. Leia will always be available for you to come here whenever you'd like.”

Understanding, and then something else she couldn’t pin down, rushed through Lena like a roaring tide. The cool breeze dried the hot tears that were racing their way down  her cheeks. She was entirely overwhelmed, and words were sticking in her chest and throat. Her fingers flexed, and they were suddenly gripping the front of Kara’s soft, thick tunic, twisting her torso towards her and tugging her down to press their lips together.

The Kryptonian Princess was starting to grow accustomed to these spontaneous shows of affection, and she disentangled her hand from Ana’s reins to reach up and cup Lena’s cheek. Her lips were cold as they pressed carefully along Lena’s, and the hand tangled in the front of her shirt pulled her down closer. Kara’s thumb stroked slowly along the sharp angle of Lena’s cheekbone.

They stayed, lips pressed together gently, their breath enveloping them in clouds of vapor, until their horses stamped impatiently beneath them. When they finally parted, Kara pressed one more swift, chaste kiss to Lena’s upper lip.

With a soft ticking sound, Kara urged Ana forward with grin, leaving Lena on the hill to watch her go.

“Are you coming?” she called over her shoulder.

Lena grumbled, but followed her down.

 


 

When they returned from their visit down into the valley, Lena was torn between warring feelings – excitement at the idea of finally showing Kara her new garden, and dread at the conversation with Alura that was waiting for her in her dress-fitting.

She wished she had had the opportunity to view the garden before guiding Kara into their wing with her hands over her eyes, but she quickly realized it would have been entirely unnecessary. Alex and the groundskeepers had followed her vision down to the last detail, and then some.

Gentle afternoon light pushed through the space like a flannel blanket, wrapping everything in hues of orange and yellow and shadowy forest greens. A fire was crackling in the cobble-stoned area to the right, and the fountain gently bubbled. A cool breeze sent the rose bushes whispering, and a trio of birds were already chirping softly from one of the potted trees.

Lena silently guided them through the sitting room with her hands over Kara’s eyes and her body pressed against her back – perhaps a little closer than necessary. A mischievous smile danced over the Kryptonian’s lips, and she held her hands out in front of her in an effort to prevent herself from being run into furniture.

“I’m not going to let you trip,” Lena laughed in her ear quietly.

“It isn’t that I think you’ll do it intentionally, Princess – I simply think that you will not have the upper body strength to catch me if I did. Is a door open? It’s rather drafty in here.”

Lena bit back another laugh and pulled the blonde up short, stopping just before the open door that led to the garden. Her lips brushed Kara’s ear with a teasing tone.

“Princess I nearly slayed a giant assassin for you yesterday. You think me so weak?”

“... that is a fair point. Are birds my gift? I hear birds.”

The shorter woman snorted softly and shook her head, though Kara could not see her.

“No, it is not birds.”

She slowly lowered her hands and stepped to the side, eyes searching Kara’s face anxiously. She watched blue eyes adjust to the afternoon light after having been covered, and she watched full lips slowly fall away from each other.

Kara placed her foot carefully down onto the cobblestones, her eyes drifting up to take in the vines and pergola above her before stepping out onto the grass in wonder.

Lena...” came the soft whisper.

The Luthorian Princess stood in the doorway, twisting her fingers anxiously as her eyes roamed over the garden, trying to view it as freshly as Kara was seeing it.

“Is it... alright? I tried to preserve the view, and I ensured that you would have enough space to go through your morning exercises. The fire is for when it is chilly, and the bushes will bloom with flowers in every season. There are even winter lilies, which the head groundskeeper has assured me will be coming up in the next few weeks - ”

She was cut off by strong arms pulling her into a hard chest, and Kara was burying her face in silky hair that smelled like roses and snow.

“Thank you. Truly, Princess, thank you.”

A sigh of relief drifted past Lena’s lips, and she sank into the embrace, wrapping her arms tightly around Kara’s strong back. She gave her a hard squeeze, before there was a sharp rap at the door.

“Ah. That would be the second part of your gift. I am afraid it isn’t a lake-shore retreat, but...”

Lena briskly pulled open the door, and a laugh bubbled up in Kara’s stomach at the envoy waiting on the other side. They all pushed through together, and the sitting room was suddenly filled with laughter and greetings and hums of approval at the newly constructed gardens. James, Lucy, Winn, Alex, Sam, various knights – Kara’s friends filed through, one by one, each carrying some kind of bottle or basket or blanket.

Kara smiled at them all in turn, but even her token grin didn’t hide the confusion creasing her forehead. She hugged James, gesturing at everyone behind his back, plainly mouthing “What is happening?” to Lena.

When the last person had shuffled out to the gardens – and were beginning to settle in on the benches and chairs around the fire – Lena turned to the tall blonde warrior.

“My dress fitting is this afternoon. I am due there shortly, in fact.”

Kara nodded slowly, her lips still moving to form a question. Lena shrugged and smiled up at her.

“I thought that it might be nice for you to break in your new garden with your closest friends, and perhaps escape from the stress of the wedding preparations. I know that you have been training hard, and that politics is not an easy realm for you to navigate. Since we can not, unfortunately, skip another dinner with the Members of the Alliance, I would love for you to have a drink and a moment to breathe before we are due to shake hands and pretend we like everyone.”

A soft chuckle left Kara’s throat, and she stared again longingly at the garden outside the window.

“You know... it’s funny.”

Lena’s smile turned questioning.

“What is?”

Kara gestured outside, at the garden, at her laughing friends.

“We have gifted each other the same thing – a space of peace, and serenity.” The corner of her mouth crooked into an endearing smile as she turned to Lena again. “We live lives of constant turmoil, you and I. Do we not?”

This prompted Lena’s own chuckle. “Yes, I suppose we do.”

A soft chime sounded, and Lena glanced anxiously at the clock. She had hoped to put this off for much longer, but it was time to face the music.

She tried to put on a brave smile as she kissed Kara on the cheek and shooed her out into the garden, but it faded when she turned back to the door.

 


 

Lena’s dress was breath taking.

Deep emerald green was gathered at the edge of Lena’s right shoulder, bunched expertly and pinned precisely with a brilliant golden brooch in the shape of the crest of El. It pulled tightly across her chest, angling sharply down to gracefully curve around the swell of her left breast, where it swooped languidly around her side and cut across her back to meet once more with the pinned brooch at her right shoulder. A silky train fluttered along the top edge of the dress between her shoulder blades before soaring down her back, flowing behind her like a wave on the shoreline.

Anhani had outdone herself, and she fussed at the edges and the details, putting in pins and whispering small changes to herself.

Lena was so enthralled by the dress that she nearly forgot to be anxious about her impending conversation with Alura, who was standing quietly in the corner, observing with her attentive eyes that both scared and fascinated Lena.

When Anhani turned back to scribble down some notes and read through a few from earlier, Alura took the opportunity to step forward.

“Princess... you’re a vision.”

A pretty blush crawled through Lena’s cheeks, and she smoothed her hands down the sides of the silky material.

“Thank you, your highness.”

“Your mother should be incredibly proud to have such a strong-willed, intelligent, and beautiful daughter.”

Her tone was plain, and Lena nodded slowly, drawing forth the conclusion that Alura had intended her to reach.

“Right... My mother.”

The room suddenly felt stifling, in both temperature and silence, and even Anhani had ceased whispering and scribbling.

Lena absentmindedly rubbed the fingertips of her hand against her palm, trying to calm her nerves.

“My... understanding is that she was from Ansom.”

Recognition of the city flickered in Alura’s eyes, but that was the only indication she gave. Her silence urged Lena to continue.

“My father was ill for many years. He had fevers, and coughs. His hair began to fall out, and he was so weak sometimes that he could not even get out of bed.” She inhaled and exhaled softly, dredging up memories that she had not realized were painful.

“Towards the end, he became delirious. I was caring for him one evening, when he mentioned a city named Ansom. I sat beside him and tried to coax answers from him about his travels, but he kept mumbling something about a woman who had lived in Ansom. He said she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and that he wished every day that he had run away with her across the Dandahu Ocean.”

She stepped down from the stool she had been perched on, and wiped a sweating palm down her thigh.

“It took a few weeks, but I pressed him for more answers every day. I eventually learned that Lillian was not my mother – and I very strongly suspected that I was, in fact, the child of this woman from Ansom.” Her eyes cast downwards and her voice cracked softly.

“He died in his sleep before I could learn more. The only other information I have is that she had hair and eyes that matched mine.”

Alura watched her carefully, before nodding slowly and crossing her arms over her chest.

“Ansom is a large city, unfortunately. It does not really give us much insight into your lineage – but it is, at least a place to start.”

Lena nodded. “I am sorry that I could not be of more help. I don’t even know her name.”

“I do.”

Lena and Alura both turned, startled at the intrusion from the corner of the room. Anhani’s accented syllables fell between them like a lit fire, and she stepped out once more from the shadows she had tucked herself into when Lena began speaking.

“She was Inah im Rao.”


 

Chapter Text


 

Bonded in the deep
In chains, dark and dire
One with Honor to keep
And One they would call Liar.

A Daughter of Rao
And a Child of El
May deliver the world
To heaven or to hell.

Theirs is a love, to free or to seize
One flag upon the tallest spire
They do not traverse our mortal seas
But sail upon an Ocean of Fire.

- Ancient Kryptonian Prophecy


 

Lena frowned at the seamstress in confusion, while Alura started beside her.

“Who is Inah - ”

“That is a myth, Anhani. There is no more Inah im Rao.”

Wise brown eyes watched the Queen quietly for a long moment.

"Her bond is gold, is it not?"

Lena was surprised to see Alura's response die in her throat. Her eyes narrowed, and she crossed her arms quietly.

The seamstress gently patted the table beside them.

“Your highness... Princess. Perhaps you should change from your dress and sit.”

The fire crackling in the hearth beside them was reflecting sharply in Anhani’s features, and her voice seemed to lengthen over the vowels as she addressed Lena directly.

“I have a story to tell you of a priestess, a seamstress, and a king that is centuries in the making...”

 


 

Thousands of years ago, Kryptonians began worshiping Rao, the god of the sun. They were imbued with powers, and attributed them to his holy light radiating down upon them. It was around this same time that Kryptonians discovered that they could be bound to each other, through the persistent and unbreakable life force. Ancient Kryptonians believed that this life force was a manifestation of Rao and his power.

They began exploring their bonds – how they work, how they interact with each other, what they mean.

There were different colors, different patterns, different combinations. The most common connection to be made was one of matching symbol and color. The color was sometimes different - but this was exceedingly rare.

It was discovered that the bond mark of the House of El was very powerful, as the platinum color and symbol always overtook others. The family of El were soon chosen to lead, and have benevolently done so for many centuries.

One day, however, a bond was made – and a woman’s mark, while matching her partner’s in symbol, was a different color.

It was brilliant and gold - the first that had ever been seen.

The Kingdom of Krypton found that she was incredibly strong of spirit and mind, and it was declared that she was indeed Inah im Rao herself – the Daughter of Rao.

She was capable of wielding great influence over those around her.

She was named a Priestess of Rao, and she held great respect and authority within the Kingdom. Her opinion carried great weight, and she was as wise as she was revered.

She eventually bore a daughter – who, on her bonding day, also presented the gold mark of Rao. She was Wenah im Rao – the Granddaughter of Rao. And her daughter after her was Zhiwwnah im Rao, Great-Granddaughter of Rao.

Each Daughter’s gold mark never transferred to her partner – only the Daughters of Rao carried it with them. Each Daughter in succession was named a Priestess of Rao.

When the fourth generation was born, and she grew older and more beautiful, elder Kryptonians were astounded to see that she was such a likeness of Inah im Rao that she could have been her twin.

It was decided then that in every three generations the cycle began again, and a new Inah im Rao was born.

This continued for six full generations – until Zod.

Zod was an evil Kryptonian, who attempted to rally civilians and armies against the House of El in order to win power over the Kingdom. He declared himself an Emperor, and would not defer to lesser nobility like Kings and Queens.

In a play to strong-arm the House of El into doing his bidding, he kidnapped the current Priestess Zhiwwnah, held her hostage, and tortured her for many days.

By the time the armies of Krypton had ruined his plans and destroyed his fortress, nothing was left of the Zhiwwnah but blood.

 


 

“Yes – and that is where the line ends. There are no Daughters of Rao, Anhani.” Alura interjected. “Whispers of her existence were nothing more than hopeful Kryptonians and wishful thinking.”

Anhani’s clever eyes traced along Lena’s face as if she was studying her features deeply, before they dragged across the table to regard the Queen.

“And now I shall reveal to you a secret, your highness, that my family has been carrying for five generations.”

 


 

 

It was not unusual then for Kryptonian armies to travel with a caravan seamstress, tasked with repairing armor, boots, and clothing.

Yanhadi Radishe was such a seamstress, and she had been ordered to park her cart at the base of a tall tower in the center of the fortress.

Outside this tower, in the early morning fog and the early cries of victory, Yanhadi set to work repairing boots – when she heard soft cries for help. She searched through brush and rubble at the base of the tower, and finally came upon a bleeding and dirty woman.

Yanhadi immediately sprang to retrieve a healer, but was brought down to her knees once more beside the woman with a single, grating command.

It was only then that Yanhadi realized she had come upon the Zhiwwnah – who had crawled, bloody and determined, down from the tower.

Her rasping voice and trembling hands clenched around Yanhadi, pulling her close and imploring her to listen. She vowed to never allow another Daughter of Rao to be used to wage war, and Zhiwwnah begged her to help her escape.

Yanhadi immediately tucked her away in her wagon. The next few days were precarious, but Zhiwwnah was eventually well enough to travel. Once the final battle cry was rung, Yanhadi returned home with her cart and the Priestess – and spent the next few months reviving her.

While Krypton mourned the loss of the daughters of Rao, the Radishe family kept their secret for many years.

All generations after – Inah im Rao, Wenah im Rao, and Zhiwwnah im Rao never bonded again, for fear of revealing themselves and their golden heritage.

They carried on their lineage through non-traditional partnerships, choosing noble, proud partners - and quietly slipping away the morning after.

 


 

“I still require some type of explanation in this regard,” Lena muttered.

Both Alura and Anhani raised their eyebrows in surprise, turning to the younger woman.

“Princess... you are now the Chief of Scientific and Medical Research for the Kingdom of Krypton. You do not know how children are created?” Alura asked incredulously.

Lena’s mouth opened and closed as deep red flared through her face.

“I know how they are traditionally created, but there are... some things here are different, they... they... ”

She sighed, dropping her forehead into her palm and waving her other hand in the air between them.

“I will just find it in a book. Please... continue.”

 


 

Yanhadi’s family had taken up a mantle of secrecy and aid, and with every generation of im Rao came a new generation of caretaker. They had cared for each successive Priestess in turn, and were always there during birth to welcome the new Daughter of Rao.

The Daughters of Rao birthed and raised their daughters in this manner, eventually teaching them who they were and why they must live their lives in hiding.

Thus the legend of the Daughters of Rao slipped quietly into mythos, cornered in back pages of dusty tomes and forgotten more and more by those who came after.

One day, generations later, a handsome Luthorian king was travelling through the dusty town of Ansom and came upon the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his life – a Kryptonian woman with long, dark hair and brilliant green eyes. He was so taken with her that he allowed her to guide him back to her room, where he spent the night with her.

The next morning, she was gone.

When he returned home, he confessed to his Queen what he had done.

She flew into a rage and demanded that he lay with her, to remove the memory of the other woman.

And so he did.

A few months later, they discovered that the Queen was pregnant.

But he could never forget the beautiful, dark-haired woman from Ansom.

This longing is how, nine months later, he found himself passing through Ansom once more on his way home from a trade agreement.

He was inexorably drawn to a damp, dim hut on the edge of town, where the sounds of screaming and retching were drifting through the cracked door.

He drew his sword and pushed the door open, only to find the woman he had laid with was sprawled across a bed, sweating and bleeding profusely. Another woman was at her side, distressed and deeply sad.

The dark-haired woman lifted a hand for him as if she had been waiting for him, and he immediately went to her side.

Within moments a child was brought into the world, screaming as her mother had been, and just as bloody. She held the child up to him and he immediately wrapped her in his cloak, staring down at her in more awe than he had when his son had been born.

But there was trouble.

The beautiful woman had lost too much blood, and her spirit could not be recovered.

She begged him to take the child. To keep her safe, to give her a good life.

In her delirium, and with her final breath, she had tried to tell Lionel Luthor that the baby girl was Wenah im Rao.

But her life was finished, and she was not able to speak the girl's full title - her final gasp ended with the word "Wenah."

The other woman took a dagger from her belt and cut the cord.

They both looked down at the bloody woman before them, realizing then that Lionel Luthor, King of Luthoria, could not be here, in this hut, with this woman, covered in her blood.

So she sent him away, her eyes full of tears and anger.

The King stole away in the night with the baby tucked into his arms.

He had no plan, no words to say to Lillian. He only that he knew this baby was to be protected.

He arrived home to find his own wife emotionally devastated – their daughter had been born that night, but her lungs had never drawn in air.

Upon seeing Lionel with another woman’s baby in his arms, and in the raging fire of her pain, the Queen of Luthoria was transformed.

Her hands lifted from the covers of her bed, and she gestured at him to bring her closer.

He placed the baby in her arms, and a deep hatred of Kryptonians was born that day.

Without sparing him as much as a glance, she sent him away – but not before he turned to the town crier, who was waiting timidly beside the bedroom door.

In the rush of the dark-haired woman’s final moments and the breathlessness of her dying exhalation, the King of Luthoria, unfamiliar with Kryptonian lore, mistook the words that so desperately tried to convey that the baby was Wenah im Rao.

“Tell Luthoria – a Princess has been born here this day. Her name is Lena.”

 


 

Lena’s chest heaved. Sweat had gathered in beads across her forehead, and tears were streaming down her face. Her nails were digging into the wood of the table she was seated at, and she could not grasp firmly onto a single thought that was flying through her head. Anhani’s voice was floating past her, and she tried desperately to focus on it again, but it continued to elude her.

Alura was simply staring at the seamstress, and her mind seemed to be racing as quickly as Lena’s – though with markedly less panic.

When she finally noticed the Princess’ state, she reached over to gently cover her hand. It shook beneath her palm, and she gave it a careful clasp.

“Lena... perhaps you should get some air.” She ducked her head down to meet her eyes, giving her a meaningful look. “And find Kara.”

She dark-haired girl stood abruptly, nodding and swallowing thickly.

“Yes. I will find Kara.”

She left in a daze, gently closing the door behind her.

Alura and Anhani stared at the door, seated inside a very heavy silence, for several very long minutes.

A soft, lilting voice broke through the air.

“Your highness... the prophecy...”

Alura nodded slowly, her eyes never leaving the door Lena had departed from.

“Yes... it does suddenly seem as if the whole world is now at stake.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

It felt as if ten thousand pairs of eyes were staring directly into her soul.

Smoke curled around the edges of her lungs, and the fires raging outside the tent they were dining under were doing nothing to ward away the chill seeping into her skin.

Her food sat before her, largely untouched, while she remained with her eyes transfixed on some point in space. Red sparks danced up into the black night sky and the press and hum of people around her made her wish she was one of them.

She was barely registering the way her spoon felt between her numb fingers, the way the table linen brushed against the tops of her thighs, the way the air filled and emptied from her chest.

Lena dropped the utensil, giving up all pretenses of eating anything, and sat back in her chair with a defeated spine. Her hands fell into her lap and her gaze remained beyond infinity.

The first thing to register to her since she’d stumbled back through their wing, through the glass doors, into the garden firelight, and into Kara’s arms, was that same arm sliding around her back and drawing her tightly against a warm side.

It felt almost as if she could turn into that side and reach beneath the maroon cloak and let it swallow her.

She felt, more than saw, Kara looking up at someone who was leaning over their table. It could have been Alura, or Zor-El, or Alex – faces weren’t ticking any boxes for Lena tonight. She felt Kara nod, then lean down and press her forehead to Lena’s temple and murmur something softly to her.

She didn’t know what it was, but it made her feel a little more warm. She nodded to Kara without really understanding why, and suddenly they were rising from the table and Kara was bidding everyone goodbye, with that arm, that strong arm, wrapped tightly around her waist.

Lena didn’t say anything to anyone at all, but Kara made that okay for her. She pulled her close as they left, as if to hide her away from questioning eyes, and it seemed like nothing more than a young couple in love.

The Luthorian Princess stayed tucked close to the Kryptonian – after their door had shut behind them, after Kara had paused in front of Lena’s room briefly before skipping it and heading straight to her own, after the blonde had carefully helped her out of her boots and unpinned her cloak.

Her arms knew to wind themselves around a strong neck as she was easily lifted into protective arms and carried to the bed. There was no protest or confusion on her tongue when a warm body slipped in beside her, pulling sheets and blankets up, pulling her in, wrapping her up. Her face knew to find the space beneath Kara’s jaw; her hands knew to slip around powerful shoulders. Her knotted back knew to let go when insistent fingertips pressed away any hesitation.

In the end, her mind knew that her body had found a safe place to rest, and the universe relaxed into the embrace of a warrior named Kara Zor-El.


 

There was no squire the next morning – only Kara.

She had heard him coming from a thousand feet off, and intercepted him with a few soft words before he even made the door. He rushed off to fulfill an order, and a few minutes later a young man from the kitchen appeared with a tray of food and tea.

She set it down gently on the table before the fireplace and set about stoking it – the skies were grey this morning, and the walls of glass were a poor conductor of heat. When it was roaring once more, she returned to the bedside, reaching down to run her fingers through dark hair.

Green eyes blinked up at her, and Lena sighed softly and stretched, pressing her face down into a pillow that smelled wonderfully like Kara.

“I don’t suppose you would tell everyone I’ve fallen ill, would you?”

Kara smiled down at her sadly, stroking her thumb across Lena’s cheek.

“No, Princess... I’m afraid not.”

They were the first words Lena had spoken since she collapsed, trembling, into Kara’s arms last night, sending them both down onto a bench. After realizing she would get no further information from the dark-haired woman, Kara sent Winn racing back to the fitting room, and she had been wholly unprepared for him to return with his face whiter than a cloud in the summer.


 

“Winn, what is it? Tell me at once!” Kara demanded when the man simply stammered.

“She’s... she’s...”

Red began dancing at the edges of Kara’s vision, and she could feel her teeth beginning to bare in frustration. Winn locked onto the fact that he was about to become a pile of ash, and finally found his voice again.

“Zhed non Wenah im Rao. Raozh nahv Anhani.”

Lena pressed closer into Kara’s chest with those words, and the Kryptonian Princess bent to whisper soothing words to her softly before snapping her attention back to the scholar.

“The fairy tale? Are you out of your mind?”

“No,” he said, his eyes glued to Lena as he sank to his knees before them both. He reached a hand out as if to touch her, but then pulled it back when he thought better of it.

“It is not a fairy tale,” he murmured softly, “and she is Wenah im Rao. A goddess for a Princess. It is as prophesied.”

The soft murmuring that was pulsing through the small crowd around the fire dropped into silence. It was thick and weighty, and Lena felt – for the first time that evening, but not the last – suffocating gazes upon her.

Icy fingers crept beneath her collar and slipped down the back of the thin tunic she’d worn to her dress fitting. It had suited the purposes of changing quickly, but was doing little to protect her from the cold night air.

Kara immediately unclasped her cloak and slipped it around Lena, drawing her close and glancing up at her friends.

“I will see you all at dinner.”

It was not a request, but a firm dismissal. Short head nods preceded quick exits.

Kara gathered Lena in her arms and they stood together. She guided her gently inside and sat her down in front of the sitting room fire, kneeling in front of her and pulling the cloak around her tighter. Lena had sunken into a quiet acquiescence that would last for the rest of the evening, and she barely acknowledged Kara’s soft whisper that she would be right back.

Alex and Winn had seemed to understand that more was required of them, and they hovered quietly near the front door. Kara pulled them both outside, shutting it gently behind her. Her eyes met Winn's, fierce and concerned, her voice a rasping whisper to avoid disturbing Lena.

“Winn... research. I need to know everything. I need to know how this could have happened. I thought the Daughters of Rao were nothing more than a story we tell kuhls before bed time.”

He shook his head sharply, his mind already sifting through the stacks of books in his library.

“No, Princess. They were real. They... are real.”

“Then I need to know what this means. Is she Kryptonian? Why does she not present as such? Get more information from Anhani – I want the full story. And I want to know every detail of the prophecy. Go.”

Winn nodded and was immediately off, spinning on his heel. Alex’s hand settled, warm and comforting on Kara’s shoulder, and worried blue eyes found a creased brow.

“Je, what do you need?” Alex murmured softly.

“Space, for her. As much as you can give me. I have no idea what is going on right now, and I imagine it’s going to be a hundred times worse for Lena. The more pressure you can take off of us right now, the better. We’re going to eventually need to deal with the Luthorian assassin, and I want to discuss further security protocols with you- ”

Alex squeezed her shoulder tightly and cut her off.

“Kara. It will be alright. I can handle all of that. Astra is on her way in from the borders for the ceremony – she will be here in the morning. She and I will take care of preliminary arrangements and interrogations and we will get to the bottom of this.”

Kara nodded, blowing out a breath. Alex pressed a swift kiss to her cheek.

“Go take care of your wife.”

 


 

Now with Lena looking up at her sadly from beneath a pile of blankets, Kara’s heart went out to her.

She brought her a steaming mug of tea, which she set gently down on the table beside the bed as Lena sat up, tucking errant strands of hair behind her ears. An exhaustion settled over her, and Kara could see that it had nothing to do with the quality of her sleep.

The blonde sat quietly on the edge of the bed while Lena sipped her tea, blowing a soft breath across the steam. Her fingers flexed, looking for something to do, and she settled for placing her hand gently on Lena’s knee.

They both existed in that quiet space for a few moments, letting the brevity of reality fall around them again.

Kara waited.

When Lena’s voice finally broke through the surface, it was soft and weary.

“Kara, I... I don’t understand what this means. I don’t understand how I could have lived an entire life without knowing something so important about myself. I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel like I – like I’m half Kryptonian, like I’m half something that’s supposed to be this powerful, graceful creature. You can crush boulders in your hands and fly faster than light can reach shadows. I get dizzy standing on the edge of the garden looking out at the water. I nearly got us both killed in the Luthorian forest because I couldn’t run fast enough. How can it be that I am like you in any way?”

A soft chuckle left Kara’s lips before she could stop it, and she watched an indignant irritation cross Lena’s features. She rushed to explain herself.

“Princess... I know what this seems like. I can’t even venture to guess how you may feel, but I feel like I’m beginning to know you. And I think that it is incredibly important that you know how truly amazing you are.”

Lena’s mouth opened to protest and Kara shook her head resolutely.

“You have faced fear, violence, and death so many times in the past few months - and you have faced them head on, without hesitation, without wavering. I have known warriors who do not have the steel in their veins that you do. You are so brave, and brilliant. And those things have nothing to do with your birth, your blood, or your lineage. That is simply who you are as a person.”

The words sank slowly into Lena, and she slowly lowered her tea back down to the table beside the bed. She reached down with a tentative hand and covered Kara’s on her knee. The Kryptonian watched their hands for a moment, before flipping hers over and offering Lena a warm palm. Lena’s hand slipped into hers and long, lithe fingers wrapped around her hand.

“I promise you that I will help you find out everything that there is to know. About your mother, your history. I will take you anywhere in the world that you would like to go. Whatever it is that you need, we will find that together.”

 “I wish to go to Ansom.”

“Done.” Those fingers squeezed, a thumb swiping slowly over the pulse beating in her wrist. “But we have to get through the next couple of days first.”

Lena nodded slowly, her eyes trained to the fingers that were curled around hers. A finger tucked itself under her chin, and she allowed Kara to lift her face to meet her eyes.

“I will be by your side all day. Don’t worry. We will get through this.”

 


 

 

Day Five – Tradition

Seven Days Before the Festival

“The fifth day is tradition.”

Lena tossed back the last of her drink and felt warmth settling low in her stomach. A wry smile twisted her lips, and she let out a dry laugh.

“Only day five? Is not this entire week mired in tradition?”

Kara joined her in her laughter, her eyes crinkling with amusement.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. But the fifth day... it’s not like the rest. We will hear stories of the history of Krypton, of the House of El. Members of the Alliance will renew their commitments to the treaties of peace and trade. New alliances could potentially be forged. It is an incredibly powerful and important tradition – so much so that the entire day has been reserved for it. And we will make our final commitments to each other before the wedding, because dinner that evening will be the last time we will see each other before the ceremony.”

 


 

Chapter Text


 

She received a reprieve in the morning – the monarchs would not meet until mid-afternoon. She took a long, hot shower, allowing the water to run across her tired shoulders and back for far longer than she should have. She considered seeking out Anhani and pressing her for more details, but the questions burning through her were held at bay by a bone-deep weariness and a voice demanding an adjustment period. So instead, she spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon curled up with a book she’d been reading, and allowed it to bring her an escape from her roiling thoughts. The blonde Princess didn’t stray far from her all day, and though Lena would have previously found her constant presence distracting, it was a warm comfort now.

Tension had settled in her gut when Kara gently reminded her that they were due at the Great Hall, but it was tension that she quickly discovered to be unfounded.


 

Tradition was easily becoming Lena’s favorite day – likely because she was being largely ignored.

It was not malicious, but simply the nature of the moments shared between Krypton and the rest of the Alliance. She sat beside Kara in the Great Hall – not in an ornate chair, but on a long bench on one side of a long table.

When Kara guided her between the bench and the table – Lena feeling a bit silly at having to hike her legs up and over the bench one by one – the taller Kryptonian leaned down to speak to her softly.

“We use these tables and benches for the day of tradition, and they will remain in place for the reception after the wedding.”

Lena grumbled softly, adjusting her skirts over her knees.

“They are a bit cumbersome, are they not?”

Kara smiled, her eyes twinkling as the setting afternoon light streamed through the windows, sifting through the banners waving gently above their heads.

“That is the point.” She gestured down the table, where kings, queens, monarchs, hands, and knight captains alike were climbing over the benches. “Regardless of the quarrels that you have brought with you to this table, you are forced to begin the conversation by sitting down – which requires a unanimous, cohesive action. The benches must be pulled in all at once, and so we must work together. Even if your disagreement resumes when you have sat, it is enough to prove that you can, indeed, work together.”

Lena’s eyebrow rose slowly, and a smile quirked her lips.

“I think that I like that very much.”

When everyone had found a seat at the table, silence fell as Zor-El lifted his hand in signal. As one, they all reached down and pulled the benches forward, dropping down onto it less gracefully than one would hope for a group of well-bred royals. A crack of laughter raced along the table, and conversations were immediately struck up again.

As Kara had pointed out, the Great Hall had been filled with such tables and benches, which were being set with cloths, silverware, plates, and flowers. Despite the inherent brevity of the oaths being taken and trade agreements being sworn upon, a flurry of activity whirled around them as if they were having a simple chat over breakfast about crop yields or weapon production.

Lena was doing her utmost to push away the weight of the discoveries she’d made yesterday - but they gnawed at her, gripping at her shoulders like claws, and the unknowns made her heart race and her stomach twist. But every time a thought rose up like bile, she found a warm hand on her body. Kara pressed it gently to her lower back, her shoulder, her upper arm. It was a mainstay, a weighted tether. Somehow, the blonde woman knew when she needed it without even looking at her.

At one point, the Queen from Twenx she had been speaking with was pulled away by her wife, leaving Lena alone with her thoughts and the last dregs of a glass of wine that she’d been poured. Panic squeezed her throat, when that comforting hand began a gentle grip on her thigh – somewhat higher than would be considered polite in courteous circles.

Lena’s eyebrows shot up to the roof while she hid half her face in her wine glass, lest she spray it on the bright oak table before her.

Kara, mistaking her quickening heart rate for further anxiety, began a soothing, circular rubbing motion with her thumb, her fingers pressing gently to Lena’s inner thigh.

Far, far too high to be considered polite, Lena decided.

When a Bolenthian ambassador slipped behind them to wander down the table in search of Lazari, Lena slammed her hand down into Kara’s, pinning it against her thigh and shooting her an indignant but vaguely amused look.

The Kryptonian was startled from the conversation she’d been having, and her head swung around, her mouth forming a question that quickly morphed into a surprised ‘o’.

Lena’s eyebrows raised in another look that was clearly meant to ask Kara what she thought she was doing. Deep blue eyes widened, and Kara slipped her hand away with a stuttered apology just in time for Zor-El to stand and address the room.

“Members of the Alliance, I thank you for participating in this hallowed day of tradition. I thank you for sitting at my table with my family and my country, in honor of my daughter and her betrothed, in the days before their wedding. And I thank you for your continued support and participation in this Alliance. Together, may we continue a long and prosperous relationship among our lands and our people.”

A hearty cheer went up around the hall, and tankards of mead were being clanked together. Zor-El smiled at them, and it was quite easy for Lena to see why these rulers got along so well, and these treaties were so peacefully managed.

This type of interaction would have been an impossibility in Luthoria. With Lex, especially – though even her father had become a reclusive man as he aged.

Her recent insights were beginning to explain why.

She returned her attention to Zor-El when he gestured down at them.

“In the spirit of this union and in Kryptonian tradition, the betrothed are to select and be cloaked by their chosen Throniv. For those of you unfamiliar with this tradition – the betrothed must spend a day and a night in quiet reflection and preparation on the eve before their wedding. The betrothed must select their Throniv – their shield – to protect them from danger in these hours, and to impart upon them wisdom as they are guided through the sixth day of this wedding festival: Patience.”

 Lena’s heart pounded in her chest silently, but she straightened her spine nonetheless. Kara had prepared her for this moment.


 

Kara watched her quietly, gauging the emotions crossing Lena’s face.

“This Throniv... is it normally someone in particular?”

A gentle nod confirmed her fears.

“Traditionally, it is the mother or father of the betrothed.”

“And which will you choose?”

“My father.”

When Lena’s eyebrow arched in question, Kara gave her a long, contemplative look.

“It is perfectly acceptable to choose my mother, and I have spent much of these past few weeks contemplating this decision. I ultimately decided upon my father, because... well.” Kara fiddled with the empty glass in her hand before setting it down on the table beside her.

"To be blunt, because you are very similar to my mother in many ways. Powerful, intelligent, opinionated, beautiful. My father has had many years to experience and understand the ways in which you should properly... love... a woman like that, and I would have his words in my ear during the day of Patience.” An uncertainty filled her voice that normally wasn’t there, and when it sank in to combine with those words, it threw Lena far off-center.

She blew out a breath and found herself blinking back tears, her eyes shying away from Kara’s. She opened her mouth to speak, but a crack appeared in her tone, so she shut it again until she had better control over her lungs.

She smoothed her dress down with shaking fingers, and swallowed past the lump in her throat.

“I see.”

They sat in a deep silence for a few moments more, until Lena was able to meet Kara’s gaze again.

“And... what of me? I do not have anyone to be my... Throniv, as you say.”

A sadness crept into the look Kara was giving Lena.

“We have traditions for this as well. When a betrothed does not have family present, or someone he or she is very close to, we will perform a Call to Shields. Any members of the Alliance who find their house worthy of the task can volunteer.”

“And if no one volunteers?”

“I think you will be surprised, Princess.”


 

“Rise, Princess Kara Zor-El, Daughter of the House of El.”

Kara stood, pressing her palms into the table and stepping over the bench to stand beside her father.

They both stood, tall and proud, while the Alliance looked on.

“Princess, you are betrothed. Do you enter into this marriage freely, understanding of Kryptonian law, and willing to perform your duties as a spouse, a Princess, and a warrior?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Then choose your Throniv.”

Zor-El stepped back to join a row of proud, powerful Kryptonians – including the piercing twin gaze of Alura and Astra, who had arrived that morning on the wind of her battle horn. Kara did not hesitate, her foot sure and steady as she stood before her father.

“I choose King Zor-El of Krypton.”

A brief swell of pride filled the man’s chest, but he tampered his response with an aristocratic nod of his head.

“I accept.”

He swiftly unclasped his cloak, draping it around Kara’s shoulders. She had forgone her own cloak on this day, specifically for this purpose.

In a spur of the moment and decidedly un-aristocratic move, however, he grasped her upper arms and pressed a soft kiss to the Princess’ forehead before winking down at her.

She grinned up at him and adjusted his cloak on her shoulders. She stood back, taking her place among her mother and her aunt.

Hauntingly familiar blue eyes found hers, and Lena knew it was time.

“Rise, Princess Lena of Luthoria, Daughter...”

A pause played at the king’s tongue, and for a heart-stopping moment, Lena was certain he was going to call her a Daughter of Rao.

“... Daughter of the House of Luthor,” he finished loudly. Palpable relief settled into her, and she stood – carefully extracting herself from the bench she was seated upon.

She drew herself up to full height before the Kryptonian King, though he still towered over her, and she squared her shoulders resolutely. The briefest of smiles played at his lips, and her gave her a small nod.

“Princess, you are betrothed. Do you enter into this marriage freely, understanding of Kryptonian law, and willing to perform your duties as a spouse, a Princess, and a member of the House of El?”

“Yes, your highness.”

He inhaled deeply, his eyes almost sorry as he looked down at her, but her defiant chin notched higher and his pity faded. Lena Luthor was not to be caught underhanded.

The king turned to address the Alliance, his voice turning to a booming volume that startled Lena.

“The Princess is present without family or companion, standing instead on her own merits. While the Princess is truly without exception and overwhelmingly capable, she is without representation in these powerful moments. Krypton sends to the Alliance a Call to Shields!”

With her heart kicking sharply against her ribs, Lena folded her hands in front of her and quietly faced the seated members of the Alliance.

For several, terrifying moments, not a single whisper of sound stirred the air.

But then Winn was on his feet.

He was followed by Alex and Sam.

By the time James and Lucy were on their feet, they were joined by King Menon, Captain Lazari, and the entire Vathlothian contingency.

And by the time the Zithan warriors had stood, what appeared to be the whole of the Great Hall was standing before her.

Lena swayed on her feet slightly, her confident demeanor finally slipping.

She glanced back at Kara, who was smirking at her as if she’d made off with some glorious secret.

Zor-El cleared his throat, bring Lena’s attention back to center.

“Choose your Throniv.”

His voice lowered, and his eyes implored her as quietly as his words.

“You have the opportunity to make a powerful ally here, Princess. Choose carefully.”

She nodded at him – but this was advice she finally did not need.

With a clear and compelling voice, she turned to address the whole of the Alliance.

“I choose King Thrall of Dunol.”

A murmur rippled through the crowd around them, and it parted slowly down the center to reveal a startled monarch. He had stood, with the rest of the Alliance, and offered the shield of his house – but he had never expected she would accept it.

He stiffened his spine to match Lena’s posture and strode quickly forward through the parted crowd, gazing down at the young Princess with a stubborn, nearly unreadable expression that was carefully masking the briefest tinge of admiration.

“I accept,” he proclaimed, his voice robust and deep.

A rich, gray cloak that smelled vaguely of snow and pine settled around Lena, and was pinned carefully at her shoulder.

When she turned back to face Zor-El once more, she caught Kara in the corner of her eye – staring at her in horror. She offered her a slight wink and a smile, which did nothing to alleviate the way blue eyes were darting between Lena and Thrall as if she was concerned he was going to maul her at any moment. A sharp, whispered word from her mother beside her was the only thing that seemed to force her to contain her response.

Zor-El, for his part, was outright grinning down at the Princess. “Political, indeed...” he whispered to himself softly.

She raised an eyebrow, her eyes creasing slightly in the corners.

“Is something amusing, your highness?”

He shook his head, the smile only barely softening.

“No – it would just seem as if my wife is right again. As always.” He shot Alura and Kara a look, before shrewdly regarding the Luthorian Princess again.

“A lesson, I believe, I will be imparting on a young Kryptonian Princess soon.”


 

 

Chapter Text


 

“Father, I have some concerns.”

“Yes Kara, a fact which you have made abundantly clear to me.”

She walked beside him, slightly struggling to keep up with his rapid pace as he strode down halls and through doors.

“You just don’t seem to be at all worried! Lena is with Thrall right now, what if he- ”

“What if he what, Kara?” He arched a stately eyebrow at her and pushed through the swinging door of the palace kitchen. “Are you truly worried that the monarch of an Allied kingdom is going to filet a betrothed Princess on the eve of her wedding?”

Kara stopped dead in her tracks, her frown deepening.

“... well I am now!

When she received no response, she muttered softly under her breath and stormed after him.


 

In hindsight, Lena was convinced she’d made a grave error.

She had been guided to an antechamber off the Great Hall, where she was joined by King Thrall and Queen Ravena. She stood stiffly in the center of the room, silently staring at the stone floor. Queen Ravena had a hip pressed to a dark wooden table in the far corner, her arms crossed, anger clouding her features.

Thrall had taken to quietly circling her, his eyes narrow as they watched her face and the way she clasped her hands in front of her in an unassuming pose.

She felt now as if she was being hunted by a wolf, and the soft fur lining the handsome grey cloak around her neck was beginning to feel a lot heavier on her shoulders.

Pale, intelligent blue eyes struck her with an uncomfortable, knowing look. When he finally ceased pacing, he centered himself on her, his arms akimbo, and his deep voice surprised her – not with its volume, which was low and reasonable, but with its familiarity.

 “Why?”

Lena nodded – she had expected this question. It would have been the first she’d ask.

She took a moment to collect herself, before straightening her posture as best she could and softening her tone.

“You are owed something, your highness.”

He frowned down at her. “Explain this.”

She inhaled deeply and let it out slowly, her knees beginning to feel much weaker than they had a few short minutes ago, when she’d called out his name in the Great Hall.

Still – her words were important.

“I understand what has been taken from you, and your family... at the hands of a Luthor.” The King’s strong face remained unchanged, but a soft, borderline violent sound from Ravena’s corner pierced the air. Lena swallowed hard and pressed on.

“I do not have anything else to offer you, but my sincerest expression of sorrow, an acknowledgement of what was lost, and... a deference to your name.”

Lena bowed her head and dropped silently to one knee before him, squeezing her eyes shut tightly as her hair curtained around her face.

Another strangled cry from Ravena flew at her, before the sound of harsh footsteps and a slamming door echoed across empty stone.

It seemed as if hours passed in the moments it took the sounds to settle around them, and Lena gripped the cloak at her sides tightly.

A heavy hand settled on her shoulder, before grasping her upper arm and hauling her back up to her feet. When she finally opened her eyes again, Thrall was watching her with a measure of understanding.

He released her and took a step back, and Lena could feel a palpable air of anguish roll from him.

“Elliana was... a truly beautiful girl. The Queen and I do not have children of our own – nothing ever took.” A rumble cycled through his chest, and Lena tampered down an urge to reach for his arm. As if he could sense it, he laced his arms across his chest and took a small step backwards.

“When Ravena’s sister gave birth to a little girl, it was like someone had brought the sun itself into our kingdom again. She was bright and carefree and kind – in a natural way, one that did not need to be taught.” His arms tightened, almost imperceptibly, and Lena could see the tension in his shoulders.

“She was a year from her 18th birthday, when I was to name her my successor.”

A shock rippled through Lena, and her brow furrowed as her lips parted.

“Your brother was seeking entree into the Alliance. He thought: What better way than to marry into it? But Elliana refused him. I refused him. He was outraged.”

Thrall’s pacing resumed, and Lena felt as if a thunderstorm was brewing in the room with them.

“He cut off our southern supply routes, attacked our merchants. It was subtle at first – I thought we were just having a bad month. Then it slipped into another, and another, and I became increasingly suspicious that subterfuge was occurring. By then... it was too late. We were weakened – resources, economy, military. That’s when he attacked.”

Thrall spit the last word, as if it tasted bad in his mouth.

“They came in the night, ambushed the palace. They never meant it as a hostile takeover – he didn’t bring nearly enough men.” He shook his head angrily. “No, it was simply to send a message to me from Luthoria.”

“When the Captain and I rallied the knights and nearly pushed them back behind the gates, I found him in my throne room. With Elliana.” His voice cracked softly, and he clenched his fists tightly, as if willing away the pain.

A minute rolled by, and his soft voice betrayed a violent ache.

“He was waiting for us. I tried to get to them, but he was already holding the blade to her throat. We were outnumbered in the throne room, and I... I watched her body hit the floor in two pieces.”

Ice sank into his tone, and he turned to face her once more.

“Then he fled. Like the coward that he is. He fled back to the Red Keep as if it was just another day for him. We have barely recovered since. I wanted to mount an immediate counterattack, but it would have been suicide. He left us so weakened that we would have lost what little numbers we had left in our armies. And so Elliana’s death went unanswered.”

Sharp blue eyes snapped to her face, bitterness storming in them. He found silent tears tracking their way down pale cheeks, green eyes full of profound sadness.

“I’m to understand that you played no part in the military strategies and plans of your brother.”

She nodded slowly, her body betraying how tired her soul felt.

“I knew what he had done. He always came home from such... trips... on a high – and he made sure that everyone knew the deeds he’d accomplished.” Two tears spilled from overflowing eyes, racing for the outline of a chin hardened by disgust. “I heard every detail, as if I’d been there. I wept for your niece, though I had never met her, and I am sorry for the losses you have suffered – as a king and a family.”

She reached up and swiped away the wetness on her cheek, willing herself to keep it together.

He regarded her silently, and the cadence of his voice was soft and pained.

“Why?” he repeated once more.

She reached down and gripped the cloak, pulling it tightly around her and relishing the warmth that sank into her bones.

“Because you are owed something. So am I.” Her green eyes flashed dangerously. “And when the time comes, I am going to help you seek the vengeance that you deserve.”

For a brief second, startle filled the King’s eyes, until they narrowed slowly and he nodded, a muscle ticking in his jaw.

“Then I will be your Throniv, Princess. Before you utter your vows, and after.”

He spun on his heel to leave, but paused with his hand on the door. His hand flexed on the handle, and the knuckles of his strong fingers turned white.

“If you are not the person you say you are... I will come for you.” His head shifted to the side, and she saw determination in the profile of his face. “I will come for you like I am coming for your brother.”

The rich, metered timber of his voice gave way at the bottom, just barely, and sent chills racing across Lena’s back. The door clicked quietly shut behind him.

 


 

Kara found her after the sun had dipping below the horizon, curled up on a seat beside the cold fire pit. She had Thrall’s cloak draped across her lap, and it was almost comical how big it was in comparison to her small frame.

The blonde approached slowly, clearing her to avoid startling her.

Lena gave her a soft, sad smile before busying herself with the warm cup in her hands.

A chill breezed through the garden, and Kara shivered.

“Do you mind if I join you..?”

“Please.”

Lena moved her feet to make room, and Kara settled onto the smooth stone, tucking a cushion behind her back. She eyed the dark fire pit.

“Are we brooding in the dark right now? Because I’m always interested in a good brooding session, but...  it’s a little cold.”

This finally elicited a short laugh from Lena, who glanced over at her with eyes that sparkled with tears that had not yet fallen.

“I have no idea where my fire steel has gone off to.” She gestured down at the pile of wood. “It was really an oversight on my part, you know – not all of us can make fire with our eyes. I think.”

Her face sank into one of uncertainty, and Kara cringed.

“I’m sorry, Princess. I will make sure we stock this with a fire steel until we figure out...”

She trailed off slowly and Lena just nodded.

“Yeah.”

Kara beamed the stack of chopped wood until it burst into flames, and a wave of warmth engulfed them.

For a time, they sat and listened to the fire crackling and popping, sparks hissing into the night sky. The waves crashed on the shore below them, and the gentle sound of trilling crickets swirled through the dark.

It almost reminded Lena of that first night in Bolenth.

Kara propped her boots up on the rim of the fire pit, humming softly when they instantly warmed. She had settled into Lena’s side, as if she had always belonged there, and was surreptitiously eyeing her drink.

Without looking away from the fire, Lena passed it to her.

Blonde eyebrows shot up in surprise, but Kara accepted it gratefully – until she swallowed a mouthful. She barely got it down, coughing at the end, and stared in horror at the cup as if it had attacked her.

She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and handed it back to Lena, squinting her eyes shut tightly. She shook her head as if to clear it and inhaled shakily.

“Sweet Rao, what is that?”

Lena chuckled. “I’m not sure. It’s from Winn. He said he won it in a game he was playing with a Morstilian. He called it a wedding gift, but I’m pretty sure he just couldn’t manage to drink it.” She swirled it slowly. “I think it’s alright.”

Kara was still coughing, her face twisted into a grimace – though it dropped into something closer to fascination as she watched the way the long column of the other woman’s throat moved as she tipped her head back and took a long sip.

The liquid was burning its way down her stomach, where it met with something else strangely warm and coiled up slowly.

Flames danced in Lena’s eyes, and the way the shadows flicked across her features had Kara wishing she could reach out and touch them – with her fingertips, her lips. For a moment, Kara was engulfed by a vision of trailing sweet kisses down that neck, then using her teeth to worry the place where it met Lena’s shoulder.

Lena’s voice startled her from her reverie.

“Do you think that I made the right choice? With Thrall?”

“Mmm.” Kara pursed her lips, caught between the serious nature of the question and the way Lena’s lower lip glistened with a remnant of the amber liquid. “It isn’t for me to say. I wish for you to be careful, and I... have some trepidation with regard to that particular man. But as my Father forced me to realize... I do not think that you are in any danger.”

“Unless I betray him in some fashion,” Lena muttered into her cup as she took another sip.

“What was that?”

Lena shook her head, letting out a puff of air when she finished swallowing the burning drink. Her lower lip quivered, and she sank her teeth into it as she grinned, closing one eye and examining the cup with the other.

A small giggle smoothed into a soft hum, and she settled deeper into the cushions.

“This is quite strong, isn’t it?” She turned to Kara with a broad smile that slowly faded away into the night, like the flying sparks of the fire before them.

The burning in her chest was suddenly no longer from the drink in her hands, but from the way Kara’s blue eyes were glued to her mouth.

Lena found something gripping her.

She couldn’t push it down or force it away, and she was utterly incapable of trying.

The rest of Lena’s world narrowed to a stone bench in a garden; to a raging fire that reflected in piercing blue eyes; to a cup that was being pressed to the side, empty and forgotten; to a pair of small, fragile hands that sank into the front of a maroon cloak and hauled the hard body of a warrior on top of her own.

Kara’s lips crashed into Lena’s like the dark waters below the cliffs beside them, and a tidal wave of embers shattered against her bones. Strong, commanding fingers were threading into her hair, tipping her face back as molten lips claimed hers, a gentle but demanding tongue begging for entrance. Lena sighed into the touch and parted her lips, moaning openly when her tentative tongue met a bold one.

It felt as if every piece of her body was attached to the spaces Kara was touching, tugging and pushing her to seek more contact. Her hands were caught in the fabric of Kara’s cloak, and when she couldn’t wrestle them free, she nipped unhappily at the lower lip she found between her teeth.

The gasp that flew against her lips only served to fan the flames. When Kara pulled back, eyes finally seeking Lena’s, she managed to untangle her hands – which she promptly slid around the Kryptonian’s strong neck. She pulled her back down, kissing her fiercely, hungrily, like she was drowning and Kara was air.

Steady hands sought her waist, and Kara let out a pained whimper as she pulled back gently, dropping her forehead to Lena’s. She was panting, and clearly affected by the Luthorian Princess’ intensity.

Lena’s grip only tightened, and she was frustrated with the resistance she met when she tried to pull Kara down to her lips again.

“W-Wait... Princess. Wait- ”

Kara moaned as Lena’s lips pressed to the only space left to her wandering mouth – the column of Kara’s throat.

Rao, how are you... Lena!” Teeth were carefully sinking into a corded muscle in the warrior’s neck, and Kara’s jaw dropped as her eyes slipped shut.

When hands pressed to her chest and began slipping down her stomach, Kara gasped and pulled back, reaching for Lena’s wrists and pinning them into her lap as she dropped to her knees before the dark-haired woman.

“Lena, wait.”

She stared at her with kiss-swollen lips and heavy lids for a half second more, before blinking and looking down at Kara’s hands that were clasped tightly around her own.

“I... did I do something wrong?”

Kara snorted, shaking her head and grinning at her with incredulity.

“No, absolutely not. You are... I mean...” Kara laughed nervously, red tinting her face and chest. “You’re perfect.”

Lena scoffed and glanced away. “Hardly.”

The grip on her wrists tightened, and Lena’s averted gaze snapped back hard. Kara’s voice lowered, and though the volume didn’t change, her tone took on an unavoidable brevity.

“Princess... do you not know what you do to me..?”

Lena’s eyes wandered between Kara’s blue ones and the pout of the blonde’s lower lip. Her lungs failed her then, and she settled for simply shaking her head.

Kara released her gently, and reached up to cup Lena’s cheek. Her thumb brushed across a swollen lower lip, and Lena had to stop herself from closing her eyes and sinking into her touch.

“You... you pull down the clouds and put them into the ocean. The waves do not crash on our shores, but the earth instead pushes them back. The leaves do not rustle in the wind – the very trees themselves will shake. The stars burn in the morning light, brighter than the sun, brighter than anything the sky has ever seen.” Kara shook her head, and the air between them grew heavy as her longing gaze traced the contour of Lena’s face.

“You disrupt the way my world turns. And I know why they call you Wenah im Rao.”

Then Kara’s lips were on hers again, soft and insistent, and Lena could do nothing but reach for her face with tremulous hands as tears streaked across red cheeks. Salt mixed with the tender, chaste pressing of lips, and nothing had ever stirred within Lena before like the way her heart was pounding against her ribs.

The symbol on her chest was a heated, simmering flare that singed her soul.

The universe twisted within her, and she knew then, irrevocably, that she’d been marked.

Kara pressed one final, lingering kiss to Lena’s upper lip and pulled away.

“I would... truly love to explore every single moment of this with you, Princess.” Kara smiled wryly down at the empty cup beside them. “But perhaps... when less drink and fewer nerves have had their way with us.”

Lena simply nodded, acknowledging the wisdom in Kara’s words – though they did not take away the blood pumping through her veins.

They stared at each other, existing in each other’s space, as the night air vacillated around them. When the fire finally began dying down, Kara rose to her feet, holding her hands down for Lena to take. She stood, the length of her body pressing into the tall warrior’s, and her breath caught once more. Kara offered her an arm and she gathered up Thrall’s cloak as they made their way inside, to Lena’s bedroom door.

“This is our last time together until the ceremony – I will be gone in the morning.”

Lena nodded, her teeth worrying the inside of her lower lip. She tucked her arms around herself and put on the best smile she could muster.

Kara saw directly through her.

“Is everything alright, Princess..?”

“Yes, of course. Have a goodnight, Kara. I will see you...” She reached for the doorknob, but found a hand staying her movement.

“Stay with me. Just to sleep. I... you sleep better when we are together.”

The abrupt proposition threw Lena, and she blinked rapidly.

“I’m sorry..?”

Kara took a step back, almost as if to give Lena the space to choose, and let her arms fall to her sides.

Unassuming. Quiet. Relinquishing control.

“Stay with me,” she repeated softly.

Lena’s hand fell from the doorknob and laced with Kara’s, tugging her down the hall behind her.

Some time in the early morning hours, unyielding arms slid around her - and her night was filled with warm, comforted, dreamless sleep.

She woke up the next morning alone.


 

Chapter Text


 

Soft, white morning light angled sharply through the lofty windows of the palace throne room. The sounds of shuffling feet whispered across the white marble floor, cloaks and dresses and gloves and voices rustling together. An arch had been placed where beautiful thrones once stood – smooth blonde wood, sanded and stained to illuminate the grain, wrapped in thick green vines and laced through with roses so white they almost seemed to sparkle.

Sheer white cloth draped along the chairs set in neat rows before the arch, threaded with more vines.

It was simple, and perfect.

When the giant, heavy wooden doors at the far end were tugged open slowly, hundreds of people rose to their feet, turning towards the deep, rich sound of humming that was pushing through the doors like it was seeking freedom from a container.

Dozens of Kryptonians, dressed in flowing white robes, stepped reverently through the door, filing in two columns down the center of the aisle. Their voices wove through each other, entwined in harmony, whisper-soft but hauntingly beautiful. It was a flowing Kryptonian hymn, ancient and meaningful, in a language few Kryptonians even remembered.

They snaked around the front of the room, before filing down the outside edges of the rows of seats. They stood in matching lines, nearly surrounding the guests. Their music was beautiful, but the attention of the guests was raptly focused on the doors they had come from.

Members of the royal court followed them – Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers, Lady Grant and Lucy, Sam and Alex. They all stopped at the end of the aisle and peeled off to the left, standing before their seats and looking back the way they came.

Queen Alura and General Astra appeared in the empty doorway, hands clasped before them. Alura was in a positively royal silver dress that flowed around her as if it was weightless, a glittering crown resting on her head. Astra was in her formal uniform, black trousers with a navy blue tunic belted at the waist, metals pinned to her chest, glinting rank pinned to her shoulders and a silver cloak floating behind her. Alura’s face was calm and peaceful, but Astra’s gave away a hint of anxiety. They followed the path of the chorus down the center of the aisle, stopping before their own seats and turning to the door once more.

The gentle humming slowly shifted into a soaring crescendo, fluid notes reaching to the arched ceiling and echoing down in spirals.

King Zor-El stepped into the empty doorway, the corners of his mouth slightly turned up, his eyes glittering. A plain platinum circlet rested on his head – the simple but heavy symbol of humble leadership. His uniform matched Astra’s, but his belt was gold, his cloak the maroon color of the House of El. He was tall and proud and handsome, and he stepped to the side to allow room for another.

Kara took her father’s arm, a soft murmuring rippling through the crowd.

Her shining, deep blue dress matched her father’s tunic. It was pulled tightly across her chest in a diagonal, the crest of El plain to see beneath her collarbone. It hugged the flat plane of her stomach and flared out over her hips, trailing behind her in a long, flowing train. Golden blonde hair was pulled up into a beautiful, loose bun, a few delicate curls framing her face.

The brilliant sword of the House of El was strapped to her back with an intricate, woven, platinum belt that cut a line across her chest from her right shoulder to her left hip. The hilt jutted proudly above her shoulder within easy reach, safely nestled in a dark brown leather sheath with a Kryptonian steel rim, the tip pointing down to her hip.

J’onn and James took their places, flanking them on either side and just behind them, wearing full ceremonial armor and prepared to defend them without a second’s hesitation.

Zor-El looked down at her for confirmation. She met his eyes and nodded at him, her eyes crinkling in the corners.

She stepped onto the smooth tile, her bare feet pressing into the cold surface.

 


 

“Barefoot?”

“Yes,” Thrall grumbled. “Kryptonians and their weird, flowery behaviors. In Dunol, your toes would freeze off before you made it to your wedding arch.”

Lena was seated on Leia, riding slowly beside Thrall – who was on his own, pure white horse next to her. She’d smiled when she heard him call the horse Snowflake, but her smile dropped sadly when he glanced at her and gruffly told her that Elliana had named him.

Though the day was unusually warm, she was hesitant to accept his request that they spend the day outdoors – but decorum and more than a slight amount of fear at incurring his wrath pushed her to accept. Queen Ravena was nowhere to be found, but a few of Thrall’s knights trailed after them for security.

They rode in an uncomfortable silence until his irritated voice broke through it to inform her that he had been tasked with explaining the steps of Kryptonian wedding ceremonies to her. He had just told her the first of them – the betrothed were to be wed barefoot.

“But... why?”

He shook his head and sighed, transferring his reigns to his left hand and reaching into his coat, pulling out a small notebook. He thumbed through it and squinted down at the page, muttering to himself.

“It is to symbolize a connection between the betrothed – they are to approach each other with openness, a willingness to be vulnerable and a...” he squinted down at the page again. “A promise to remain grounded.”

Lena hid her smile behind a cough. It warmed her to realize that the gruff, angry king had taken notes. She was suddenly struck with a desire to connect with him, to reach out and commiserate with him. She lowered her voice and gave it a harsh edge.

“Yeah. Definitely flowery.”

He grunted in agreement, and their silence suddenly felt a lot more companionable.

 


 

When Kara reached the end of the aisle, she let go of Zor-El’s arm and he turned to stand in front of her.

She gave him a small smile, before her face dropped into one of seriousness and determination.

Her father’s words from the day of Patience were still filling her ears and settling into her consciousness.

 


 

“This is going to be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, inah.”

Kara furrowed her brow, glancing over at him from the pose she was holding. The sword of El was hovering above her head in a perfect horizontal line, one foot pointed in the air in front of her while she balanced on the other.

“This? This is easy, father.”

He rolled his eyes at her.

“You know what I mean, Kara.”

She inhaled deeply, letting it out slowly as she shifted into another pose. A new feeling of nervousness had been running through her stomach since she got out of bed that morning; she had slipped away carefully to avoid disturbing the dark-haired woman, who seemed to finally be sleeping peacefully.

“I know.”

He gave her a knowing look, and approached her from the side – adjusting the level of her elbows as she slipped into another pose.

“This isn’t something Kryptonians are known for. We do not marry for convenience, or for reciprocity – we marry for love. We marry for eternal connection, for strength of bond, for family.”

She nodded, pointing her sword directly down at the ground and reaching for the hilt with both hands, bending into a deep lunge. Her feet sank into the soft grass of her garden, and Zor-El crossed his arms beside her, his voice lowering.

“But this marriage... I am beginning to feel that its weight is heavier than we knew.”

Kara looked at him sharply, finally rising from her position and sheathing her sword, stretching her arms languidly and reaching for her water.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, for one – your future wife is brilliant.”

A laugh burst from Kara’s lips, and she nearly sprayed water on Zor-El.

“You are just now realizing this?”

The Kryptonian king sighed at his daughter, glaring at her.

“We understood this before. But the level of her political savvy is... if she wasn’t on our side, I would be very worried about the future of Krypton. Lex Luthor is a fool.”

“I believe I’ve said that exact thing in the past.”

Zor-El nodded, his eyes squinting beyond the rose bushes that were waving gently in the breeze, focusing instead on the sea on the horizon.

“We may need her in the future, if...” He paused, the words sticking in his chest. It seemed almost as if he didn’t want to say them, through fear they may manifest. Kara appeared beside him, looking out at the sea with him pensively.

“You are worried that Luthoria will attack.”

“With Cogorian ships at their side.”

They stood together quietly for some time, watching the distant white caps rolling towards the shore of their kingdom.

“Kara, Lena is...” Zor-El turned to his daughter, resting a heavy hand on her shoulder. “She’s a bridge. A bridge that you can touch, that you can grow and strengthen.”

Kara frowned up at him. “You wish to create a bridge between us and Luthoria?”

“Perhaps.”

Why - ”

“Princess, do you think that Lena is the only human who has suffered at the hands of Lex Luthor?” He scoffed. “She isn’t even the only Luthorian who has felt his wrath.”

She turned to look up at him slowly, fear skipping across her skin.

“Father... do you mean to tell me you are thinking of overthrowing a king?”

“Perhaps.”

Kara blinked rapidly, her eyes casting around as if she needed something to hold onto.

Zor-El turned to look back out at the water.

“But first... we need a bridge.”

 


 

Zor-El grasped her upper arms tightly, and she reached up to grip at his elbows. They both drew in a deep breath together and settled into a space that was filled with strong legends and fierce tradition.

He squeezed her arms tightly and they both turned to face the wedding guests.

At the same time, the looming form of Thrall stepped into the empty doorway – his shoulders powerful, his head high, his fists clenched, his eyes stormy as they looked to Kara. He seemed to fill the entire door, his dark grey cloak settled on his back once more.

Lena had stepped behind him, hidden from view, and took a moment to close her eyes and inhale. Her hand tangled in the back of his cloak, using it as a mooring to stop herself from emotionally drifting off.

Thrall glanced at her over his shoulder, his low voice barely reaching her ears.

“Princess?”

Her lips trembled, and her voice wavered.

“Yes. I just need... one moment.”

“I will wait until you are ready.”

She exhaled slowly, willing her heart to stop its tattoo against her ribs. She knew that hundreds of eyes were waiting to watch her, and that she was stepping into a world – and a life – that would drastically change everything about how she had envisioned her future.

Weeks ago – it felt like a lifetime – if you had told her that she would discover that she was not only half Kryptonian, but half of a legendary Kryptonian bloodline, and that she would subsequently find herself standing on the cusp of the doorway to the throne room of the Crystal Palace, eternally and cosmically linked to the Kryptonian heir by a mysterious mythical bond and on the verge of marrying her in front of the entire Alliance –

She took in another slow breath and had to curb the urge to throw her head back and laugh out loud. Her hand tightened in the grey fabric, and she focused on the way the soft material slipped through her fingertips. She stared down at it, and discovered that the sheer magnitude of complex changes she had experienced made her feel more grounded. Calm washed over her, and she allowed a smile to simply slip across her face. She shook her head and blinked a few times, then let out her last deep breath.

“I am ready.”

He nodded once without looking back at her, and proceeded slowly through the arched door.

The soft voices lifted once more, lofting into airy and transcendent notes, and Lena conceded to herself a moment to take in what she was experiencing – understanding that few would ever know what it felt like to glide through the aisle of the Crystal Palace’s tallest spire.

The first rows of seats became visible, and Lena began recognizing faces that she had met in the past week. They sent her heart hammering once more, and she decided to focus instead on the beautiful music and the way the light was shining in iridescent beams down through the windows; the way the vines and filmy white cloth ebbed and flowed along the aisle; the way the soft white runner that had been placed on the aisle felt beneath her feet.

She focused so much, that suddenly they were at the end.

It felt somehow like both the longest walk she’d ever made, and the shortest one. When Thrall stepped to the side, she caught sight of Kara for the first time and the dust itself seemed to still, hovering in midair as the rest of the world froze.

 


 

“How are you feeling? About Lena?”

Kara frowned, looking up at Zor-El from her sword, which she was polishing fervently.

“What do you mean?”

Zor-El’s eyebrows raised, and he shrugged unassumingly.

“You have been spending quite some time together. I thought that perhaps...”

“We are getting married.”

“Yes Kara, thank you. I do believe I had a hand in this auspicious arrangement.”

She rolled her eyes at him and returned to her work.

He settled back into his chair, his fingers steepling as he put his booted feet up on the table in front of him.

He watched her for several more moments, until she called out to him in a monotone voice without glancing up from the hilt of her sword.

“Ask what you truly wish to ask me, father.”

A dimple appeared in Zor-El’s cheek, and he chuckled.

“You know, I was not aware that I had raised a daughter who found me as such an annoyance. I thought that I was your Throniv! Are you not meant to be asking me questions? Getting my advice?”

Kara set her sword in her lap and shook her head, trying to hide her smile.

“Well? What is your advice then, Throniv of mine?”

He laughed again, eyeing her affectionately.

“Honestly, Princess... you do not need much help. I ask how you are feeling about Lena because it has seemed lately as if you are truly understanding her – more than you would if were merely... friends?”

He raised his tone at the end of his statement, clearing intending it to be a question, and Kara blushed and cleared her throat, avoiding eye contact.

“We may... perhaps there is more than... friendship... occurring.”

His eyes twinkled as he watched her struggle. He was silent for long enough that it prompted her to finally glance at him, and she sighed loudly when she noticed the smile on his face.

“Father.”

He held his hands up, as if to prove his harmlessness, and tried to hide his smile.

“Alright, alright...”

He waited several long beats before speaking again.

“So if you have sons, will you name them for me? Zor-El the Seco-”

A flying pillow smacked the king of Krypton squarely in the face.

 


 

When King Thrall stepped away, Kara’s knees nearly betrayed her.

Sunlight danced around Lena as if it was parting for her, deferring to her beauty. Deep brown hair was half-twisted into an intricate braid, the rest of it spilling down her back in waves and curls. Glittering emerald eyes matched the silky green of her dress, which Kara vowed she would quadruple pay Anhani for. Golden lines gleamed in contrast to the paleness of her skin, catching and reflecting the sun, and it made Kara’s breath similarly catch in her chest. The material of her dress was hugging her curves in exactly the right places, and the Kryptonian warrior suddenly wished that they were alone – and very far away from this place.

She only tore her eyes away when King Thrall stepped back into her realm of vision. He towered over her, and she felt instantly as if he was threatening her. Kara turned and looked up at him fully, acknowledging his presence, and he all but glowered down at her.

“Princess Zor-El.”

 


 

“I knew him, you know.”

His voice startled Lena, who was walking quietly beside him as they traced a brook through the woods to the west of the Crystal Palace. They had not spoken in quite some time, and his statement had been unprompted.

She blinked at him in confusion.

“Whom?”

He looked forward, one of his hands on the pommel of his sword.

“Your father.”

Lena stopped in her tracks, her lips parting as she stared at the king, who continued walking as if she was still beside him.

When she finally found blood to send to her feet again, she raced to catch up with him, nearly stumbling over roots and branches.

“Wait!”

He raised his eyebrow and turned to her. So many questions were racing through her mind, that she settled on the simplest and easiest one.

“When?”

“Before you were born, and for a little while after.” His tone darkened somewhat, and he frowned as they meandered around a tree that had fallen across the path. “After that... I’m not sure that anyone knew him anymore.”

She swallowed down a lump that had risen in her throat, and willed her legs not to fail her.

“How...”

“Schooling. Lionel’s father wanted him to be more worldly, so he sent him to Dunol. We were known – are still known – for tutors and training that produce long, prosperous lines of leaders. Zor-El himself, as well as Kara, have spent time training in the Dunolian mountains.”

Lena looked down at her feet, trying not to betray how intently she was listening – though she was hanging on to every word he said. Thankfully, he continued without prompting.

“He was strong, your father. Stubborn. When he had decided something, that was it for him.” He shook his head, his tone laced with what could almost pass as humor.

“A mountain boar had been terrorizing the livestock, stealing their food and picking fights with the calves and kids. It had giant tusks and a terrible attitude. Your father decided he was going to handle the problem, though our tutor warned him that he should find the Master Archer and allow him to take care of it from a distance. He was insistent that it was ‘just a stupid pig’ and there was ‘no need to get the military involved.’ Well I’ll tell you... that boar had his way with Lionel Luthor.”

They came to stop in a patch of soft green grass, where the brook had widened into a babbling stream and was dancing happily along several large rocks, smoothed over time and the running course of the water. He looked down at it and shook his head.

“Nearly lost his leg, for his efforts. The boar never did return, but Lionel never walked quite the same afterwards.”

A breaking reality dawned on Lena as she stared down at the water without really seeing it. Memories flashed through her mind of her father and his lumbering gait. She had assumed it was merely the way he walked – it never occurred to her that there was such a history, a complexity to the man whom she felt had abandoned her to a lifetime of torture at the hands of Lillian Luthor.

“Did you ever meet my... Lillian?” she asked softly.

He grumbled unhappily, turning to go back the way they came.

“That woman.” He huffed, and anger seemed to roll from him in waves. “Yes, I met her. I was at their wedding. She was a wretched, horrid...” He trailed off, and she saw him glance down at her as if to remember who he was speaking to.

“You don’t need to temper your words. She treated me horribly for my entire life – truly a cruel person. Lex, I suspect, is merely only a mirrored reflection of her.”

He tensed at Lex’s name, but nodded.

“I think that you are right.”

They walked along in silence again until they reached their horses once more. Lena reached for Leia’s reigns and made to mount her, before Thrall’s voice gave her pause.

“Princess.”

She looked up at him questioningly, shocked to find an unusual amount of vulnerability in his gaze.

“Your father... the man he used to be. He would be disgusted at the ruler your brother has become.” Thrall drew himself up to his considerable height. “And I think that he would be proud of your perseverance. Your stubborness is quite like his, in fact.”

They stared at each other for a moment – Lena, in shock and attempting to process his words, and Thrall radiating discomfort. Their horses were even picking up on the quality of the air between them, stamping and huffing gently.

He glanced away and cleared his throat, hardening his features once more.

“I am certain that he would have been a good Throniv, were he here. And though he is not, I believe that you have made a good choice. I am... willing to stand in his place tomorrow.” Icy blue eyes pierced through her once more before he turned and mounted his horse.

She blinked rapidly and turned herself, struggling a few times to get her numb foot into the stirrup of her saddle. When she finally managed it, she found that her bloodless fingers were not faring any better.

Thankfully, Leia had been away from Ana for too long, and was growing discontented – so she automatically turned herself towards home.

 


 

"King Thrall.”

Kara was tempted to glance at her father, to gain comfort in his presence and let him take over – but she realized very suddenly that there were things now that were her responsibility.

She tilted her chin up and squared herself on him, reaching her hand out, palm down, without breaking eye contact with him.

He let her remain there for several moments, before extending his own hand, grasping her forearm as Kara grasped his. They continued to stare at each other for what felt like an eternity, and Lena stood just on the step below them, her eyes moving slowly between the two.

Zor-El winked down at her, and she felt exasperation roll through her.

She was on the verge of physically separating them, when Thrall inclined his head slightly and dropped his hand to his side once more. He turned to Lena and did the same, which she returned, before finally stepping down and taking his seat beside Ravena.  They shared one last, long look, which tugged at Lena’s heart fiercely - and then she suddenly found herself standing beneath a wedding arch with Princess Kara Zor-El of Krypton.

 


 

“She should always be your priority.”

“What about Krypton?”

“You need Krypton more than it needs you. We are here in service of it – its needs guide us, not the other way around. But a ruler can not effectively rule if their house is not in order.”

“What am I to do if my... house... is uncooperative?”

She was met with laughter.

“Your mother... she secretly runs this kingdom. I learned many years ago that she was the smartest person I’d ever met – and I was the lucky Kryptonian she chose to stand beside. She is also incredibly opinionated – and sometimes rather uncooperative.”

“Well? What do you do?”

More laughter.

“I’ve found that giving her what she wants tends to do the trick.”

“Father.”

“Princess... Lena is a gift to you. She is clever, but wounded. She will need help, she will need patience... she will need love.”

Kara glanced up at her father, who was eyeing her carefully.

“That is truly the easiest way to keep your house in order. You must love it.”

 


 

Gentle hands were taking hers. The humming voices had tapered off softly, and the silence now felt almost oppressive. Sapphire eyes held hers, and the Luthorian Princess was beginning to feel incredibly disarmed at the way Kara was looking at her. She glanced away, letting out a shaking breath.

“Are you alright?” the blonde whispered softly.

Lena could barely manage a nod, but when thumbs began rubbing soothing circles into the backs of her hands, she felt peace reach in and soothe her heart. When Zor-El’s voice began to boom through the space as he addressed the Alliance, Kara leaned down and pressed a cool cheek to Lena’s heated one, whispering to her softly in Kryptonian. Lena had learned enough to know that Kara was telling her that she was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.

When the blonde pulled back once more and Lena’s eyes met hers, she understood for the first time that she wasn’t alone.

 


 

Shock was still marching through Lena’s body when Thrall spoke again, his tone lighter this time.

“Have I told you yet of the Kryptonian Vikhirn Skulir?”

She blinked, shaking her head slowly.

“It is the only part of this wedding nonsense that we also perform in Dunol.”

The sun was beginning to set as they made their way back to the stables, Thrall’s security detachment still following them at a respectful distance.

“It is a rite of passage for those who are offering their house to another. It is a symbolic proof of worthiness.”

She scoffed, tugging on Leia’s reigns gently when she began to get overeager as the stables appeared in the distance.

“Is her title not proof enough? This is the House of El we are talking about.”

He shook his head. “No, this is about Kara’s house specifically. She can not rely on the name of El. She is a warrior, so this test of proof is called Vikhirn Skulir. It is meant to accompany the combat trials she endured.”

“What does it involve?”

“The warrior will present her sword to you. You may choose to accept it, if you find it to be worthy – or reject it, if you do not.”

Lena looked at him incredulously.

“Who would reject their betrothed on their wedding day?”

He glanced at her pointedly, and the seriousness of his gaze caught her attention.

“Be careful, Princess. This is the most important part of your wedding ceremony. I would take great effort to make it clear that you are heavily weighing your decision. You do not want it to appear as if her Vikhirn Skulir does not matter.”

Lena frowned as they approached the stables, and dismounted. Leia puffed happily to be near Ana once more, and Lena patted her neck gently as they handed their reigns off to the stable hands.

They made their way back up to the palace, but Lena paused when they reached the courtyard. Thrall looked down at her expectantly.

“Show me what I must do.”

 


 

Zor-El’s words were clear, his tone uplifting, his cadence measured. Lena had read those words before, thumbing through a book on Kryptonian wedding traditions that Winn had brought to her last night to help her prepare.

But they drifted over her, sailing off into the arched marble ceiling, lost to the dizzying way Kara was looking down at her – as if she had never seen her before, and yet as if she had known her since time began.

Something was thrumming across her skin, and the symbol beneath her collarbone was prickling slowly, sending whispers of sensation along her neck and back. It was becoming more and more difficult to concentrate on what he was saying – until Kara finally broke eye contact and glanced up at Zor-El.

Lena’s heart slammed against her chest as she heard him give a clear command.

“Princess Zor-El – now is the time for your Vikhirn Skulir. May you be worthy.”

He took a step back from them, and Lena was startled when the guests seated before them rose to their feet and echoed his words.

Kara dropped her hands, which were beginning to grow clammy, and stiffened her spine. Her face dropped into a compass of sincerity and pride – touched with a hint of anxiety.

Her eyes locked with Lena’s as she reached back, her fingers wrapping around the hilt of the Sword of the House of El, and she wordlessly pulled it from its sheath with an ominous ring of steel on steel.

She lowered it slowly, bringing her left hand up to catch the flat of the blade and pull it horizontally. She extended her arms out to Lena, offering it to her, and lowered her gaze.

Lena took in a breath of air that swirled through her lungs like a tempest. Thrall’s words rang through her like a tolling bell, and she looked down at the beautiful, glinting metal before her.

She was struck by how it shimmered in the morning sun – Kara must have spent hours polishing it. She willed power back into her quaking hands as she reached over, gripping the hilt tightly and taking it from Kara.

The warrior finally looked up at her again, and this time the anxiety in her eyes was plain to see. It made Lena want to reach for her, to reassure her, but she knew that this was a moment that Kara would carry with her for the rest of her life.

She forced her gaze back to the sword, lifting and inspecting it as Thrall had instructed her to. She took her time, carefully examining the details on the hilt, the edge of the blade, the sharpness of its point.

When she had finished, she gave Kara what she hoped was a look of pride – before gripping the hilt with both hands, pointing it towards the ground and extending it back to her.

“Zhi.”

Kara let out a breath she’d been holding, and a collective sigh moved through the guests.

The warrior's warm hands came up then, and they covered Lena’s – pulling both the sword and Lena’s hands into her chest, to press over the symbol beneath her collarbone.

Lena suddenly found herself very close to the tall warrior, and a lightning was arcing through her body that made her feel like every part of her was singeing at the edges.

I bythgr; khap pil rrip.”

A shiver bolted down Lena’s spine, and her lips parted as her eyes shut, a single tear racing down her cheek. She leaned heavily into Kara, and her knees likely would have given out beneath her if Kara’s hands were not holding hers to her chest tightly.

Soft murmuring began to rise from the crowd, and she felt Kara’s forehead drop to hers. A whisper reached her ears, soft enough that only she could hear it – but it cut through every other sound.

“We are almost done, my sun.”

She nodded and opened her eyes once more, forcing strength back into her knees as she leaned back. She knew that she had one more job to do.

Kara released her hands and lowered them slowly to her sides, quiet eyes watching Lena carefully.

The dark-haired woman drew the sword back and stepped into Kara’s space – pointing the tip into the sheath and pausing.

I bythgr; khap pil rrip,” she repeated, as she slid it home with a snap.

Then the universe was standing still.

It felt as if the waves themselves had ceased breaking the shores, and the wind had ceased blowing through the leaves, and the birds had ceased their flight, and the brook had ceased its babbling, and the sun itself had ceased its movement through space.

And then suddenly Lena’s hands were cupping Kara’s face, and she was pulling her down as she tilted her face up, and she was kissing the warrior fiercely, as if it was the only thing in the world that could stop her from drowning in this ocean filling her lungs.

At some point the universe slammed back into motion, and the chorus had begun again, and high notes of mellifluous soul corded across the cavernous cathedral above them, and a roar was coming from somewhere.

But all Lena could feel was the cold, smooth tile beneath her bare feet and the steady arms around her waist, and the way she had been pulled off balance, and the way powerful shoulders shifted beneath her hands, the ones that held on tightly while Kara’s lips pressed to hers in a way that set her on fire.

All Lena could feel was Kara.


 

Chapter Text


 

 

The soft melodies of beautiful stringed instruments flowed through the air. The light, floral scent of white roses drifted along, mingling with the notes, while afternoon sun poured through the tall, open windows. Lena’s gaze turned to Kara, who was stepping into the center of the floor.

Zor-El offered Lena his arm, and she looked up at him with eyes full of anxiety. He smiled down at her kindly and took her hand, placing it in the crook of his arm.

“Don’t worry, Lena. The scariest part is almost over.”

He gently guided her to the center of the Great Hall, where a large space had been cleared – and where Kara waited for them. She was absolutely radiant in the light, and it stole Lena’s breath away.

She looked up at Zor-El suspiciously. “What is the scariest part?”

He leaned down and pulled her into a gentle hug, whispering in her ear softly: “Dancing with Kara. Watch your toes!”

He grinned and turned on his heel, striding off the floor.

Lena stared after him, shaking her head.

A hand touched hers, and she turned back to Kara.

“Are you alright, Princess?” she murmured, for the second time that day.

Lena blew out a shaky breath and nodded, squeezing Kara’s hand reassuringly.

“Yes. Let’s dance.”

Kara smiled and lifted their hands, slipping her other arm around Lena’s waist and pulling her close. Lena rested her hand on Kara’s shoulder as the taller girl guided her gently in a turn, and they were off.

Lena quickly found that King Zor-El of Krypton was a liar and the blonde was an excellent lead, and they were soon drifting and spinning across the floor as if they were floating. She closed her eyes for a moment and inhaled deeply, allowing herself a moment of peace. She relaxed into Kara, and she felt her arm tighten around her. When she opened her eyes again, she looked up into bright blue ones.

“Have I told you how incredible you look?” Kara whispered to her. Pink tinged Lena’s cheeks and she gave her a teasing look.

“Only about a dozen times, Kara.”

“Mmmm. Well that’s not nearly enough.” She spun her out of her arms gently, before tugging on her arm to roll her back in.

“My goal is to hit a hundred before midnight.”

Lena shook her head, smiling up at her.

“Barring the foiled assassination... and discovering a rather disconcerting amount of information about my family... and convincing hundreds of members of an Alliance that I am not a murderous witch... This has all been a lovely experience.”

Kara’s head tipped back and she full on laughed, nearly causing them to trip. When she finally righted them again, she looked down at her affectionately.

“Yes, I must agree with you.”

The brunette unconsciously rubbed her thumb across the skin of Kara’s shoulder as they danced, doing her best to ignore the people surrounding them.

“I... I know that this isn’t exactly what you envisioned for your wedding. But I hope that it has still been enjoyable for you.”

Kara’s smile faded slightly, and Lena could see sadness in her eyes.

“It has been wonderful for me as well, Lena. Life rarely turns out how we expect it to, but that doesn’t make it any less magical. If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would make all of the same choices again.”

Lena frowned. “You would?”

Kara spun them quickly in circles to keep up with the rising tempo, and for Lena it felt as if the rest of the world melted away. They were alone in this soaring hall, surrounded by nothing but open air, a beautiful autumn breeze, and golden afternoon sunlight.

When they finally came to a stop, she was slightly out of breath and dizzy. She tipped into Kara and found strong arms around her. Kara pressed her cheek to hers. “There’s no one else I’d rather be here with.”

Overcome with emotion, Lena slid her hand up to the back of her neck and pulled her down, cupping her cheek and pressing soft lips to Kara’s. The blonde whimpered softly and tightened her arms around Lena’s waist as she stroked her thumb across Kara’s cheek. Lena kissed her upper lip, then her bottom – gentle, chaste kisses that still seemed to set them both on fire. When Lena finally pulled away, she didn’t go far. She pressed her forehead to Kara’s as her fingers played with the loose strands of hair at the base of her neck. Emerald eyes met sapphire.

“Me too.”

 


 

Night had fallen. Fires crackled warmly along the edges of the Great Hall. The open windows and chimneys were filtering the smoke from the air, but it still clung to the edges of the room in a cozy haze. The sounds of laughter, horns, lively fiddles, and a few drums mixed in the fray. Men and women danced throughout the hall as children darted between benches, stealing sweets and giggling with each other under tables that were still covered in food and wine.

The king and queen smiled down at the feast from their seats of honor, waving and conversing with friends and strangers alike.

Seated at a long table that had been reserved for knights but was now mostly being used as a pillow for squires who had too much mead, Alex and Sam spoke to each other softly. Their hands traced the other’s wrists, and Sam reached over to spread her hand across Alex’s belly affectionately. The auburn-haired woman threw her head back and laughed at something she said, covering Sam’s hand with her own.

On the dance floor, James spun Lucy in his arms. Winn danced joyfully beside them with a blonde knight that kept switching who was leading.

And Kara had eyes only for Lena.

The brunette was being sent from one dancer to the next, spun about and twirled and dipped until she was overcome with laughter. She looked happier than Kara had ever seen her. Her cheeks were flushed from dancing and mirth, and her eyes glittered in the warm light of the hall.

Kara danced with one partner, then another, and another, smiling at them briefly and thanking them for coming – but after a few moments each time, she found herself seeking Lena again. Her sword had been returned to her room, and her cloak was affixed to her shoulders once more – but it was beginning to feel stifling as her eyes followed the flashing green dress across the room.

When the moment finally came that it was her turn to dance with her, Lena was twirled into her and Kara caught her, grinning. She expected her to be surprised – and perhaps happy – to find herself in Kara’s arms.

She was not expecting her to press herself closely into the blonde, her eyes becoming heavy-lidded. She was not expecting her to draw her bottom lip between her teeth and reach up to wind her arms around Kara’s neck, pressing her cheek to her jaw as she swayed in her arms.

She certainly was not expecting the sound of approval that hummed across her lips, or the husky quality her voice had taken on as she spoke softly into Kara’s ear.

“Mmmm. There you are.”

Kara felt her knees turn to mush, and she couldn’t stop the sharp inhale that gave her away.

“H-here I am!” she stuttered.

“I’ve missed you,” came the husky voice again.

It was followed by warm lips pressing to the underside of her jaw and fingers threading into her hair, scratching gently across her scalp. It lit Kara’s world on fire, and chills raced down her spine.

“I’ve missed you too...” Kara pressed a hand to the small of Lena’s back and found herself breathing in her scent. Roses, mixed with smoke and red wine and every single amazing thing in Krypton.

The shorter girl pulled her head back to look up into Kara’s eyes. Her hand slipped down to cup the side of her neck, and her thumb brushed slowly along the edge of her jaw.

“Kara...” she whispered softly.

“Yes?”

Lena tipped up onto her toes and placed a gentle, burning kiss to Kara’s bottom lip, before pulling back and tilting her chin up with her token defiant gaze.

“I want you.”

The earth dropped out from beneath Kara. Her mouth opened and closed and she hadn’t had a second to react when someone was gently tugging Lena away to dance with her. She stood in the middle of the dance floor with empty arms. The brunette didn’t break eye contact with her until a few rows of dancers filed between them, and then she was once more lost to the crowd.

“Kara. Kara!” She heard Sam calling to her, and she floated dreamily towards the noise.

She was still in a stupor when she sat down beside Alex, nearly missing the bench.

“Hey! Princess, are you in there?” Alex snapped her fingers in front of her face. Kara blinked and shook her head, pressing her hand to her hot face.

“Yes. Yes! I’m here. I’m so sorry. I... think I’ve had too much wine.”

“It looks as if that may, indeed, be the case.”

 


 

“May I?” Kara offered her arm to Lena with an easy smile. She slipped one hand in the crook of Kara’s arm and placed the other on her bicep, squeezing it gently.

“Yes, you certainly may.”

The last of the wedding guests were filtering back to their rooms or stumbling through the courtyard back to their tents. Kara and Lena had said their goodbyes to Zor-El and Alura, and Lena was overjoyed at the thought of being off her aching feet.

They were both choosing to ignore the way James, Alex, and Sam were watching them leave.

Kara guided her down the long, open hall to their wing. Their footsteps were slow, the paces long, the silence comfortable. Lena patted her arm gently and leaned into her.

“How was your evening, Princess?” Kara smiled at her, her voice low and warm.

“My evening has been... incredible, actually. Yours?”

“Mmm. It’s been truly one of the best nights of my life. I’ve enjoyed having everyone that I love and care about in the same place, especially in celebration.”

Her sincerity tugged at Lena’s heart. Her thumb was stroking slowly over the corded muscle beneath her hand, and Lena would be lying if she said that it wasn’t sending her stomach into flips.

When they finally stopped in front of the door to their wing, Lena turned to face her and slipped her hands into Kara’s. “And me?”

Kara squeezed her hands gently. “You?”

Lena tucked their joined hands behind her back, tugging the blonde’s arms around her and stepping into her space. “Do you care about me?”

Kara tilted her head, her smile tinged with confusion. “Of course I care about you.”

Lena nodded, her eyes tracking down to Kara’s lips and back up to meet her gaze. She slid her hands up Kara’s arms and rested her palms on her shoulders, leaving the other woman’s arms around her waist. 

“As your wife?” she murmured.

The blonde’s smile dropped into further confusion, a crinkle appearing between her eyebrows. “What are you asking me, Lena?”

She tilted up on her toes, leaning into the taller girl. She slipped her fingers up to cup her neck, before pressing a gentle kiss to her bottom lip. She closed her eyes and pulled back, just a hairsbreadth, her voice low. 

“I meant what I said. Earlier.”

Kara’s arms tightened around her, and she opened her eyes again. A sapphire ocean was watching her so closely it felt as if she could see right through her. Lena let her hands slide down Kara’s neck, to press flat against her chest.

Her heart was racing with nerves and her stomach was doing somersaults now, but she’d had just enough wine and was feeling so incredibly warm and happy, that she took a deep breath and stepped off the cliff.

She didn’t have far to go.

“I want you, Kara. Do you – ”

She was cut off by her own gasp as she found herself pushed up against their door. Kara’s lips met hers in a searing kiss, and she whimpered softly as her bottom lip was pulled carefully between sharp teeth. Kara sought entrance at the seam of her lips, which Lena immediately granted with a desperate moan. Her hands flew up to thread in the loose strands of Kara’s bun, while the Kryptonian’s hands slid down to her hips. She felt the world go sideways when Kara pressed their hips together, and her knee wandered up to the blonde’s thigh of its own accord.

Kara groaned when Lena ran her tongue across her upper lip, teasing it, and the sound of it caused heat to drop low in her stomach. Kara tore her lips away and began blazing a trail down her jaw. Her hand slid down Lena’s thigh to grip at her raised knee, giving her a quick adjustment before rocking her hips into the brunette’s center. Lena’s eyes rolled back and her head thumped back against the door when Kara began pressing hot, open-mouthed kisses down her neck. The brooch pinning her dress at her right shoulder was loosening, and the material was beginning to slip down her arm. She moaned when teeth found the space between her neck and shoulder.

“Kara,” she whimpered.

No response.

Those lips began wandering further south, nudging her dress lower down her arm, and she tugged on the locks that her fingers were tangled in. “Kara.”

The blonde absentmindedly kissed her way back up her neck before her lips found a home beneath her ear, drawing gently. “Mmmm?”

Lena panted, biting her bottom lip and tilting her head to the side to allow her better access.

“Do you think we might go into our bedroom? Or were you planning on taking me for the first time here in this hallway, in front of our wedding guests?”

She heard a throaty moan beneath her ear, and those teeth were back to briefly bite at pale skin before Kara pulled back. She grinned at her, a teasing sparkle in her eyes as they wandered across Lena’s kiss-swollen lips. “Which would you prefer?”

A mischievous smile twisted Lena’s lips and she cocked an eyebrow. She rolled her hips into Kara’s, slipping her hand beneath the silky material of the back of Kara’s dress. She dragged the pads of her fingertips slowly along her spine, before tracing circles across her shoulder blades.

“I’m your wife, Princess.” She tugged Kara closer and pressed their cheeks together, whispering in her ear softly. “You can have me wherever you’d like.”

Kara’s smile immediately faded as her lips parted, her pupils blowing with desire as her knees nearly gave out beneath her.

Lena made a mental note for later, but then strong hands were sliding from her hips down to her ass, and she was being lifted off the ground. She wrapped her legs around Kara’s waist and held on tightly as she turned the knob, pushing the door open and striding through it without ceremony. She kicked it closed behind her, making her way to the bedroom with purpose.

Before she registered that they were there, Lena’s back was being pressed into the mattress, the heavy weight of Kara’s hips resting against hers as lips and teeth explored her throat and chest. Kara was radiating heat, and the way she was kissing her skin made it feel like her lips were leaving sizzling brands in their wake. Lena whimpered, and she knew if she didn’t say something soon she would run out of oxygen without Kara knowing – and that could turn out poorly for both of them.

“Wait,” she whispered breathily.

Kara froze, lifting her head and moving to get off her.

“Are you alright?” she asked, her eyes full of concern. Lena had to reach down and grab her by the hips to stop her from leaving.

“Wait, wait! Don’t go. I just...” Lena chuckled softly. “I just need a moment.”

Kara settled her lower half back down, but kept herself propped up on her hands, anxiously watching the dark-haired woman beneath her.

Lena looked at her reassuringly, reaching up to cup her cheek. “Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong. This is...” she blew out a shaky breath, trying to smile away the nerves racing through her. “This is my first time.”

“You... your... Oh. Oh.” Kara stared down at her, her eyebrows raising. Lena shrugged, looking down at her fingertips as she trailed them along Kara’s neck.

“I... didn’t exactly have a lot of... opportunities in Luthoria.” She laughed softly. “Who would want to fall into bed with the sister of the mad king?”

“Rao. Lena... I am so sorry, I’m sure that this all seems very rushed for you. If I had known I would have gone much slower. Please, let me start over.”

Kara made to get off again, so Lena dug her hands in the front of her dress and flipped her onto her back, hiking her own dress up at the slit and straddling her hips.

The blonde shot up in surprise, sending Lena tumbling back into her lap. Her hands flew out last minute to steady the dark-haired woman, dragging her in tightly and unintentionally pressing their stomachs together.

Lena’s breath caught in her chest at the closeness, and she whimpered softly and she lowered her forehead to Kara’s. Her dress was truly sinking down her arm now, exposing a large expanse of pale skin, and she brought her hands up slowly to run them through Kara’s hair.

“I told you... I just needed a moment. I want you, remember?” She pressed her lips to Kara’s temple, kissing her way down her cheek to capture her lips once more. “I want this.”

It seemed sufficient enough to distract Kara from chivalry for a moment, and the blonde moaned softly against the mouth that was sucking carefully at her bottom lip. Her hands slipped through the silk of Lena’s dress, skimming along her upper thighs before settling on her waist.

When Lena began pressing increasingly bold kisses down Kara’s neck, the Kryptonian felt herself starting to lose control. She tilted her head back and groaned, and her fingertips slid down to dig into Lena’s hips and pull her closer.

“Are you... are you sure?” she panted softly.

Lena’s response was to silently reach up, unpinning the brooch holding her dress together and allowing the silk to fall to her waist. She never stopped kissing Kara’s neck, making her way down to bite at her collarbone gently.

The blonde’s jaw dropped, and she tightened her hands in the now-tangled emerald fabric of Lena’s dress. Her hands were aching to slide higher, and her hips were rolling up into Lena’s of their own volition.

“Rao, Lena. You’ll... you’ll tell me if you want me to stop?” she groaned, barely making sense of her own words.

Lena finally pulled back at this, giving Kara a reprieve from the tortuous path her lips were tracing across her chest, and cupped the warrior’s cheeks to look down into her eyes fully.

“Yes, I promise. But until then... consider this your permission. I am at your mercy, Kara Zor-El.”

Kara inhaled deeply and nodded. Her eyes wandered down slowly, her lips parting as they drank in vast expanses of pale skin. She leaned down and pressed a soft, slow kiss to the side of Lena’s jaw, nipping gently as she wandered down her neck, determined to slow their pace anyway – if not for Lena’s benefit, for her own desire to savor the way the skin tasted beneath her lips, between her teeth, against her tongue.

Lena closed her eyes and tilted her head back, her fingers threading through Kara’s hair.

The blonde slipped her hands around to splay at Lena’s back, and she kissed down to her collarbone. She teased the hollow of her neck with her tongue gently, before meandering down the center of her chest. She tipped Lena back in her hands, and the brunette moaned as teeth scored the soft underside of her breast.

Kara kissed the skin there, then pulled back a few inches and bit her lip. She glanced up at Lena, an anxious question in her expression as she tried to form words.

The raven-haired woman understood anyway, and she blew out a shaking breath, nodding.

“You can mark me, zygai.”

The moan that escaped Kara’s lips was almost unnatural. She drew heavily on the alabaster skin of Lena’s chest, leaving a deep violet blossom in her wake. The sight of it nearly set Lena on fire.

Kara tightened one strong arm across Lena’s back and skidded her palm up her soft, pale stomach to cup her breast, running her thumb along the underside. She tracked her lips up Lena’s other breast and hovered for a moment, letting her breath wash over the sensitive skin there, before lowering her head and drawing her nipple deep into her warm mouth. She squeezed her other breast carefully, before dragging her thumb slowly and tortuously across her other nipple.

Lena’s jaw dropped open and her head fell backwards, and she found herself clinging to Kara’s shoulders for dear life as raw sensations rippled through her body for the first time.

“Oh, my god. Kara,” she moaned.

The blonde moaned against her skin and flicked her tongue across the sensitive point in her mouth, sending Lena keening again. Her hips bucked against Kara’s on their own, and Lena could feel how wet was becoming.

When Kara pressed hot kisses across her chest to the other side, Lena thought that perhaps this might actually be a plot to kill her. The ultimate Kryptonian revenge on Luthoria. She dug her nails into the skin of Kara’s shoulders, no longer in control of the sounds streaming from her throat.

Kara’s arm tightened around her and she flipped her onto her back, settling her hips between her thighs. She covered Lena’s breasts with both hands, alternating between squeezing gently and rubbing her palms across her nipples as her mouth wandered down the flat plane of her stomach, nosing her dress down as in her wake. Lena tangled her fingers in her hair and spread her legs wider, her back arching off the bed into Kara’s hands.

She tried to rake her nails across Kara’s shoulders, but was stopped by the edges of her dress. She whined softly and tugged on it, trailing her fingers up Kara’s arms and gently squeezing the hands covering her breasts.

“I want to feel your skin on mine,” she whispered.

Kara looked up at her through eyes clouded with desire and pressed a kiss just below her left breast. “Anything.”

She stood and unclasped her cloak, folding it carefully on the bed next to her before reaching for the brooch on her own dress, tugging it free and letting it slip down to her feet, pooling on the floor. Lena  propped herself up on her elbow and bit her bottom lip, eyes raking over Kara hungrily. She caught her gaze.

“Come here,” she beckoned in a husky voice.

Kara slipped back on top of her, settling her thigh between Lena’s legs and hovering over her with one hand pressed beside Lena’s head. Lena dropped back onto the bed and slid her hands up Kara’s toned stomach, turning her face to the side to press a gentle kiss to the inside of Kara’s wrist before leaning in to rake her teeth across the sensitive skin there carefully.

She looked up at her shyly as her hands slipped up to cover her breasts, squeezing them slowly and brushing her thumbs across her nipples.

“Is this okay..?” she whispered.

Kara dropped her forehead to Lena’s and moaned, nodding. “That’s incredible.”

Feeling braver, Lena wrapped an arm around her back and tugged her down closer. Her lips found a dusky nipple, and she rolled her hips up into Kara’s thigh, moaning as she sucked on the sensitive skin.

Kara’s sharp intake of breath and the way her fingers threaded into Lena’s dark hair to tug insistently did wonders to soothe Lena’s anxieties.

Then the warrior groaned softly then and slipped away, reaching down to grasp Lena’s wrists. She pinned them above her head tightly and dropped her lips to her neck, gliding them down the smooth skin of her throat.“That’s enough of that for now, zrhueiao,” she murmured raggedly into her shoulder.

She licked a path down the center of her breasts and looked up when Lena flexed her hands in Kara’s grip. She caught her eyes.

“Is this alright..?” she murmured against her skin.

Lena nodded quickly, her chest rising and falling as she panted softly.

“I... I like this a lot.”

“Mmmm.” Kara smiled and nuzzled into the soft skin she found beneath her chin. “I’ll keep that in mind...” she whispered, her lashes flicking up to send Lena a look that melted her to the core. It sent shivers racing through Lena.

Kara slid back up and released her, tangling her fingers in her hair and pulling her up for a tender kiss.

“This time though... I want you to be able to reach for me if you need to.” Lena nodded and looked up at her with shining eyes.

“Thank you.”

She sat up on her knees and slid the material of Lena’s dress down to her hips, where it was bunching. She tugged it all the way off, dropping it on the floor where her own landed. She tried to contain the sound in her chest when her eyes caught sight of delicate black lace.

She dropped her forehead to Lena’s soft belly, groaning into her skin. Lena giggled and reach down to run her fingers through blonde locks.

“Are you alright, Princess?”

Kara nodded with her face still pressed into Lena’s stomach. She took a minute to breathe deeply, then pressed a kiss there and lifted herself up once more. She traced the pattern along the edge of Lena’s hip slowly, rubbing her thumb along her hipbone, before hooking her fingers in the sides. She looked up at Lena, whose smile had faded as she watched her quietly.

“May I..?”

Lena lifted her hips off the bed and nodded. “Please,” she whispered.

Kara slipped them off and they went the way of the dresses. She captured Lena’s ankle after tugging them off and pressed a gentle kiss to the inside of her calf, then another, and another, slowly making her way up to the inside of her thigh, parting her legs as she went. Lena moaned when she avoided her center, dragging a hot kiss across her hipbone and finishing with a harsh suck before sliding on top of her again.

The blonde settled her weight onto her left side, propping herself up on her elbow and staring down at Lena while she slipped her palm along her waist and hips.

“You are so, so beautiful.”

Pink colored Lena’s chest, and she lifted her head to press a kiss to Kara’s jaw. Kara intercepted her and captured her mouth, swiping her tongue across her lower lip. She flattened her palm on Lena’s stomach and slid it down, down past her bellybutton, down past her hips, down past her –

“... Oh.” Lena moaned into Kara’s mouth when the pads of her fingertips found her clit, sliding back and forth along the slippery, swollen skin with steady, even pressure.

She was suddenly glad to have use of her hands as they flew up to clutch at Kara’s back, and she sucked in a lungful of air to expel in a shuddering gasp.

Holy shit.

She parted her legs further and dug one heel into the mattress, rolling her hips up into Kara’s rhythm. The blonde groaned in approval and her lips found Lena’s pulse point, sucking hard there and relishing the moan it produced.

She rubbed her fingers in circles now, faster and faster, and Lena panted beneath her, dragging her nails down her back. She was so caught up in the feeling that she barely noticed when fingertips were replaced with a palm, and suddenly Kara’s fingers were poised at her entrance.

The blonde pressed her forehead to Lena’s. They were both panting, a sheen of sweat beginning to form.

“Hold onto me, my Queen,” Kara whispered.

Lena wound her arms around Kara’s neck and looked up into her eyes, nodding.

Kara pushed two fingers home, deep and swift, and felt something give way. Lena cried out softly and squeezed her eyes shut, burying her face in Kara’s neck.

“Kara!”

Her toes curled at the burning sensation between her legs, and she whimpered. Kara kissed her head and pressed her face into her hair, murmuring soothingly.

“I know, I know. I’m right here, zrhueiao.”

A soft whine drifted up from the space between Kara’s neck and shoulder as fingernails gently dug into the toned muscle of her back.

“Zygai...”

Kara dropped her head, pressing a warm silken kiss along Lena’s chest, soft lips tracing the glinting symbol beneath her collarbone. It sent soothing waves along her body, and Lena exhaled shakily.

“Talk to me, my sun,” she murmured against her skin.

Lena slid her hands up Kara’s back to tangle her fingers in golden locks, pressing her forehead to her cheek. She kissed a soft trail along her jaw, up, up, until her bottom lip caught Kara’s earlobe and her voice whispered softly along the shell of her ear.

“I’m yours, Kara.”

Kara dropped her jaw as her eyes slid shut, and a moan that began in Kara’s chest ended low in Lena’s belly. The raven-haired woman rolled her hips up into Kara’s hand, the burning sensation slowly melting away into something pure and fiery.

Kara slowly withdrew to the ends of her fingertips, taking the time to press the pad of her thumb in a delicious, aching stripe along Lena’s clit, before slipping them deep inside her again. She was gentle and sweet and considerate, and it made Lena’s heart clench.

When Kara’s palm found her clit again and she began to pick up a rocking pace, a moan ripped through her throat. The blonde hooked her fingers up carefully, rubbing against a hidden spot inside her that Lena had no idea existed. She threw her head back into the pillow and arched her back beneath her, whimpering breathily.

“Kara... Kara, fuck...

She spread her legs wider and tangled her fingers in blonde locks when the Kryptonian princess bent down to kiss across her chest. When a hot mouth found her nipple, it was over in seconds.

Stars exploded behind her eyes, and the orgasm tore through her body like a crashing wave, curling her toes and send her arching off the bed, tilting her head back as she screamed. She thrashed beneath her and Kara managed to pin her hips to the mattress, dragging ecstasy from her body with every touch of her fingers. A tear rolled down her cheek as she cried out over and over, overwhelmed, hands clutching at anything she could find purchase on. Her nails pressed sharply into unbreakable skin, and she gasped as her body finally shuddered and slowly lowered back down to the bed.

She panted hard, whimpering when Kara gently withdrew her fingers. The world was hazy and spinning around her, and the only thing she knew was that she needed safety. She curled into Kara’s chest and shivered against her, soft whimpers still trailing past her lips. Warm arms wrapped around her tightly, and she felt the material of Kara’s cloak being tugged over her body. Kara pulled her in close and traced her fingers over the skin of her back, pressing gentle kisses to her cheek and murmuring to her softly.

“I’m here. I’ve got you, i zhao.”

Lena’s chest ached at those words. Her fingertips dug into smooth, muscled skin, and she buried her face in the space beneath Kara’s chin. She felt her anxieties, her fears, her discomfort, fade slowly, drifting off into the inky blackness of the evening sky.

Her eyes dropped closed, and she decided that the world could spin without her for one night.


 

Chapter Text

 


Yesterday, there were one hundred things flying through Lena’s mind – zooming through her consciousness like Kryptonians flying from one place to another. Thoughts of her mother, questions about her father, alliances, enemies, anxieties about what Lex had planned, the assassin still sitting in his cell, the future of her life here at Krypton. They sailed across her reality at a thousand miles an hour –  colliding, slamming apart, splitting into infinitesimal atoms or merging into looming giants that made her heart pound a frantic drum.

Today, they were silent.

Her eyes opened slowly to the pale grey morning light. She blinked in an effort to turn the fuzzy, distorted shapes into something more clear. She inhaled deeply, her soul sinking back down into her body, and studied the way it felt beneath her skin. She was still exhausted, but it felt satisfying. She was sore – in one particular spot more than others – but it felt like something more akin to a delicious ache. The apex of her thighs was not a place she was accustomed to aching, and when she allowed herself to fully explore the feeling, it sent blood crawling up towards her face from her chest.

Her pulse beat sluggishly, as if it too was still waking, and it sent steady pulsing into what she was sure were bruises, blossoming like ripe flowers on her neck and chest. When she picked her head up sleepily, a glance down at her chest confirmed her suspicions.

She settled her head back on the pillow and brought her hand up to her face, running her fingertips along her swollen lips with the barest hint of a smile. She trailed the back of her knuckles up her cheek, before slipping them through her tousled hair as she stretched her legs.

She settled her hand on top of the forearm that was slung across her belly, and stroked it with her fingertips. She studied the way it flexed and moved in the rising sunlight, trailing her touch down to the hand that was partially tucked beneath her side.

Those hands.

Those steady hands that had held her close, held her down, plied her apart, pressed her together. Those strong hands that pulled at the laces and the seams until the knots untangled and fell apart, the ones that quieted her body and shushed her blitzing thoughts.

Kryptonian hands which, she had learned in the night, were very possessive in their sleeping habits.

When she had attempted to sneak to the bathroom in the early morning before the sun had risen, she was met with unhappy grumbling and a steel grip, pulling her back down and wrapping around her tightly. She had been forced to shake Kara awake, only managing to disentangle herself from muscled limbs when Kara had sleepily released her.

The blonde was asleep again by the time she returned, but after only a few moments in bed beside her, Lena was being drawn back into a wrapping embrace.

Now, with gentle fingertips trailing along her skin, Kara stirred with a slight mumble. Lena watched her, fascinated – she had never seen the warrior be anything but downright chipper in the morning, so the discontented grumbling was new.

Lena reached down, carding her fingers through golden locks and scratching her nails across her scalp gently.

The grumbling eventually died down, but Kara rose up onto her side with still-closed eyelids and dragged Lena beneath her, settling down onto her and snuggling her face into the dark-haired woman’s chest.

She couldn’t help but chuckle, stroking her knuckle down Kara’s cheek.

“Kara...”

“Mmph.”

Her lips curved up into a smile as the blonde nuzzled her face into the soft, bruising skin of Lena’s chest. She tapped her shoulder gently.

“Kara.”

“Mmmmmm.” A nuzzling face was slowly turning into warm, wandering lips, and Lena took in a deep breath as that delicious soreness between her legs twinged.

“Warrior, are you planning on laying on me all d – Kara!”

An exploring mouth had settled itself on Lena’s left nipple, drawing on it carefully as a thigh was being slipped between her legs.

“Hmmm...” Kara released the tension between her lips and replaced her mouth with her palm, even as she was kissing up Lena’s sternum. “That depends.”

“O-on?” Lena stuttered quietly, her eyelids dropping shot.

“Were you planning on letting me?”

Lena snorted and opened one eye to peek up at the blonde hovering over her.

“I wasn’t aware I had a choice.”

Kara grinned up at her. “You don’t. I’ve decided – this is the only place in all of Krypton where you have to obey all commands from your wife.”

Instead of the outrage Kara was expecting, she received a hand tucked beneath her jaw, dragging her face up to a warm kiss, her upper lip drawn between teeth and gently sucked.

“Perhaps I might want to.”

Kara’s brain short-circuited, and her gaze slipped into an unfocused haze as Lena chuckled and slid out from under her.

The raven-haired Princess padded, naked, from the bed to the windows of Kara’s bedroom – no, their bedroom – and stood close enough to gaze out the foggy glass at the water breaking into white caps. The sky was grey and quickly turning stormy, the waves rolling and tossing against the shore and the rocks dotting the coast.

Thoughts she had abandoned in the night were beginning to creep back in, and she crossed her arms over her chest as she leaned against the frame. A chill was seeping through the glass, in the same manner as her fears, and Lena shivered slightly before a hot body was being pressed up against her back, a thick blanket tucked around them both. Kara married her cheek to Lena’s temple as they both stared out at the water for some time.

Eventually, Kara’s lips found her neck.

“Come, Princess. Let’s go back to bed. I’ll rub some of these knots out of your shoulders.”

“Princess Zor-El, are you trying to seduce me?”

“Me? I would never.”


 

It would be three months before the sounding of a battle horn ripped through the peaceful air of the Crystal Palace.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Two Weeks After the Wedding

Footsteps pounded down the long, dark hall in front of the wing of the Princesses of Krypton. Breath steamed from panting lips, and skinny fingers yanked hard on the front door without preamble. Glowing coals in the sitting room fireplace gave off heat, but it was ignored. Knuckles rapped sharply on the bedroom door at the far end of the hall.

Kara Zor-El, whose face had been buried in the nape of her wife’s neck, her arms wrapped around her tightly, was on her feet in an instant, pulling a tunic on over her head.

Lena sat up with a gasp, tugging the blanket up over her bare chest. Tousled hair flew around her concerned face.

“Enter,” came Kara’s sleep-deepened voice.

Aaron, the palace’s fastest page, pushed the door open and executed a swift bow.

“Princess Zor-El, your presence is required in the Arias wing.”

Kara was already tugging on trousers and shoving her feet into boots.

“What’s happening? Is it Alex? The baby isn’t due for another two weeks.”

A hand came out to grasp at her wrist, and Kara looked down in confusion at it before focusing her gaze on Lena, whose concerned eyes were trained on Aaron.

“He doesn’t mean you, Princess.”

Anguish filled the young man’s eyes, and he quietly shook his head.

Lena was out of bed in a flash, Aaron averting his gaze from her naked back as she rifled through the closet for a tunic.

Kara’s chest rose and fell rapidly, her eyes searching for something unseen, before her attention snapped back to the page in the doorway.

“Go. Tell them we are on our way.”

He was gone in a flash, and Kara finished tying her boots while Lena pulled on a pair of trousers and yanked her hair up, tying it in place.

She didn’t even have shoes on before she was pressing herself against Kara, gripping at the shoulders of her tunic and looking at her with urgency.

“Let’s go.”

Steel arms wrapped around her instantly and they were off, racing through the palace at the speed of sound.

When they arrived, Sam was pacing in their sitting room with a stony expression on her face while Zor-El and Winn stood silently out of the way. Alura, Eliza, and the palace healer were with Alex. Aaron had beaten them there by a mere minute, and Lena was immediately pushing her way through to the bedroom. When the door swung open to allow her through, Kara’s hair stood on end at the desperate cry of agony that sailed through it and the blood she glimpsed on the floor before the door slammed shut again.

Sam had frozen at the sound, her stare beginning to look more and more distant, and Kara barely had time to register the wobble of her knees before she caught the collapsing woman in her arms.

She dragged her to the couch and wrapped her arms around her tightly, sitting beside her and rocking her while murmuring soft affirmations into her hair – all the while looking up at Winn, who was returning her expression with mingled horror.

An hour passed in this manner. The occasional scream would rip through the stuffy silence, and Sam would start off the couch before Kara gently pulled her back down again.

“We can’t be in there right now, my sister. We would only get in the way.”

Sam dropped her face into her hands and bunched her shoulders, her fingers worrying her tousled hair.

Eventually, a particularly loud scream that tapered off at the end into a choking gasp had them both on their feet.

But it was punctuated by the clear, ringing cry of an infant, and then Sam was shoving her way through the bedroom door, and Kara was right on her heels.


 

Alex still needed help, and Sam elected to stay by her side while she was being tended to. Winn and Zor-El had made for the kitchen, intending on rousing the head chef from her bed to get a good meal going for the new mothers.

And Kara sat quietly in the sitting room, a freshly stoked fire raging in front of her, and a baby girl with a shock of auburn hair sleeping peacefully in her arms. Silent, unbidden tears rolled down her cheeks, and she mindlessly rocked while smiling down at her.

The bedroom door opened and clicked shut again, but Kara didn’t even glance up when Lena settled onto the couch beside her, wiping her freshly-washed hands on a cloth. Her tunic sleeves were rolled up to the elbow and there was blood spattered on her trousers, but she was beaming. She reached over to stroke her fingers through the soft, fuzzy hair.

“What happened?” Kara whispered tearfully.

Lena snorted softly and pressed her face into Kara’s shoulder to dull the noise, before tucking her chin over her shoulder and responding with her own whisper, clearly biting back laughter.

“What happened is that this is the biggest baby I’ve ever seen.”

Kara’s eyebrows shot up and she finally turned to look away from the child in her arms.

“You’re joking.”

Lena shook her head, her eyes twinkling.

“Ten pounds. And strong.

Kara paled slightly, before her face scrunched into a cringe.

“Is Alex...”

“Oh, it’ll be a little while. Thank Rao for you Kryptonians and your rapid healing, because otherwise...”

Lena shook her head and leaned back into the couch again, stifling a yawn and tucking her legs up beside her.

“Were they discussing a name?”

Then the door pulled open again and Sam stepped through this time, looking tired but happy.

Kara stood and held her arms out, and Sam took the baby gently, pressing her lips to a soft forehead as tears slipped down her cheeks. She simply stared down at her for a few minutes before a cracked whisper broke the silence.

“Ruby. Her name is Ruby.”

 


 

Bitter black eyes roamed over forges, licking flames, and soot-covered cavernous walls that stretched high above them. Greasy black hair that was usually slicked back was mussed with anger, a stray lock curling over a pale forehead.

A permanently-sneered lip sat beneath a sharp, pointed nose. The sound of metal clanging against metal rang through the air like ominous bells, mingling with shouting voices both near and distant. They swirled together with crackling sparks and the hissing of molten metal being dipped into water.

Tapping boots approached from the south, and he turned to face them with a huff.

“Finally.”

A tall, thin man with a shimmering bald head before him, surrounded by knights, a shorter woman at his side – with an expression that could curdle cream.

“King Leon. I apologize for the wait. I was receiving news from an emissary.”

The man snorted with disdain and adjusted his blood red armor and jet-black cape that was frayed and sinister at its edges.

“If you had been on time, I could have saved your emissary the breath. Our assassin has been captured, and the ceremony has concluded. They are wed.”

Your assassin.”

Sharp eyes danced with fire, and the curled lip sneered harder. A cold voice sang between them.

“Do not presume to make accusations against your allies when you only have one to speak of, young King.”

Lex straightened further and tucked his hands behind his back. He began strolling deeper into the mine, Lillian at his side. Leon kept pace with him.

“It is of no consequence now. If we are to both get what we desire, we must move forward with our plan.”

“What is it exactly that you desire, Luthor? This seems like quite the undertaking to dismantle a kingdom that does not harm or interact with you in any way.”

“Their very unnatural existence is enough- ” Lillian began with a hiss.

The Luthorian king put up a hand to silence her. He stopped beside a forge, in front of a table that held weapons, lifting one and examining it carefully as the blacksmith and his apprentice hammered away. Lex twisted the blade to catch the light, and his brown eyes reflected the shimmering green flecks embedded in its steel.

“The Kryptonians have taken much from our family. We... I... am owed power. Power which I will take by force – when the Kryptonians are finally dealt with.” He tested the weight of the blade, before setting it down and picking up a dagger to inspect. “Without their invincible companions, the Alliance will fall apart like wet paper.”

He set it down and turned to face the Cogorian king, lifting his hands out to his sides to gesture at the production around him.

“Do you not approve of our work, King Leon?”

The shorter man huffed, his eyes glancing around. “I will admit, this is a much bigger operation than I appreciated.”

A slow smile crept across Lex’s face, and he clapped Leon on the back.

“There you are, then! When we discovered this vein of kryptonite, we had no idea how deep it would run. But now... now we have everything we need to mount a full scale assault. Arrow tips, chains, swords, armor.” His smile dropped, and his eyes narrowed dangerously.

“The sea between Bolenth and Krypton will churn with blood. And when we push through it, to the shores of Krypton, those sands will be stained red as well.”

“So we are still on track to attack Bolenth?”

“When the winter turns to spring, they will be the first to taste the power of the alliance of Cogo and Luthoria.”

Leon’s smile was slower than Lex’s, but just as lecherous.

“And do not forget – I am to be given my payment.”

The Luthorian king’s smile faded from his eyes, but not his teeth.

“Yes. The girl.” He turned towards the exit once more, striding for it with purpose. “Though I have to apologize – I have no doubt that her... purity... is no longer intact.”

Leon grinned then, reaching up to smooth back the stray lock of hair on his forehead.

“Not to worry, your highness. I never liked the fresh ones anyway. They fight too much.”

His coarse laughter made even Lex cringe.

 


 

Quiet blue eyes peered out from above sooty cheeks, robust and clear. As the royal contingency and their horrific guest finally exited the mines, the blacksmith began pounding a sword flat against an anvil over and over. When it was acceptably straight, he brought it to a trough of water where his apprentice was stoking a fire and dipped it in. As it hissed, he leaned over to the young apprentice and dropped his voice to a masked whisper.

“Bolenth will be under attack in the spring from Luthorian borders.”

The teenage boy looked up at him with fear flashing in his warm brown eyes.

The blacksmith glanced around them, tugging the hissing steel from the water and leaning even closer.

“You must get word to General Astra at once!”


 

Chapter Text


 

A particularly cold winter morning was fogging the windows of a cabin, nestled beside a lake and standing tall in the shadow of a mountain. Frost had turned the grass into stiff, cold ice that snapped beneath the hard-soled boots of a knight with thick blond hair and a deep maroon cloak.

A bundle of wood was piled in her arms, and her free hand tugged the rich material of her cloak around her shoulders as she made her way across the field that was starting to glow with the morning sun. She closed her eyes and welcomed its blaze across her face, inhaling deeply, before trudging the rest of the way to the front door.

She pushed it open and shut it tightly behind her, letting in as little breeze as possible. A brief glance at the loft above the quaint kitchen showed no signs of stirring, despite the early morning sun glinting through the expansive windows. Kara gently settled the pile of logs beside the stone fireplace and stacked several inside, before lighting it quickly and dropping to the stool beside the hearth with a huff, reaching down for the laces on her boots.

“You better not have tracked more mud in here, Kara Zor-El... it took me hours to get it out of the rug yesterday.”

A soft, sleepy voice drifted down from the bed that was settled against the far wall of the loft, and a slow smile crept across the Kryptonian’s face as she tugged off her boots and tossed them beside the rack next to the front door. She glanced down at the soft, worn rug beneath her feet and made sure it was mud-free before tugging off her cloak and hanging it on the hook above the shoes.

She set a kettle full of water over the fire before padding her way up the stairs to the loft.

A pile of blankets was tugged up around pale, alabaster shoulders. A mess of curling black hair splayed out across a fluffy pillow, a sharp and beautiful face pressed into it cozily. Lena was face-down on the bed, just as she’d left her, her fingers gently tangled in the sheets where she’d been clutching them the night before. Light purple marks trailed down her neck and shoulder, and Kara sat beside her carefully and set to work tracing them with kisses.

“Mmmm... cold lips,” came the soft mumble.

Kara nuzzled her face down the center of Lena’s spine, nosing down the blankets, before settling her attention on the soft expanse in the small of her bank.

Lena moaned and buried her face deeper into the pillow, drawing her bottom lip between her teeth.

“Kara.”

“Hmm?”

A sharp inhale cut her off as teeth found the sensitive skin, and Lena reached down to tug on the shoulder of Kara’s tunic. It distracted her enough to allow Lena to flip onto her back, but all she accomplished was giving Kara’s teeth access to her hipbone.

“Kara!”

Hands tangled in blonde hair and pulled hard, and the Kryptonian finally relented, pressing laughing kisses up a soft belly, between breasts, and finally landing on pink lips.

Lena’s eyes traced the soft features of the face hovering above hers, and she reached up, cupping cold-reddened cheeks and running her thumb across kiss-swollen lips. Kara pressed a kiss to the pad of her thumb and Lena’s heart jumped.

Her chest felt like a wellspring of something she’d never felt before, something that made her feel like she was going to float off the mattress. It sent tingles racing across her skin and pricked tears in the corners of her eyes. She stammered the beginning of a sentence, unsure of the words that needed to come out of her mouth, but in that exact moment the kettle began to whistle and Kara was pressing a kiss to her forehead and stepping back down the stairs and she’d missed her chance.

Lena closed her eyes briefly, pressing her fingertips to her forehead, before wiping briskly at her eyes and sitting up. The cool air in the cabin hit her naked back and she shivered, pulling the soft blankets around her.

She listened as the whistling of the kettle had turned deeper somehow, the notes longer and more ominous, and she frowned. She rose from the comfortable bed and stepped to the railing of the loft, looking down with confusion as prickles of recognition and fear touched the back of her neck.

“Kara? What is that?”

The blonde princess was staring through a window, her posture on high alert, the steaming kettle all but forgotten in her hand.

“It’s Astra.”

Lena frowned.

“I don’t understand. Why is she back so soon? I thought the 2nd Battalion wouldn’t be back from training until early spring.”

Kara set the kettle down and turned, eyeing Lena over her shoulder.

“They shouldn’t be. Get dressed, Princess.”

 


 

The return to the Crystal Palace from Urvish was longer than it could have been. Kara insisted on taking the horses instead of flying, and while Lena appreciated the gesture and attempt to allow her some measure of control, anxiety churned her stomach with every pounding step of the hooves.

When they finally reached the Great Hall, Astra was already there with several high-ranking members of the Kryptonian Army. They were with Alex, Alura, and Zor-El, bent over maps and speaking in heated tones.

They turned when Kara pulled the door open. The Kryptonian Princess strode through with purpose, Lena at her side. The dark-haired woman made to stand back while Kara approached the table, but changed her mind at the last moment and stepped up to its side.

“Aunt Astra. What has happened?”

Glances darted between the generals and Astra, who sent a look at Alura before clearing her throat and addressing Kara.

“Perhaps this conversation would be better served in a more private location.” Her eyes moved to look at Lena plaintively, who bristled at the gaze. Kara opened her mouth to speak, but Lena cut her off, leveling Astra with a cool tone.

“General In-Ze, I am a Princess of Krypton and I have every right to stand at this table.”

“You don’t have the right to stand at this table when your family is on the verge of declaring war.”

“What?!”

Kara placed a hand down on the table and leaned forward. “Explain this! What has happened?”

Zor-El stepped in and held up a palm. Kara straightened slowly, watching him expectantly.

“We have received word from reputable sources that Luthoria is planning an attack on Bolenth in the spring. They will march straight through to Thon and use it as a base to launch a full scale assault on Krypton across the Bolenthian Sea.”

Kara’s jaw dropped slightly. Lena’s gaze turned to the doors that were shut against the cold sea breeze whipping against the stone and glass, her eyes instantly finding the aquamarine horizon.

“Leon.”

Astra’s eyes narrowed across the table.

“You knew.”

Lena met her gaze with a fierce one of her own, the muscles in her jaw ticking.

“I knew? I knew that I had been traded by the King of Luthoria to the King of Cogo like a piece of cattle in exchange for military advantage. I knew that I escaped, rescuing the Princess of Krypton in my wake, and took away his only bargaining chip. Those are the things that I knew, General.”

Kara’s hand pressed gently into Lena’s wrist, and she realized that she was pushing her fist into the table. She pulled it away from the tabletop and tucked it behind her back, but squared her shoulders at the generals who were staring daggers at her.

Astra was studying her carefully, and Kara exchanged looks with Zor-El across the maps below them, prepared to intervene. Their caution was unnecessary, however, when both women visibly relaxed from their stand off.

“Fine.” Astra’s chin notched higher. “But you will provide the strategic planning team with as much information as you can about your brother and his operations.”

“Done. Anything else?”

Alex cleared her throat, stepping closer and eyeing Astra.

“You need to tell them. Kara, in particular. We need to begin training and she will hear it soon enough – it is better that it comes from you.”

A frown creased Kara’s brow and turned to her Aunt.

“What is she talking about?”

Astra sighed deeply, her eyes glued to the map in front of them, though she did not see it.

“We confirmed several weeks ago that the Luthorians are, indeed, mining kryptonite.”

Kara stared at her incredulously.

“So... so the recon mission I was performing...”

“Would have confirmed the rumor that Luthoria was amassing kryptonite weapons.” Kara’s lips parted with surprise as Astra continued. “I suspect that Lex gambled and sent the truth out, disguised as bad intelligence, hoping to lure you into a trap while throwing us off his scent.”

“And it worked,” Kara muttered bitterly.

“Yes, Princess. I am sorry.”

A muscle ticked in Kara’s jaw. While she was silently processing this new information, Lena turned her eyes to Zor-El.

“What are we going to do about Cogo?”

“We froze trade and shipping with Cogo when you told Kara that they had made a deal with Luthoria. Even with the absence of his desired price, we realized that we could not trust Leon with access to our ports and lanes.” He shook his head angrily. “We should have suspected that something was foul when they hardly put up a fight.”

Burgeoning silence weighed over the company then, as they stared at each other, and down at the maps in front of them. Zor-El’s calm, even-tempered voice spoke first.

“General In-Ze – we await instruction.”

Astra’s commands sliced through any lack of surety like a sharp sword.

“We need to begin planning immediately. Word has already been sent to Bolenth and surrounding members of the Alliance, including Vathlo. If Cogo is still in this fight, we will need naval support. Menon and Lazari will begin preparations on their end, and we will join them on the Luthorian border to bolster defenses.” She pointed at Alex. “Knight Captain, work with your Chief Engineer and Kara. We need to begin a rigorous training plan against kryptonite weapons, and we need better armor. We can no longer rely on invincibility.”

Her gaze cut across the table and pinned Lena beneath its intensity.

“Princess, you will begin communicating with strategic command – give them any information on your family that they require. When you are not doing that, I need you to make a better way to render aid on the battlefield. We will lose enough soldiers in combat without worrying about them bleeding to death from an arrow wound when the fight is over.”

Surprise shook Lena to her core. She had expected Astra to begrudgingly force her into talking about Lex, but she wasn’t prepared to perform her actual functions within the royal dynamic. An unexpected thrill raced through her and she nodded, her spine suddenly straight and sure.

Astra held her gaze for a moment, before nodding once and striding off, her generals in tow.

Zor-El, Kara, Alex, and Lena watched them go, the door slamming shut in their wake.

Kara’s hands clenched at her sides, and Alex gave her a knowing look.

“What are you thinking, sister?”

“I’m thinking that there is an assassin sitting in our palace dungeon who might have a lot more information than he let on.”

The blonde grasped Lena’s upper arm and pulled her close, pressing a swift kiss to her cheek before turning her glowering expression and angry feet to the door.

“Alex?”

“Let’s go.”

When the door slammed shut a second time, Lena found herself standing in front of a table with the King and Queen of Krypton. A hundred excuses to leave raced across her tongue, but she couldn’t find the voice for any of them.

Alura, who was watching her quietly, spoke first.

“Lena, I am sorry that it has to be this way.”

“Your highness..?”

“You should know that we don’t want this. We would much rather live in peace with your family than to respond to attacks from them.”

Green eyes welled up, but she forced her emotions down. Her voice wavered far more than she would have liked, but she notched her chin high and perked an eyebrow. She glanced around tearfully.

“With all due respect, your majesty, my family are the ones being attacked - not the ones doing the attacking. I owe no allegiance to the man who sits on the throne of Luthoria.”

Alura reached over and squeezed her hand tightly.

“Good. Now go, begin preparations.”

Lena bowed her head briefly and made for the door, until Alura’s clear voice stopped her short.

“Princess... one more thing.” Alura gave her a poignant look, nodding in the direction of the door.

“Anhani is being called to assist in armor design. Perhaps you may wish to seek her counsel again, when she arrives.”

Lena blinked rapidly, before nodding and pulling the door shut behind her.


 

It was a full week before Lena sought the company of the soft spoken seamstress.

A corner of the library had been sectioned off for her use, and it happened to be Lena’s favorite place to read. Both walls were lined with windows that looked out over the sea, and if you stood in the center of them it felt almost as if you were on a ship that was drifting out onto the expansive horizon. The setting sun cast bronze and orange shadows on the walls and floor that lengthened and stretched as the day faded away.

Anhani was working quietly in front of a wooden sculpture, designed to fit the leather armor of a knight, muttering and scratching notes, pinning and unpinning leather and delicate metal links and buckles that clasped together tightly.

Lena approached her quietly, to not disturb her, but a voice beckoned her forth anyway.

“I was wondering when you would come see me.” She spoke around the heads of several pins in her mouth, and didn’t glance up from the measurement she was taking.

The Princess nodded, leaning against a table along the far wall, taking a moment to gaze out at the way the sun that was slipping below the horizon turned the gentle water to a fiery blaze.

The seamstress glanced at her as she worked.

“I do not know what answers you seek, Princess, but you may be disappointed by my ability to provide them.”

Lena shook her head, glancing down at the hands she had folded in her lap, before crossing her arms across her chest tightly.

“I just... why?”

“Why? What does this mean, why?”

Lena threw her hands up in frustration, stepping away from the table and standing fully before the windows.

“Why? Why did she choose Lionel Luthor? Why did she give me to him instead of you? You knew who I was, who I would be. Why him?”

Anhani pursed her lips and tucked a piece of chain mail into a space on the armor, pinning it carefully and weaving it in a complex manner.

“I do not know, Princess.”

“Then tell me why we are still in hiding, after all of these years of peace. Didn’t she think it was time to return to the rest of the world?”

Anhani sighed deeply, shaking her head.

“I advised as much to her myself, on many occasions. She insisted that the world was not yet ready, and that she could not make such a decision for you – you would need to do it yourself.”

“What does that mean, Anhani??” Lena stepped closer, her eyes welling with tears even as she raised her voice to prevent it from cracking.

“How am I supposed to do this on my own?”

The seamstress stared at her for a long moment, before tucking a pin carefully into the collar of the chest plate and wiping her hands on the front of her apron. She reached out and took Lena’s hands, clammy with nervous sweat, and pressed them between her fingers tightly. Deep brown eyes were cast into amber honey in the dipping sunlight, and Lena squeezed her hands as a sense of ancient recognition washed over her.

“You are not alone Princess. I am here. Alura, Zor-El. The angry knight captain. And Kara. Kara is with you, my dear.” One hand reached up to cup Lena’s cheek, before it fell to cover the symbol below her collarbone. “Every step of your journey, she is with you. Maybe sometimes you will have to guide her, and maybe sometimes she will have to guide you. But you are together, and you will get through everything together as long as you are entwined in this fabric of the life force. This is your tapestry, my dear.”

Lena could feel her heart pounding beneath the small woman’s palm, and doubts pushed out from her lips once more.

“This all just feels so... unreal. I’m so scared that it’s all going to come down around me. I... ” Tears crashed down her cheeks as her eyes sailed up towards the ceiling, and she tried in vain to blink them away before they fell. “I’m so scared that I don’t know how to love, Anhani. I’ve never done this before. I used to feel lost, like I had no home, and now I feel even more adrift than I ever have. How am I meant to love someone when I scarcely know who I am?”

“Oh, Princess.” Anhani smiled at her, though a tear fell from her own eyes. She reached up once more to cup Lena’s cheeks, gentle kindness radiating from every wrinkle in her face, every scar on her fingers, every perfectly placed strand of hair on her head. “You are right. You have so much yet to learn about life, and about love.”

“You don’t need to worry that you don’t know how to love. That knowledge was given to you many years ago, by your mother. The first thing you ever experienced, when you drew your first breath in this world, was love. You know what it means, how it feels. You may be out of practice, this is true. But you just let that feeling rush over you again, and it will come.” She shut her eyes tightly, putting emphasis on every syllable, as if she was living her words. “Oh, it will pull you along a rushing wave that will send you crashing into the shore of warm arms, before dragging you back out into those cerulean depths and tossing you in a tempest of trust, care, soft words spoken in the early morning light, gentle touches in the middle of the day, crying children in the middle of the night...”

Lena’s heart seized, and the tears were openly falling now. Anhani slowly opened her eyes and reached up, drying them gently with the back of her knuckles.

“The answers that you seek... about your mother, where she was, who she was in the those last days before you were born...” She squeezed Lena’s shoulder gently. “I suspect that you will only find those answers blowing across the hot dunes of Ansom.”

The Princess nodded slowly, her eyes dropping shut as she bowed her head. The sun had set behind them, and the crackling fire warmed the draping shadows of twilight.

“Perhaps I will seek them there, then.”

Anhani nodded and reached down, clasping her hand and patting it gently.

“But Princess... do not forget that there are footprints that are meant to be in the sand beside yours.”

Lena nodded slowly. She pulled Anhani into a gentle, unexpected hug.

“Thank you.”

She wiped at her tears while leaving the seamstress to her work once more.


 

Chapter Text


 

The coming weeks passed for Lena as a blur.

It seemed as if in every moment, the sun was rising and setting again, in a constant circle around the palace.

While Kara was down in the arena during the day, Lena was splitting her time between the clinic and the library. At first, knights and soldiers were coming in by the hour – limping and bleeding from harsh blows struck under the influence of kryptonite. When a reconnaissance squad returned with several kryptonite swords they’d lifted from a Cogorian trade ship, she began to see very sick knights filtering in with wounds that refused to heal. She realized with horror that they were leaving traces of kryptonite behind, and worked feverishly to find a way to flush them out.

It took her two weeks.

Lena had correctly assumed that kryptonite was weakened by exposure to sunlight. When she came across a book of Kryptonian geology and discovered that obsidian crystals could be used to store the energy from the sun, it was a short leap for her to use charged crystals to destroy kryptonite remnants.

After trial periods and more weeks of testing, the new methods were working brilliantly, and she was in the process of collaborating with Winn and Anhani to have removable obsidian plates sewn into their armor without making it too cumbersome.

She was reveling in the ability to contribute, to learn, to grow from failures and to be proud of victories. She was using her mind for the first time towards something she believed in, and while she wished the circumstances were different, she was beginning to feel alive in ways she never had before.

Her tallest emotional hurdle to overcome, in fact, had quickly become Kara.

The blonde warrior was up before the sun rose, and didn’t return until long after it had set. She was occasionally accompanied by other knights, Alex and James in particular, and they would work into the night, poring over maps and training in the garden when the weather began to turn warmer.

Lena began to find herself fussing over things that she had once never considered caring about – like making sure Kara was eating, forcing her to get some sleep, and – since she would never come to the clinic on her own – tending to wounds that were taking too long to heal.

She had resorted to forcing her way through knights huddled around tables in their study, dropping a plate of food on top of design plans for wrist bracers and maps and company rosters, then glaring at the blonde until she began eating.

One night, she had fallen asleep before they were done training in the garden, and she woke in the early morning hours to find Kara passed out in the sitting room with her chest plate and boots still on.

Now, she stayed awake until they were finished, tugging the warrior down to a stool and deftly unbuckling the newest iteration of armor she was testing. Lena would then drag her to a hot shower, where her fingertips sought coiled knots in her neck and shoulders, before guiding the exhausted knight to bed.

Then, another reconnaissance squad had returned with two fewer knights than had left, with news of troops rallying in the fields and forests of Luthoria – and it was decided that the Kryptonians would make their departure for Bolenth in three days.

Lena was scratching notes into a journal in their study when the door opened and slammed shut, startling her. She turned her head towards the door that lead to the sitting room, furrowing her brow when Kara didn’t appear.

She stepped to the doorway and rested her shoulder on the rich mahogany wood, crossing her arms as her eyes tracked the Kryptonian warrior pacing angrily before the windows to the garden.

Lena watched her quietly for several minutes before clearing her throat softly. Kara’s shoulders bunched and she stopped pacing, but her entire body was a tightly wound coil.

“You’re home early. Are you alright?”

Kara’s fists clenched and she turned to stare out the window, crossing her arms with a brooding face.

“This is my fault.”

“That’s demonstrably false.”

Kara huffed and threw her a glare. “I should have started training them with kryptonite sooner, we should have started working on armor sooner. We leave in three day and we’re nowhere near ready. I could be leading thousands of warriors to their deaths.”

Lena pushed off from the door frame with her hip, moving to Kara’s side. When the blonde wouldn’t look at her, she uncrossed her arms and stepped directly in front of her, forcing the Kryptonian to meet her gaze.

“Those warriors volunteered for their profession of choice. You have trained them as well as you could have possibly trained them. Unless fortune-seer is a new skill you possess that I am unaware of, there’s no way you could have known that my brother was actually mining kryptonite for weapons.” Kara’s mouth opened to protest, but Lena pressed a fingertip to her lips to silence her before slipping her arms around the taller woman’s neck.

“Stop. You could not have known what he was thinking. My brother has always planned too many steps ahead, and it will eventually be his downfall. He does not understand the absolute mess that’s about to be made of his army.”

Kara’s hands settled on Lena’s waist, as she leveled her with a hard look before blowing out a sigh, her shoulders slumping.

“I know that you are right. But I just... I feel so helpless.”

Lena cupped her face, stroking her thumb along a sharp cheekbone, and tilted up onto her toes to press soft, chaste kisses to Kara’s lower lip.

Her arms tightened around the dark-haired woman, and Kara’s tense grip dragged her closer into her chest, deepening the kiss and slipping her tongue past Lena’s lips without asking permission.

The Luthorian princess whimpered, and she was suddenly being backed into the glass wall behind her. She clung to strong shoulders as Kara pushed her back with biting kisses, until her hot mouth scored a path down her jawline to the column of her throat.

Lena’s hands flew into the blonde mane and her head tipped back as Kara pushed their hips together and pinned her against the glass. A desperate moan ripped from her throat when teeth found her pulse point and bit down.

In an instant she was fully on her feet again, and Kara had backed away. Her chest heaved and her lips were swollen. A fire was still burning in her eyes, roiling with anger, fear, anguish... danger.

 “I... I’m sorry, my Princess. I don’t know...”

She did her best to even her breathing, but Lena could see her clenching and unclenching her fists at her side.

In a singular moment, recognition clicked for Lena. She understood that there was something here that needed to be done, something that could be done. And even in the wake of her own feelings of helplessness, fear of Kara leaving, fear of loss, she was overcome with an ache for her. Her eyes traced over the slanting lines of the taller woman’s face, catching in the shadows of the early spring rain falling on the glass outside their windows. She felt a pull within her, and she understood. Kara had trained as hard as she could, and there was nothing left that could be done in the arena. Now the sword was in Lena’s hands.

Her eyes never left the Kryptonian’s as she unclasped the brooch in the center of her chest that pinned the sides of her dress together, and slowly tugged it away. It sank, lower and lower, until it skirted just the tops of her breasts and draped from her upper arms. Deep blue eyes watched her silently, but the flames in them only seemed to lick higher.

Lashes flicked slowly across cheekbones before green eyes met Kara’s, almost shyly, and an aristocratic chin lifted slightly as the dark-haired Princess did her best to steady her voice.

“Come take what you need, warrior.”

The oxygen in the room froze.

Kara was a statue; a lean, graceful, tightly-wound statue, designed for war, bred to succeed and assume control, but wildly helpless in the face of an unpredictable enemy.

She understood what was being offered.

Kara stepped closer, slowly, and reached out, her hands seeking the front of Lena’s soft dress. They pressed flat into the raven-haired woman’s stomach, sliding them up, up, through the material. Her forehead dropped to rest against Lena’s, though her eyes were tightly shut, and her breath washed over Lena’s lips. Her chest was heaving as if she’d run a thousand miles, and her entire body was tense, like a knocked arrow ready to fly.

Her hands fisted in the material at the press of Lena’s cleavage, wrinkling it beneath clenched fingers. Lena pressed her hands into hard biceps, her mouth opening to speak, when she felt them flex beneath her fingertips. Without caution or question, Kara pulled her hands apart, tearing Lena’s dress from top to bottom, splitting it down the middle.

Lena whimpered, her knees going weak as the cool air hit her now exposed chest. The ruined cloth slipped down her arms, her elbows, her forearms, until Kara tipped her back and took her mouth in a firm, claiming kiss.

She exhaled a plaintive moan, her hands trapped in the tatters of her dress, but Kara’s tongue was licking into her mouth and her legs were giving out beneath her and she was at the mercy of a goddess.

An arm reached down to sweep beneath her knees, and she was suddenly being hauled up into the warrior’s arms. Fierce lips and teeth found her chest, and she was marked by the heir of Krypton before she inhaled her next haggard breath. Her hands finally freed, Lena wound her fingers in golden tresses and simply held on, tilting her head back and crying out when a hot mouth delivered a harsh suck to her left nipple. Soothing breath blew across it softly, and she was suddenly full of a desire to feel skin.

Her hands tugged at Kara’s cloak, but the blonde ignored her – focusing on the biting maroon roses she was leaving across Lena’s pale chest as she turned and made for their bedroom.

What felt like hours later, she was finally being pressed down into their soft bed. Kara practically ripped the clothes from her own body, pausing only to fold her cloak and lay it on the chest beside their bed, before she slid on top of Lena. Her firm body covered the smaller woman, and her hips rocked hard into the juncture of her thighs as she leaned down to drop kisses across Lena’s bruising shoulder.

She barely had a moment to register the pads of fingertips tracing through her wet folds before Kara drove two fingers deep, and Lena pulled in a ragged breath before crying out in ecstasy. She clutched at the warrior above her, her fingernails digging into tan skin, and screamed as Kara’s palm pressed hard against her clit, grinding in a delicious pattern. Kara’s lips were blazing trails across her chest.

She was so enthralled with this feeling she didn’t notice the third finger until she was suddenly so full of Kara that she ached, stinging and teetering on the edge of uncomfortable. Her eyes flew open and her hips surged up, her jaw dropping as she gasped when it forced Kara’s fingers deeper.

She was immediately met with a sharp bite to her shoulder, effectively pinning her down. Fingers threaded in her hair to hold her in place, and she heard her, low and commanding in her ear:

Goah, zhao.

Lena whimpered softly and stilled, closing her eyes and burying her face in Kara’s shoulder. She felt soft lips pressing up her neck, soothing the bite, a gentle tug of teeth on her earlobe.

“Are you alright, Princess?”

She took a deep breath and paused for a heartbeat, before nodding.

“Mmm,” Kara murmured approvingly. “That’s my girl.”

Until now, the blonde had been stretched between Lena’s thighs. She began dropping languid kisses down Lena’s stomach, nipping and marking as she went, before slowly drawing up onto her knees between the brunette’s parted legs.

Lena watched as she reached forward with her free hand, trailing it down her thigh before coming to rest on the back of Lena’s knee. Their eyes locked and Lena’s breath was stolen from her chest as Kara pulled her leg up and over her shoulder, grasping her hip and hauling her down the bed until their hips were flush.

Her hands tangled in the sheets as Kara dropped her head down to press kisses along the inside of her thigh, her fingers resuming a slow, aching rhythm. She bit her lip and whimpered softly, shuddering as the burning between her thighs turned into molten pleasure.

“Oh, Rao… Kara…” she whispered.

Her gaze flicked up and she was greeted with the sight of a heavy-lidded warrior, naked and shimmering with sweat, fingernails gently digging into the inside of Lena’s thigh, slowly prying her apart. She was staring Lena down hungrily, and it sent shivers down her spine. She watched the same careful control the warrior exhibited in the arena ripple through her body.

Lena reached up and carded her fingers through golden hair; she could sense a build-up of anxiety running through the woman on top of her.

“Talk to me,” she whispered softly.

Kara went quiet above her, lifting her face from Lena’s knee long enough to look down at the beautiful woman beneath her.

“I... I am worried about hurting you.”

“You won’t hurt me.”

Kara’s brow furrowed. “You are not fully Kryptonian. I could injure you.”

The unintended insult rose up in Lena’s chest as anger, but she tempered it down. Sharp green eyes glinted with challenge, and she reached down to grip the wrist of Kara’s free hand.

“Tell me Princess, am I your wife?” She guided Kara’s hand up to her breast, covering it with her own and squeezing slowly while she rocked her hips into Kara’s fingers. The blonde gritted her teeth.

“Yes Princess, you are.”

“And tell me, am I not a Zor-El?” She slipped her fingers through Kara’s hair once more, pulling her down to kiss along her jaw, threading her fingers into the locks.

“Mmm, my favorite one… Rao!” Lena’s grip firmed in her hair, tugging her head to the side and holding her painfully still as she growled into her ear in a husky voice.

“I belong to you, Kara Zor-El, and I can handle you. Take me.

The blonde’s pupils immediately blew with desire. She paused one more moment, and it felt like a final offer, a final chance to back out. Lena dug her nails into Kara’s back in response and looked up at her defiantly.

Kara’s body returned to its tightly wound state, and she straightened again.

“Give me a word,” she whispered softly.

Lena looked up at her in confusion. “A word..?

“One word that you can say and I will immediately stop anything that I am doing.”

Lena reached up and stroked her fingers along her cheek gently.

“I do not need a word, Kara, I want you-”

Kara shook her head and reached up to grasp her wrist, stilling her movements. Her voice was low, and touched with danger. “No. You must choose a word, so I know that we are together in every moment. I will never be alright again if I hurt you.”

Green eyes softened, and she traced them over the piercing blue eyes and hard features of the face of this woman she loved.

“Sapphire. My word is sapphire,” she murmured softly.

Kara’s grasp tightened a fraction on Lena’s wrist, and she slowly drew it down to the bed. The pressure increased, and Lena realized with a pounding heart that she was being pinned.

“Say it again, Lena.”

“Sapphire.”

It was like a sudden summer storm.

It struck hard and fast. One second, the air was burning with electricity, crackling and arcing and racing between their bones. In the next second, Kara was… well. She was fucking her. Lena bucked and arched her back, her toes curling as she found herself being pounded into the bed. She cried out and her free hand shot out to the side, twisting in the sheets. Kara had pressed Lena’s knee back into her chest and was keeping her spread open, simply dominating her. She would thrust and stroke and torment in one manner and then somehow find a new pattern that felt more exquisite than the last. It was all Lena could do to keep up, and she bucked against the hand holding her steady.

She felt Kara’s hand release her wrist and grab her ass tightly, surely leaving marks, and she whimpered at its loss when Kara took it away – but then cried out louder as the empty air touching her hot skin was replaced by a sound smack. “Fuck, Kara!”

The blonde growled and leaned down, laving her hot tongue across her nipple before drawing it between her lips with a hard suck, her hand still working furiously.

Lena arched her back off the bed and her hands flew into Kara’s hair, moaning as she tried to tug her up for a kiss.

Kara froze, and Lena nearly screamed from the lack of movement. Flashing blue eyes looked up at her, and her heart skipped a beat when a growl rasped out.

“Grab the headboard.”

“But- ” Lena whimpered softly.

“My wife, this wasn’t a question I asked of you. Do as I say.”

The amount of pleasure that rolled through Lena’s body at those words, and the commanding tone in which they were delivered, she considered to be borderline shameful. A rush of wetness pooled between her thighs, and Lena reached up with both hands to grasp the top of the head board, biting her lip.

Fingers began pumping again, harder than before, and Lena was shocked at how natural it felt now to be taking three fingers. Her thoughts immediately scrambled again when Kara began kissing down her stomach, wasting zero time before pushing Lena’s thighs farther apart and dipping her head between them.

She dragged the flat of her tongue down Lena’s clit and she immediately came.

She screamed as it rocked through her unexpectedly, shaking her to her core. It coiled from bottom to top, curling her toes and tingling in her scalp. She bucked and writhed beneath her, but Kara threw a forearm across her belly and pinned her to the mattress.

She panted hard as she came down, realizing that Kara hadn’t even slowed the pace of her fingers. She was simply hovering over Lena’s center, watching her face as she came, biding her time.

“Again.”

She pulsed her tongue hard against Lena’s clit, curling and twisting and pushing her fingers inside Lena, pressing against spots and buttons and switches that should not be allowed to exist inside a human body and lord was she an expert at it.

Lena’s hips bucked and she let go of the head board to slip her fingers into Kara’s hair. She held her close as she dragged another orgasm out of her body. She writhed against the bed, curling her toes and digging her heels into Kara’s back, screaming her name all the while.

She was nearly sobbing with pleasure when she came back down again, only to be met with Kara’s face, watching her with a thrill of pleasure in her smile. She panted and began to reach for her, but Kara’s eyes were still dark.

“Again.”

Lena gasped weakly.

“Kara, I’m not sure if I can...” She gently slipped her fingers out of Lena and sat back on her heels, looking down at her with that same possessive hunger as before, shot through with undercurrents of determination.

“You can. And you will. Roll over.”

Lena bit her lip. The way Kara was looking at her, speaking to her... this fierce warrior was taking her pleasure straight from Lena’s body, and it was driving her absolutely crazy with want.

She flipped onto her stomach and looked back over her shoulder as Kara parted her legs and settled between them again. She gripped her hips and pulled her up so she was on her knees, her ass in the air. The blonde reached between her thighs and immediately found her clit like a homing beacon, circling and massaging until Lena thought she would go insane.

That hand was back, leaving stinging marks on the skin of her ass. Once, twice. On the third time Kara grabbed her hip and held it tightly as she pushed three fingers inside her from behind. She pressed her own hips against the back of her hand and began thrusting, soft moans escaping as she watched Lena keen beneath her. She was fierce, rough, relentless, never causing pain but always peeking around the corner from it.

Lena bit her lip as she felt Kara’s hand snake up her back to hold onto her shoulder to give herself more leverage. It wasn’t long before that hand slid across her ribs, fingers seeking and insistently tugging on sensitive nipples, pinching and rolling until she felt another surge of white hot pleasure building in her lower stomach.

“Kara!!” Her arms collapsed beneath her as she screamed, but Kara held her hips steady, her rhythm unfaltering, her teasing fingers relentless.

Lena shuddered and screamed her name over and over, her toes curling, fingers tearing at the sheets. Sweat poured from her and she whimpered nonsense, panting.

Yet the blonde Kryptonian did not stop. Lena’s body tensed, and she tried to raise herself up on shaking arms. A hand pressed between her shoulder blades, pushing her back down onto the mattress.

“On your stomach, my queen. I will have you another time.” The raspy growl rolled over her.

Kara…”

“Are you not my wife?” Still, she fucked her.

“Yes!” Lena cried out into the pillow.

“Are you not a Zor-el?” Fingers pressed to her clit, squeezing, rubbing, stroking. She sobbed with pleasure, barely listening to her own words being repeated back to her.

“Yes!!”

And then she was being flipped over, onto her back. Her knees were pushed up to her chest and she was suddenly filled, deep, hard, as Kara’s strong body covered hers. Teeth were on her neck and her wrists were being pinned above her head. A low voice rumbled next to her ear.

“Then I am taking what belongs to me.”

Lena looked up into deep blue eyes and was overtaken by a tidal wave of sheer and utter belonging.

Were the entire wing not soundproofed, her screams would have woken the palace.

She sobbed and thrashed beneath her as stars burst behind her eyes, nails digging fruitlessly into the skin of her back, legs gripping tightly around the blonde’s hips. The only word she knew was Kara’s name, and she screamed it again and again.

She wrestled her hand free and desperately slid it down Kara’s straining stomach, gliding over slick sweat and tense muscles, before her fingers found purchase in what they were seeking. She made a few careful swipes past her clit and buried two fingers as deep as she could.

Kara threw her head back and cried out, and Lena could see the corded muscles tensing in her neck and shoulders as she came instantly and hard around Lena’s fingers. Even in the midst of her own orgasm, Kara worked her hard, fucking her into the mattress, dragging out every last whimper, every last moan, every last sigh from her body.

Lena’s free hand reached up, wrapping around Kara tightly, and she was suddenly overwhelmed with a blinding light. Her eyes rolled back as she arched up hard, and a soaring scream dragged from her lips before fading off into nothing.

A twilight haze settled around her, and she was engulfed in a thick, navy blue shroud that was coated in sparkling stars. From the deep shadows beneath her, a green tendril burst forth, twisting and swirling into curls of color and carefully contained bundles that exploded into swooping leaves. It grew, taller, sturdy, more powerful by the second, a thick bud unfurling on the end, until it erupted into a brilliant white peony. Petals upon petals folded over the other in concentric, winding circles, and swirls of pink, white, and gold mingled with the rising scent of fresh rain and blooming floral notes.

She felt lost, yet completely at peace. A deep, pressing relief began at the top of her head and pushed its way down her body, before coiling beneath her belly button. She was soothed, though lightning was still shooting through her veins, and the rest of the world ceased to exist outside the circle of Kara’s arms. There was a shift in the universe, something that cranked the rotating world in the opposite direction, and she had the sudden sense that she was floating on an ethereal plane across the stars.

She gasped and inhaled deeply, reaching up blindly for the body of the warrior above her, pulling her down closer as her consciousness struggled to let go of the vision. When the clouds finally disappeared from her eyes, she blinked in rapid confusion, lost to a thousand sensations at once.

At Lena’s dragging pull, Kara collapsed on top of her, her face finding a home in Lena’s neck, her hips slotted between Lena’s thighs. They both simply lay there, panting. Kara’s lips pressed against the sweat-slick skin of her neck.

“Are you alright, my love?”

“Mmm... yes.”

Truthfully, Lena was wrecked.

She came down from her last orgasm slowly, her thighs occasionally twitching. Kara would absentmindedly rock into her center, and it would send a thrill up Lena’s spine. She hummed softly and adjusted her position beneath the Kryptonian warrior, which elicited a soft growl from the blonde.

“Sshhhhh. I’m just moving my leg.” She rubbed her palm down Kara’s back in soothing circles until she settled back down on top of her. Lena hiked one knee up and tugged the blanket over top of them, sifting her fingers gently through golden locks.

Kara began dropping gentle kisses along her bruising neck and chest, rumbling things to her in Kryptonian that Lena is relatively certain should never be said in the presence of children or the elderly.

She tightened her hold in Kara’s hair and turned her face, pressing her lips to her temple.

“Warrior, if you try to fuck me again tonight I’m going to faint.”

“Mmmm, let’s test your theory.” Sharp teeth grazed her shoulder and Lena’s eyes dropped closed.

“I’m serious Kara, I don’t think I can go another round.”

“That sounds like a challenge to me.”

Lena bit her lip and grinned, moving her face down to gently suck on Kara’s earlobe before purring into her skin.

“And here I thought you didn’t like challenges to your claim, Kara Zor-El...”

The brunette watched a shiver move up Kara’s spine, and the blonde stilled above her. A rough voice drifted down to her ears.

“Be careful with whom you are teasing, my queen. I would take you a dozen more times before the sun breaks the horizon.”

Lena whimpered softly before she reached up to press her palms to Kara’s chest, then slipped them around to her neck and tugged her back down on top of her.

“I’m all yours, Kara.”


 

In the early morning hours, long after Kara had fallen asleep on her chest, Lena could not shake the scent of peonies and the sense that the fabric of reality itself had been altered.

It lingered, into the morning. It lingered through the next day, and the one after.

It lingered as Lena stood on the beach, in the early morning grey, as thunder rumbled overhead and stormy skies turned the roaring ocean black. It lingered as she reached up to cup at the cheek of the woman whose heart she held, who held her own, and kissed her softly as tears tracked down her face.

It lingered as she wound her arms around her neck tightly, pressing more kisses to her cheek, her neck, Lena’s fingers clenched tightly in the space where a cloak met armor. It lingered when tear-soaked lips caught beneath an ear, whispering the softest “I love you”, just barely loud enough to be heard over the wind whipping across the shoreline.

And it lingered as Kara gave her one final, worried smile before disappearing with a snap into the oncoming storm.


 

Chapter Text


 

Dear Readers,

Sorry if this comes across as grumpy – my intent is to simply express my feelings regarding a subject that has been bothering me. I would like for you to know that I am not particularly upset, but just a little bit sad and hoping that the things I write here will have even a small impact on you.

If you are the kind of person who picks apart stories for plot holes or questions accuracy in things like physics, thermodynamics, weapons, or fighting tactics – in an alternate universe where people can literally fly and shoot fire from their eyeballs – then perhaps this is not the story for you. 

Harry Potter had more than its share of shaky story lines and questionable plot holes, and that’s okay – because we have imaginations, and we can fill in the blanks.

I’m also not J.R.R. Tolkien – I’m not going to write a Silmarillion for this universe. If I wanted things to be that in-depth, this would likely be my full time job, and I probably wouldn’t be posting it here for you to read for free.

We are all readers. I am a writer as well, but above all else I am a reader.

We read things that allow us, for a short while, to suspend the realities of the world around us and to exist in a space where the impossible is possible. We find comfort in these universes, in these places where people can do breathtaking magic and form mystical bonds between each other and soar through the clouds.

If you aren’t the kind of person who enjoys that, that’s alright.

But when you allow these nitpicking comments to thread into your interactions with people who do enjoy these worlds, you make everything a little bit darker for the rest of us.

For this reason, I will be moderating all comments from these chapters and simply deleting them without response. I have already deleted several of them.

To clarify – if you have questions about something or you want to talk about something that doesn’t quite make sense to you, please, by all means contact me here or on Tumblr and I’m happy to respond. I would hope that my history of responses to these kinds of questions is more than enough to show that I am receptive to them and happy to answer them. I really really believe that when you create something and offer it to other people, it becomes theirs as much as yours. You are on this journey with me and you have the right to ask me questions about it. But if you send me paragraphs of scenarios where it is unrealistic that x would happen or it doesn’t make sense that y is happening, I’m going to assume that you aren’t enjoying the story – and quite frankly, I simply don’t have time to convince you otherwise. I don’t mean to say that in a bitter way – I really just don’t have the time for it.

Which is perfectly fine, by the way – there are millions of other fics on this site that are incredibly well-written, and I am more than happy to make a recommendation to you. I do sincerely hope that you find one that is better suited to your tastes.

If you do send me questions, please understand that sometimes the answer is “Wait and see.” Of the responses that I have received that pick at the edges of this alternate reality, several of them will be naturally responded to in the next few chapters anyway. This is another reason why they will be moderated out. I release this story one chapter at a time, sometimes two if we’re all lucky, and while this format has the distinct advantage of not making you wait months to get your hands on the next installment, I recognize that it can be confusing if you have questions that won’t be answered for quite some time. In this case, I can consider writing the rest of this story and releasing it all at once – but please know that that update will likely not come until mid-summer. Feel free to send me your feedback on that choice and we can decide together.

Finally, I apologize that this isn’t a real update. I promise that it’s coming soon. I just wanted to post this brief intermission between Act 2 and Act 3 to speak to you in an author’s voice, since I know that some of you don’t like reading the comments.

If you do want to stick around until the end, please keep in mind that this is a work of fantasy fiction, not medieval fiction - and it will be neither historically accurate nor follow appropriate laws regarding ranged or melee weapons.

Happy Reading, Alliance members – we’ll meet again soon.

P.S. - if you posted a note on my tumblr (anonymous or otherwise) asking me a question and I have responded to you, this is not directed at you. Please don’t worry that you’ve offended me in some way, because you have not.

Thank you.


 

Chapter Text

 


 

Dear zrhueiao,

I am sorry for not responding to you sooner. The front has been very hectic. When we arrived, Lazari and Menon were recovering from a border skirmish that spread like wildfire. They suffered the loss of several squads of archers and three watch towers have been burned beyond use. Captain Fira is beside herself with anger – Lazari caught her loading a bag with rations in an attempt to sneak across the border alone. I can’t say I blame her. She has been ruthless in command of her remaining archers ever since.

The attack began in earnest on our third day. It was odd... almost as if they were waiting for us to arrive. As I suspected, we were unprepared. By my count, there are two battalions at our front and three flanking us from the east. It is a clever move – they are attempting to pin us against the Green Mountains, likely to make a driving push towards Thon.

The new kryptonite weapons... they’re brutal. I am not certain what powers their bows, but the soaring archer company can not fly high enough to escape them. The air is simply too thin, and our armor does not deflect their arrow points well enough. They tried wearing Bolenthian plated armor, but it was too cumbersome and they are simply untrained. I have left them with the option to wear it or not, at their own discretion.

Thank Rao we have you. We have suffered casualties, but your charged crystals are truly a miracle. Kryptonians have been healing themselves mid-battle and returning to the lines just as fast as they are wounded. Our dead would be a much higher number without you.

The real devastation here is the loss of Bolenthian life. Luthorian trebuchets have been wreaking havoc on our lines, and the stones are laced with kryptonite. We are doing our best to break them up before they reach the ground, but it has been requiring massive amounts of strength – and the Bolenthian soldiers have had to task squads of men to remove the tainted stone from the battlefield.

They just do not have our healing abilities, and the Kryptonian weapons cut them just the same. It does not feel very fair.

I am so angry at this, Lena. All of this... it is so unnecessary. I do not know how one man can have so much hate that he causes the destruction of such life. Alliance rules of engagement clearly state that we may not harness our more powerful abilities unless there is a clear and catastrophic requirement, but I am beginning to lose my patience. On one hand, I do not want the massive loss of life that will accrue – but I don’t know how much longer I can fight with one hand tied behind my back.

I wish I knew where your brother is hiding, so I might tear him limb from limb and be done with it. He has not shown his smarmy face since the first arrow was fired. I am certain that he is cowering in his palace like the rat that he is.

Reports from the northern shores of the Bolenthian Sea reveal no signs of Cogorian ships. We suspect that King Leon has backed out of the deal with your brother, but only time will tell. Vathlo heeded the call to arms, and they are sitting in preparation on the western shore. It is my hope that they will be able to catch any potential enemy ships off guard, if they do arrive.

Ah – they are calling for me in the strategy room. I must end this here. Please, hug Alex, Sam, Winn, and my mother for me. Give Ruby a kiss.

I can hardly believe it has been a month since I was at your side. I don’t think that I’ve ever experienced such an aching loss before. It truly feels as if I have been cut in half, and the rest of me is beside you still.

I miss you.

I love you.

I will see you again soon.

All of my heart,

Kara.

 


 

Kara gently set the pen down on the scratched, rough wood of the worn table she was using as a desk. She was weary – it had settled into her bones like tar, dragging her to the ground with every step. When she sank into this chair to finally, guiltily, pen a response to Lena that was a full two weeks late, she hadn’t known how hard it would be to rise from it again.

With numb fingers and deadened arms, she creased it a few times and stuffed it into an envelope. She scrawled “Lena” across the front and sealed it tightly.

The deep breath she took in smelled acrid, like smoke and singed grass and blood. She finally pushed her hands into the scratchy wood and stood, pushing the chair back.

Her tent was larger than the others, but she had insisted on staying in the fields with her soldiers. A cot and worn rug had been brought down from the much more stately command tents, and she had insisted on a table and a chair for planning, but it was otherwise bare. The dregs of winter only showed their faces at night, but in the scant few hours that she could find to sleep, she was out in an instant regardless of temperature.

She drew back the tent flap and stepped out onto the slick grass, crushed flat beneath the marching feet and rolling wheels of men and women and horses with carts. Pale grey light was seeping up from the horizon as dawn broke, and Kara realized another evening had passed with no rest. A page stood beside the open door, waiting patiently to guide her back to the strategy room. She gazed down at him for a moment, and was struck by how young he looked. His dirty blond hair was neatly trimmed around his ears and fell across his forehead, his cheek smudged with soot. His shoes and pants were muddy, his shirt damp, and it was clear that he’d been out running errands in the midst of the drizzle they’d received just before dawn broke. She noticed him shivering, though he squeezed his hands tightly behind his back and did his utmost to hide it. He couldn’t have been more than 11.

She knelt down beside him and held up the letter to him, trying to level her tone and do her best to preserve his dignity, in spite of the odds.

“Young page, I know my way to the strategy room from here. Will you deliver something for me?”

He nodded quickly, pinning his arms to his sides and stiffening his spine.

“Yes, Princess!”

He took it from her, but she gathered his cold hands between her warm ones for just a moment and held onto them tightly.

“This letter must be delivered to Torena, the Kryptonian communications captain. Do you know where she is?”

“Yes, Princess.”

“I knew you would. When you get there, please tell her that this is from me, for Princess Lena, and it’s a rush. When you are done delivering this letter, you will then go next door – do you know what’s next door?”

“The food tent?”

“Yes sir. Tell the cook that Princess Zor-El insisted that you sit beside the fire and eat something warm for at least a half an hour. Do you understand?”

His eyes widened, and he nodded rapidly.

“Yes, Princess!”

He was off like the wind, racing and weaving through the crowd of soldiers going about their tasks to prepare for the next wave of attacks. She watched him wistfully, wishing briefly that there was a way she could exist as a child once more – to simply follow orders, and not have to make decisions that could end lives.

A pounding, thundering boom crackled in the distance, and she turned her eyes sharply towards the horizon. The sound signaled another round of stones flung from a trebuchet, and so the day’s fight had begun.

She yanked the flap of her tent shut and pulled her cloak over her head like a hood, wrapping the remainder around her shoulders and letting it drape down her back.

She was not a child, and decisions needed to be made. Her boots cut a hard line in the muddy grass towards the strategy room.

 


 

The soft patter of a tear falling on paper seemed to echo like a roar. Trembling fingers smoothed over the creases, again and again, and Lena reread the letter for the sixth time since it had been delivered. She wasn’t sure what new information she was seeking, but it was something she could tangibly hold onto for the first time since Kara left, and so she couldn’t simply put it down.

She was seated at a table in the library by herself, waiting for a meeting with the remaining staff and royal family who were not on the lines in Bolenth. Alura had called it, coming to her door personally to request her presence – though Lena suspected it was simply to coax her out of the books she had been buried in for the past few weeks. She was determined to make a difference, and this was the only way she knew to help. She spent hours delving into tonics, salves, anything that could help them heal faster on the battlefield.

Fatigue tugged her down, and she closed her eyes, pressing her palm to the mark on her chest and sighing slowly. Sometimes it felt like Kara was there, warming her gently when the chill of the night wound around her wrists and hands. It felt like she was truly on the other end of her heart strings, tugging at them carefully to let her know she was thinking of her.

Lena shook her head to herself. When had she become so emotional?

When she opened her eyes again, Alex was quietly watching her from the doorway. She cleared her throat and straightened, smoothing out the letter and tucking it into her pocket. A small frown creased the knight’s brow, but she stepped in anyway and took a seat beside the Princess.

“How are you today, Lena?”

“I’m fine, thank you. How are you?” she replied stiffly.

Alex didn’t speak for a long moment, staring down at the table. Her thumbnail dug carefully into the edge of it, picking away at the wood and picking away at the wall she’d put up.

“I miss Kara.”

A soft choking sound came from the raven-haired woman, and when Alex reached for her hand Lena snatched it quickly and held it tightly in her lap, her eyes dropping shut once more as tears fell so fast they missed her cheeks. Alex squeezed back, and they sat there together in an abrupt moment of pain and solidarity.

When the others began arriving, tears were wiped away and shoulders were squared, but Alex’s hand remained in hers.

It began simply enough – Alura spoke of new responsibilities, covering ground on new protocols and guidelines for the remaining royal family and aides. Home defense was of the highest priority, given that much of Krypton’s military force had been dispatched to Bolenth. Zor-El himself was on mission to visit the remaining Alliance kingdoms to rally for support, leaving Alura in command of the kingdom.

None of it applied to Lena, so she simply zoned out – her mind wandering to the dark place it’s been visiting lately when she isn’t busy.

Winn’s voice broke her trance. Or rather, his words.

“It is foolish to assume that the Cogorian navy isn’t rounding the bend into our bay as we speak.”

Her attention snapped to him, but Alex gave response.

“Border patrols have been carefully monitoring the horizon for weeks. Have you such little faith in our knights?”

"It is not a lack of faith in our knights, Captain Danvers – but a healthy amount of respect for Leon’s ability to strategize. Not to mention...” His gaze wandered to Lena, whose fingers clenched tightly on Alex’s hand. “We are the ones that has what he wants. Not King Menon.”

Her eyes narrowed slowly.

“Are you suggesting that I am the reason Cogo is involved in this war, Sir Schott?” Her tone was measured and even, but anger crept up around the edges like soaking water.

He stammered slightly, but his voice was strong. “I – I am not suggesting anything, Princess, but the facts are an undeniable reality that we must face head on if we are to be victorious.”

She stood abruptly from her seat, her hand tugging from Alex’s grasp, and she arched an eyebrow in his direction as if it was a dagger.

“If there is somewhere else you would like me to go, please let me know. I will be in my study until such a day comes. Your highness.” She briefly inclined her head at the Queen and turned on her heel, striding swiftly from the room.

The room was heavy with silence, Alex openly glaring at Winn.

“Alexandra...” Alura said gently.

“I will attend to it, your highness.”

She rose and followed Lena out the door.

 


 

Alex took her time walking towards the wing of the Princesses Zor-El. By the time she arrived, Lena was pacing angrily in the study, picking up stacks of books and papers and setting them down again, muttering to herself softly.

“Princess?”

She turned and glared at Alex over her shoulder, before resuming her haphazard search.

“Do you have my new assignment, Knight Captain? A distant island, perhaps, where I might be chained to a rock and left for Leon of Cogo?”

Alex nearly snorted with laughter, before thinking better of it and covering it with a cough.

She reached for Lena’s shoulder, laying her hand on it carefully, and tentatively pulled a stack of papers from her grip.

“No, Princess. I would never let them send you away.”

Her touch and the calming notes of her voice served to soothe Lena’s frazzled nerves, and the tension dropped slowly from her face. She shook her head and pressed her fingertips to her temple, before lowering herself to the couch.

“I... I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped like that, or stormed out the way that I did. I’m just... I’m just so anxious, being separated from her.” When her eyes met Alex’s again, they were stricken. “I have never... loved anything, anyone like this. I am not even sure that I’m doing it right, I just... I just know that I am feeling this terrible loss, and it becomes new again every morning that I wake up and she is gone.”

Tears tracked from her face again, and Alex nodded, sitting beside her. She slid an arm around Lena’s shoulders and pulled her into her side tightly.

“I know. You don’t need to apologize to me. If I was not so close to having given birth to Ruby, Sam would be right here in the same shoes as you. It kills me to not be by Kara’s side, but I have a responsibility here now.” Alex pressed her temple to Lena’s, her voice lowering as if she was telling her a sordid secret. “You should know... I have never seen her this way before.”

“What do you mean?” Lena asked, with a furrowed brow.

“My sister is... a very kind, lovable person. The kind of love she gives away is sunshine. When it comes to you, though... it’s something very different. I saw the way she looked at you when you arrived here on your very first day. She knew then that there was something special about you, and I doubt that there is a single place on this planet that she would not go to find you again.” Alex pulled back and caught her eye, pressing a hand to the shorter girl’s cheek. “She belongs by your side, and you at hers. You will both make it through this together, and she will be home soon. I promise.”

Lena drew in a shaky breath, her voice cracking softly. “How can you promise me that?”

Alex’s eyes darkened for a moment, before her smile slid back into place evenly.

“Because I will tear Luthoria apart with my bare hands if she isn’t.”

Her declaration, though violent, seemed to grant Lena a sense of calm. She nodded slowly, and they again experienced a shift in solidarity.

Alex cocked her head to the side as if she was listening to something.

“Ah... Ruby is crying. I must go, before Sam begins to panic.”

Lena nodded, and they both rose. She reached her arms up, and Alex pulled her in tightly.

“Thank you for coming by to see me.”

“Of course. You are the wife of my sister – I should be visiting you more often. I will be coming by much more frequently.”

“I would like that.”

As Alex patted her back gently and made to move away, she was overcome with a strange sense of protectiveness. It washed over her in a wave, and she didn’t realize she was gripping the Princess’ upper arms until Lena’s hands came up to cup her elbows.

“Alex..? Is everything alright?”

Amber eyes slid across green ones, and Alex stared at her quietly.

“Are you feeling well, Princess..?”

Lena glanced to the side and then down, as if assessing her appearance, and frowned up at the taller girl.

“Yes? Are you feeling well?”

Alex nodded slowly, but then made a humming sound in her throat and shook her head before she finally released her.

Lena saw her to the door and Alex paused to look at her closely once more before smiling briefly and saying farewell.


 

Chapter Text


 

My Lena,

It has been too long, again, since I have spoken to you. I want to tell you that I’ll be better at writing, but I would not want to lie. Though the days are long, time is scarce. I hope that you aren’t feeling ignored. Please, know that you are constantly on my mind. You are with me in every moment, in every breath I take, in every breeze I feel, in every star I see.

I’m sorry that you haven’t been feeling well. Are you eating? When was the last time you slept through the night? Don’t work yourself too hard. We are managing here just fine. The new salve compounds you sent last week are magnificent; King Menon and his troops express the utmost gratitude.

I wish that this could be longer, but two of Torena’s emissaries have gone missing in the last month. I can not risk writing anything else, or it could compromise plans. I trust that you are receiving regular updates from Alex.

I love you endlessly.

Your favorite Zor-El,

Kara.


 

Guilt overwhelmed Kara as she scribbled her signature on the scrap of paper and handed the dirty envelope to the page.

In the last month, she learned that his name was Jak, and he had inherited his bright green eyes from his mother, who passed away when he was three. He was an only child with no other family, so when his father’s infantry company was assigned to the front lines he became the company page.

He had taken to appearing by her side, with an uncanny ability to sense the precise moment she needed him. After forty hours in the field, breaking apart boulders, forcing Luthorian lines back, carrying troops to the med bay, and meeting with ground commanders, he would seemingly materialize from nowhere with a plate of food and stare at her with huge guilty eyes until she ate it. He left full pitchers of water in her tent, and had even rescued her from an uncomfortable conversation with a drunk Bolenthian soldier by loudly announcing that she had been summoned to the strategy room – and then coming clean about the lie when the soldier stumbled off.

Today, he had appeared with a pencil and paper, pressing them into her hands eagerly until she finally stopped repairing her boot lace and wrote Lena a letter.

By the time she sealed the envelope and looked up again with bleary red eyes that spoke of far too little sleep, he had repaired the boot lace. She smiled up at him from the short wooden stool she was sitting on outside her tent.

“You’re a good kid, Jak. I don’t know what I would do without you here.”

He subtly blushed, and tugged the letter from her grip.

“I imagine that you would be just fine, Princess - ”

“Kara.”

“ - Kara, because you’re the bravest person I know.”

She chuckled at that, tugging her boot on and tying it tightly.

“It’s easy to be brave when you’re mostly invincible, kiddo.” She stood and buckled her sword around her waist, before giving him a nod of approval. “I think you’re the bravest person I know.”

He looked up at her with wide eyes.

“Really?”

She put her hands on her knees to get eye level with him, and nodded.

“I would never have been brave enough to come here when I was 11.”

“I’m only 10.”

“You see? My point exactly!” She straightened again and ruffled his hair, which was starting to need a trim.

Across the wide, muddy grass that separated the row of tents behind her from the one in front of her, the flap to the tent that contained the strategy room was pulled open, and Astra stepped halfway through it. She slowly scanned the crowd until her eyes landed on Kara, and she tilted her chin up before motioning her head back into the tent behind her.

“Jak, can you make sure that letter gets to Torena for me? Thank you for reminding me to write it.”

“Yes Prin... Kara.”

His footsteps had not yet faded before she was making her way towards the General.

 


 

“Why does it have to be so gloomy in here? It’s so... dark and ominous. Foreboding.”

Astra shot Kara a glare, making her set down the legs of the chair she’d been tipping back.

She sighed and stood, leaning against the edge of the table in the center of the room and looking down at the maps and replica mountains and drawings.

“We’ve been keeping them at bay in the south, but their eastern lines are beginning to advance north. And I have many concerns about the raiding party that disrupted an entire squad of archers on Thenaux Ridge. We can not let ambushes like this continue.”

Astra nodded in agreement, joining her. Her attention turned north, to the Bolenthian Sea, where figures of small ships had been added.

“It is almost a relief that the Cogorian ships have arrived on the northern coast.”

“I feel that way as well. I hate the shipping delays they’re causing, but I like having them where I can see them. Have you had the chance to travel there and survey fleet size for yourself?”

The older woman shook her head at that, making her way around to the opposite side of the table. “We have to trust Vathlothians reports. We can only assume that they’re awaiting Luthorian troops to make their way there, and are committed to simply being disruptive in the meantime.”

The tent flap moved aside, filling the dark space with blinding sunlight, which was quickly snuffed out again by the wide shoulders and tall frame of King Zor-El. He was shortly followed by King Menon and Captain Lazari, who secured it behind him once more.

“Father.” Kara slipped her arms around him tightly, and he gave her a brief but strong squeeze, before pulling back and surveying her.

“Daughter, you are not eating or sleeping enough.”

“People are dying.”

“Don’t let yourself become one of them.” He looked at her pointedly. She nodded, properly admonished, but they both knew she would likely not heed his words.

Menon and Lazari both clasped her forearm to theirs, before they gathered around the planning table together.

Astra leaned against it with her hip, her arms crossed, her body giving the appearance of being relaxed –  hiding that she was a powerfully equipped leader.

“What news from the west?”

“Zitha has joined our cause, though they are recovering from a harsh summer and will not be marching at full capacity. The Dandahins are in the middle of a civil war, but the Bantzians and Urrikans are with us.”

“Excellent.”

“Has anyone seen Luthor yet?”

The table was silent, and Zor-El shook his head angrily.

“What kind of man starts a war and chooses not to participate in it?”

“Only monsters,” Kara replied.

King Menon growled, slamming his fist down on the table, causing the pens and small figures to shake.

“He has not even shown his face to make demands! This senseless, ridiculous war does not have a purpose!”

He turned to Astra, flinging his hands in the air.

“My soldiers are dying, General. Can’t you simply light the enemy on fire?” He made claws of his hands and smashed them together, his face turning purple. “Can’t you crush them beneath a mountain?!”

She turned a cold eye to him, her voice authoritative and commanding.

“We appreciate that you are, through no fault of your own, caught between us and a nation that has claimed us as their enemy. We will do everything we can to fight and win this by your side or in front of you – but we will not do that. Think rationally, your highness – they are in your kingdom now. If we burn them, we will burn it all. Soldiers fight and die at the command of someone else. It is not our place to commit a mass execution. If we can end this war having killed one thousand instead of one thousand and one, that is what we will do. We must find another way.”

He crossed his arms, his eyes shining with fresh rage, and glared down at the table with the map of his kingdom.

“We can not continue to sit here and be worn down by the Luthorian army. His troops are many, and they are all replaceable. It seems as if one goes down, two more appear in their place. Something else must be done.”

“Lex Luthor.”

All eyes turned towards Kara, who was quietly watching the conversation from the side.

“If he is not here, then I would bet to Rao that he is in the Red Keep, biding his time.”

“What is your plan, Princess?”

She stepped closer into the flickering light of the candles on the desk, and the shadows on her face lengthened.

“We assassinate the Luthorian King.”

Palpable tension wove its way through the leaders in the stuffy, dim tent. A heavy choice was weighed, measured, and anointed, until one by one, a general, a knight captain, and two kings nodded their assent.

“We can not unseat a reigning monarch without full support of the Alliance. They will need to be consulted.” Zor-El said quietly.

Again, nods went around the table.

They stood a moment longer, the brevity of this choice not unnoticed, and looked at each other with determination seated deeply on their faces. As one, they turned their focus to King Zor-El.

“... I will leave immediately.”


 

Chapter Text

Lena rubbed a palm down her face. Her thumb caught at the edge of her eyebrow and she massaged her temple, squinting her eyes shut tightly against the pounding headache that had been invading her senses since yesterday.

Stacks of paper were spread out before her in haphazard piles, marks scratched across them in scribbled, intense notes. Several books were cracked open, corners of paper sticking out at all angles to mark important passages. The muscles in the back of her neck had tightened and her hand was beginning to cramp.

She sat back in her chair and crossed her legs, surveying the research before her. Her tunic sleeves were rolled to her forearms and unbuttoned to mid-chest. She tugged on it gently to let a breeze in against her damp skin. She reached for the glass of water that was sweating a ring into the wood of the desk and took a long drink.

The chief of scientific and medical research was attempting to create synthetic obsidian crystals in order to increase usage, but she was struggling with stability. She sighed and closed her eyes, pressing the cool glass to her cheek and letting her tired eyes drop shut.

A soft knock on the front door interrupted her thoughts, but she didn’t even bother opening her eyes.

The door creaked open slowly, and she heard Alex’s soft voice.

“Lena?”

“In the study,” she replied.

Lena heard the door click shut and a few moments later Alex appeared in the doorway, bearing more water, a plate of food, and a book tucked underneath her arm. Lena glanced at the clock and cursed softly, realizing it was far past the dinner hour and she had missed it again.

“I’m sorry, Alex, I completely lost track of time- ”

“Please. Don’t worry about it.” The knight captain gently placed the food in front of her, but Lena didn’t reach for it. She happily accepted the water, and drained the glass.

Alex sat next to her, the book balanced in her lap, and gave her a cautious look of concern.

“You need to eat something, Princess.”

Lena’s lips pursed and she glanced away from Alex, her eyes seeking the blackened windows that looked out over a light-less sea. The moon was nowhere to be found this night.

“I know. I just... I think of her out there. Not knowing where she is, whether or not she’s hurt, if she’s safe... it just makes my stomach turn. Makes it kind of hard to eat.”

“I understand. But you’ve lost weight, and my sister will kill me if she thinks that you aren’t being properly cared for in her absence.”

Lena smiled at her wryly and nodded, once, before leaning forward and plucking a roll of bread from the plate. She pulled it apart and ate slowly, chewing thoughtfully.

“Any word from Zor-El?”

“He arrived in Bolenth several weeks ago, but I understand that he left again shortly after.”

This caused a frown to pull at Lena’s lips. “Where did he go?”

Alex cleared her throat softly, glancing down at the backs of her hands and examining her fingernails.

“He is visiting the monarchs of the Alliance.”

“He’s already done that. Required support has already been garnered, what further approval could he need?”

Silence permeated the space between them, until Alex finally met Lena’s eyes.

“Lena, they’re going to kill Lex.”

The raven-haired woman sat back in her seat again, her eyes glazing over as she stared off into space and contemplated that news. She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Good.”

Alex’s eyebrows raised quietly, and she leaned forward to bring herself closer to Lena’s space.

“Princess, I’m sorry that- ”

“That it has to be like this, I know.” Lena shook her head, leaning her elbow on the armrest and adjusting her aching lower back. “Lex began this war, not Krypton. He is my brother, technically, but there is no love lost between us. He was cruel as children and downright monstrous as adults. I knew the moment he ordered the execution of that Kryptonian warrior on his coronation day that he had sealed his own fate.”

The knight captain nodded. “You’re right.”

To cut through the awkward emptiness between them, Lena offered her a small half-smile and gestured at the book she’d brought.

“What is that?”

“Ah, yes.” Alex looked down at it as if she’d forgotten she brought it, and shrugged one shoulder nonchalantly before handing it over. “It’s a textbook on Kryptonian biology. I thought that it could help you with your research. It never occurred to me that you may be missing some basic information about Kryptonians, and this is likely the best place to find it.”

Lena nodded, glancing through it carefully. “Thank you, this will be very helpful. I will keep it here for reference material.”

Alex nodded, rising to her feet. “Alright, Princess. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Lena rose gingerly to her feet as well, her joints aching from being in the same position for too many hours at once. She stretched and felt several stiff muscles loosen, groaning softly and accompanying Alex into the sitting room.

Before she turned to leave, the gruff knight captain surprised her by pulling her into a hug, wrapping her arms around her and squeezing tightly.

Lena blinked, her arms cautiously circling Alex’s back.

“Is everything alright, Alex?”

She cleared her throat and stepped back, smoothing down the front of her tunic and pants.

“Yes, yes. Of course. I simply... Well I just don’t want you to be lonely, that’s all. You spend a lot of time in here now.”

Lena smiled and reached out, capturing her hand and squeezing it gently.

“Thank you.”

“Please try to come to breakfast tomorrow morning.”

“I will do my best, I promise. I haven’t been sleeping very well, and I’m very tired.”

“Should I send someone to stay here? I can post a guard by your door if it will help.”

A sad smile lifted Lena’s lips, but didn’t reach her eyes.

“No... a guard in Krypton would not help me feel safe when my heart is surrounded by danger in Bolenth.”

Alex nodded and gave her one more hug before shutting the door gently behind her.

Lena trudged through the hall towards the bedroom that still smelled like Kara, even two months after she’d been gone. She dragged the sticky tunic from her body and dropped her trousers, kicking them aside before climbing beneath the cool sheets in nothing but her underwear.

She shut her eyes tightly as the tears slipped down her cheeks. Visions of Kara, pierced through with arrows or being dragged out of the sky, rippled across her eyelids and into her dreams. She tossed and turned all night, alternating between kicking off the covers and yanking them back over her once more. It seemed impossible to regulate her temperature appropriately without the sun goddess she had grown used to sleeping next to.

Sometime in the early hours of the morning, a serene warmth blossomed beneath the mark on her chest and radiated outwards, through her body, and she finally slipped into a calm, peaceful sleep.


 

Two days passed before Lena reached for the book Alex had left her. She needed information on Kryptonian healing rates, and didn’t want to make her way to the library while in the middle of a calculation.

As she thumbed through the first few pages, seeking the index, her finger caught on the edge of a slip of paper that had been tucked somewhere near the center of the book. Curiosity slipped her fingers between the pages of the book, and she flipped it open to a chapter titled “Kryptonian Reproduction.”

Her heart began immediately hammering in her chest, and she lowered herself slowly into the chair beside her. She ran her fingers over the words carefully.

In light of the enormity of the past few months, she had forgotten her desire to research this topic. It had been shucked off, lost beneath a pile of stress and anger and pages upon pages of medical research.

But now here it was, the information she’d sought, a few simple page turns away.

As she flipped the chapter open, her eyes gliding across the dark lines on the page like fingers skimming across water, her brow furrowed.

“Of course,” she whispered softly to herself, her breathy voice murmuring the passages as she skated over them.

“... Kryptonian reproduction can occur one of two ways – through physical conception, which is considered a traditional method of conception; or through metaphysical conception, which is the rarer of the two. In physical conception, reproductive methods undergo the standard process from implantation to birth. In metaphysical conception, the path is far more difficult to predict – though with higher rates of successful outcomes.”

Lena continued reading, her shoulders slumping farther and farther as she grew more and more stunned.

“Kryptonian links to the life force entwine the spiritual fates and paths of the bonded pair, as well as their physical makeup. Genetic material from both pairs are present after a bond has been completed. In instances where a bonded pair desire the opportunity to grow their family, metaphysical conceptions have been known to occur. It is unknown the true mechanism by which this occurs, but several studies have been conducted that suggest metaphysical conception occurs when both parents desire for it to occur – and are participating in methods more commonly associated with physical conception (intercourse).”

The book slowly lowered to the table, and Lena turned the final page with shaking hands.

“... the moment of conception is different from one Kryptonian to the next. Some describe it as an euphoric state, a nearly hallucinogenic state, while others claim that they were surrounded by a calming peace. Once this time has passed, the Kryptonian will experience a pregnancy that is symptomatically indistinguishable from one that occurred due to a physical conception – missed cycles, nausea, headaches, fatigue, back pain, etc.”

Her hands found their way into her lap, folded, and Lena stared off into the distance quietly for a moment, pondering everything she had ever known to be true about biology and the world. She should have known – Kryptonians are not the same – but it had become so much more real and jarring when she discovered that she was one of them. Or partially, anyway.

She centered herself into her body once more and focused in on the way her stomach was twisting itself into knots. At first she had thought that it was stress, coursing through her and making it hard for her to sleep, eat, even breathe. But now...

Her eyes rolled up towards the ceiling as numbers passed her lips. She calculated months, weeks, days, minutes, seconds. She subtracted and added and compared.

And then one hand flew up to cover her mouth while the second hand flew down to press beneath her bellybutton.

“Oh... Rao.”


 

Chapter Text


 

Jak’s voice drifted in from the silhouette outlined against her tent in the morning light.

“Princess? Kara?”

The blonde cracked open a eye and groaned, stretching stiffly. She pressed a hand over her forehead and sighed softly, feeling the weariness coursing through her blood.

“Yes?” she responded.

“Your father has returned, your highness.”

“Thanks, Jak. Would you mind running for some coffee?”

“Right away, Kara!”

Though she needed the energy, she needed the distraction even more. It had been a full month since her father left to speak to the Alliance monarchs, and their lines had more cracks in them than ever.

There were small victories, here and there. She and James had led a mission to sabotage the trebuchet devices, and they managed to either disable or destroy a third of their large weapons. That slowed their advance considerably. Even more interesting was that after that mission, the Luthorian soldiers no longer seemed interested in reestablishing forward momentum. They simply dug in like ticks and attacked in place, day after day.

It felt almost as if they were all barely holding each other off – and Kara was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Three days ago, hovering over the smoking rubble of a battle in River Hills, Kara and Astra spoke soft words of concern.

“I don’t like this, Aunt Astra. What are they doing here?”

“I agree, Princess. Luthoria does not seem to be replenishing their forces at the rate they should for progress, and the Cogorian navy seems content to sit off the shore like a ferry, waiting for them to arrive.”

Kara frowned. “We have been holding them here in these hills for weeks. What are they waiting for?”

Astra shook her head quietly, leveling Kara with eyes full of question and anger.

“My spies have gone silent. I pray it is only because they have managed to make a fortuitous escape, but...”

She trailed off, and Kara didn’t need her to finish to understand the conclusion she was meant to draw.

The Princess was pinning her hopes on the silver tongue of King Zor-El.

Now three days later, as she tried to blink away the bleary shadows of morning for something a little clearer, she prayed to Rao that he had returned with favorable support.

She dragged herself from her cot and pulled her messy hair up into a bun, hardly taking the time to comb her fingers through it. With soap and a cloth, she attempted to scrub the dirt and soot and from her face and neck, allowing herself a moment to amuse herself with thoughts of the scolding she would be receiving from Lena if she knew the state she was in. A splash of cold water rinsed her face clean, and she tugged on her worn-but-sturdy armor.

She was clipping her cloak into place when Jak’s shadow reappeared outside the tent. When she stepped out to join him, he handed her a thick metal mug full of steaming black coffee and slipped a small package wrapped in wax paper into her hand before taking off to finish his morning chores.

Kara watched him affectionately for a moment before the smell of something wonderful reached her. It tickled at a memory in the back of her mind, brushing at the seams of a neatly tied-up velvety package that had taken hold in her heart and sprouted a soaring tree. She set her mug down on one of the posts holding up her tent and carefully pulled back the edge of the wrapped wax paper to reveal half of a loaf of bread, stuffed with meat and potatoes.

Instant tears pricked the corner of her eyes, and she had to turn back towards her tent to swipe at them quickly. She squeezed her fist tightly and pressed it to her chest, taking in an unsteady breath and shaking her head as if to clear it. She inhaled and stared down at the packet of food in her hand, almost tempted to laugh. A wry smile crossed her face.

“Rao, Kara. Get it together.”

She shoved a big bite of food in her mouth and grabbed the steaming mug from the post, trudging through the mud towards the strategy tent.

“Lena’s is better,” she muttered softly.

 


 

By the time she arrived, Zor-El and Astra were bent over the maps on the table. She locked eyes with her father, and he gave her a single, heavy nod.

She sat down in a chair, listening quietly as they finished the final details of the plan. The infiltration team had been prepped and briefed for weeks, and were waiting on stand by for deployment. She drained the rest of her coffee and set it carefully beside her as a knight and a page filed out with their orders.

Zor-El crossed his arms and leaned back against the table. The tent flap ruffled again and James appeared, standing next to Kara as his eyes wandered over Astra’s face.

“Well?”

“It’s on.”

He nodded, his eyebrow raising.

“Are you keeping us chained up from this one, as previously discussed?”

Astra scoffed.

“You’re hardly being chained, Sir Olsen. This is going to be a dangerous mission as it is, and we do not need the heir to the throne of Krypton involved in an assassination and dethroning of a monarch. And you are her guardian – you will go where she goes.”

“She’s right, James.”

He looked down at Kara in surprise, the question evident on his face.

She sighed and stood, crossing her arms over her chest. The way their expressions softened as they took her in did not make her feel any less vulnerable. Zor-El’s eyes wandered over the purple circles under her eyes, the way the shadows sank a little farther into her cheekbones than before.

“I’m ready for this to be over. This war, Lex, everything. I want to keep my family safe, I want to stop the violence and the death.”

She turned to Astra, her expression tight.

“Tell me what you need me to do.”

“I need you to go to the western shore to meet with a contingency of Kryptonian replacements.”

“Alright. Let’s go, James.”

 


 

They arrived to a scene of chaos.

Twelve Cogorian ships were retreating off the beach, and structures were on fire. People were running between them with buckets of water, and shouting echoed across the sand. Arrows were still raining in from the ships as they departed, several of them on fire.

Kara and James immediately set to work, pulling soldiers from buildings, sweeping sand over burning bushes, and knocking arrows from the sky before they could reach their targets.

By the time they had ensured everyone’s safety, the ships were far off shore and had fully disengaged from the fight. Kara landed beside the smoldering remnants of a command post and helped a young soldier to his feet when he tripped with a bucket of water, dusting off his shoulder.

“Private, where is your commander?”

He stared up at Kara as if she was a statue towering over him, though they were of similar heights.

“Sh-she’s over there, Princess.”

Kara approached a haggard-looking red-haired woman in a singed uniform who was tending to a wounded archer.

“Captain, is there anything else we can do to help? Tell me what you need.”

She shook her head, eyes full of fear and anger. She squeezed the archer’s shoulder and motioned for a healer to come over, before grabbing Kara by the elbow and tugging her down the strip of sand towards the water.

“I need someone to come figure out what the hell these Cogorian ships want, Princess.”

Kara squinted out at the sails, barely visible now, and settled her hands on her hips.

“How many times have they attacked you?”

“Three. But we’re just one holding of many – ships have been maneuvering up and down the coast attacking for weeks. They’re here every week and a half or so, almost like clockwork.”

She glanced sharply at the woman. Her short hair angled towards her chin, soot across her forehead streaked with sweat. There was an intelligence and a shade to her green eyes that twisted Kara’s stomach for a moment, and she frowned back out at the departing ships to give herself something to think about besides the gnawing empty feeling that grew wider every passing day.

She played back through the things the commander had said, an unsettling feeling growing inside her, before she narrowed in on it.

“How many ships were here today?”

“A dozen.”

“Is that a small number? How many normally attack?”

The woman shrugged, crossing her arms.

“That’s about right. We’ve never seen more than 15 at a time; my guess is they’re afraid of taking too much damage before the Luthorians get here.”

“And they seem to attack on a schedule?”

“Yes, Princess, just about every ten days. Why?”

Kara’s heart began slamming against her chest, and she glanced over her shoulder, her eyes frantically searching the smoking shoreline for James.

“Commander, you aren’t seeing contingencies of the Cogorian fleet. You’re seeing the same ships over and over again.”

Reality struck the woman, and her arms lowered slowly to her sides as her eyes widened.

“Then where the hell is the Cogorian fleet?”

Kara was in the air already, speeding along the space where the sand met the rocks and trees, screaming for James. He was by her side in an instant, and they hovered together over the treeline.

“This was a massive distraction. Cogo is attacking Krypton, and we need to get people home now.

James’ jaw dropped and he immediately turned back to Thon.

“We need to warn Astra!”

“Go. I am going to Krypton.”

He reached out and clamped a hand down on her forearm before she could take off.

“Princess, wait!”

She turned to glare at him, wrenching her arm away.

“James Olsen that is my wife out there. I will not leave her defenseless to a barbarian!”

“Princess, I will do anything and everything I can to keep you and your family safe. But we need help. You can not take on the whole of the Cogorian navy by yourself and the Bolenthian messengers will not make it to Thon fast enough. We need to let them know. And then I promise - we will leave at once for Krypton.”

Her nostrils flared with anger and a white-hot rage boiled over her skin, but she nodded stiffly anyway. Without words, they flew at a harsh pace towards the capital city of Bolenth.

To pick up speed they stayed low, almost skimming the tops of the trees, and avoided the drafty clouds.

It would be a costly mistake.

Not ten minutes later, Kara heard a telltale whistle. It triggered a sharp, prickly feeling that started on the top of her head and traveled down her spine in spikes, and her senses immediately went into high gear. She turned over her shoulder to shout at James to keep his eyes out, when the singing of the whistle came again – and impacted.

She let out a bloodcurdling scream as the arrow sank into her chest, sailing through the shoulder and ripping through the muscle. It brought her to an abrupt halt, James beside her, his brain finally catching up to his eyes.

Kara!!” he screamed, reaching for the knife on his belt to cut the rope below the arrow.

Fire was erupting across her body as blood dripped down her torso. A hundred knives were sliding through her upper body, focusing in on one place in twisted tandem. A sharp click echoed behind her and the arrow was yanked down, the points digging into her back. She screamed again, and James desperately began trying to cut the rope away with little success.

It felt like Kara was reliving a hundred hours of torment in this one single moment. Her eyes rolled back into her head and black and purple spots erupted at the edge of her vision. She screamed again, and James yanked at the rope helplessly, though the kryptonite was wearing him down.

With her last few moments of wherewithal, Kara grabbed James by the front of his shirt as an arrow sailed past them, the rope trailing along behind it. She put all of her remaining strength into shoving him out of the way.

“Go!”

“Kara, I’m not leaving you –

“GO, James!!” She stared up at him with tear-filled pleading eyes, even as she fought to not be dragged out of the sky.

Another arrow nicked his thigh, barely missing him, and she squeezed his hand tightly before he was finally out of reach – and she was nearly out of oxygen.

“Tell Zor-El and Astra. Please – someone needs to go to Krypton. Lena...”

Then the pain overwhelmed her like a red wave, and she was suddenly settled down into blackness once more.

 


 

Lena was standing on the edge of the cliff outside their wing. Their garden rose up behind her, tall and strong and bursting with life in the new spring.

But here, there was an ending. The grass sloped down, before tearing away abruptly. It ended on an edging of rock, glimmering with striations of white and black and brown, before descending vertically down to the beach.

The wind whipped around her, dragging her hair across her shoulders, while her dress billowed behind her. What had seemed to be a storm rolling in during the early morning hours was quickly realizing as a thick, chilled fog. It misted across her face, murky and salty instead of clear and clean. She stared off at the water as if she was in a trance, crashing waves becoming a thunderous roar in her ears. There was no cry of the gulls, no gentle chirping of the swallows, no drifting ripples lapping on the sand.

She pressed a hand down her side and slipped it along the swell beginning to rise from her hips. It was becoming a habit, a gesture of serenity and safety – but also an attempt to feel, as the rest of her body was growing numb.

There was a connection there that she had never felt before – a root that had grown deeply, entwined and branching and twisting along her veins, her bones, her heart.

That instant of realization had overwhelmed her, as those words dropped away from her eyes. The spine of the book had landed on the table, but the echoing crack faded into the distance. Her hand across her lips and her hand on her stomach had created an infinite loop, a highway of emotion that began and ended in the glinting, glowing, glimmering golden mark etched into her skin like a filigree.

Tears spilled down her cheeks then, and she simply breathed in an even rhythm, simply existed, until she could focus on living again.

That was the first day she had come out the cliff. She had sank to her knees on the edge, hands crossed over her chest, fingers twisting into the tunic that fluttered in the breeze, and watched the sun set in a watercolor of orange and blue and pink and that familiar, heart-wrenching maroon.

When she turned back to the palace, long after twilight had gone down and the stars had erupted, she thought she would dread the lonely walk back and the prospect of another night in solitude. But she had to pause in the thick grass, had to look down, had to place her hand across her stomach, because the notion of presence slammed into her like lightning. She wasn’t alone.

She came back out to the cliff edge every day now. She wasn’t sure if she was searching for the fluttering cloak that snapped in the wind or if it was the golden sun she sought, hot and evolving, but she came just the same.

If she knew anything to be true, it was this: she was not searching for the skeleton-lines of ships as they sliced through the fog that morning. She was not searching for the blood red and brown flags that slammed against the wood, drooping with salt and heavy with purpose. She was not searching for the smoldering, lingering rage that built inside her, glowing like a hot ember in her chest.

A gusty, deep, bellowing horn blew across the Crystal Palace, but her feet remained rooted.

She could hear the cries from the watch towers, but her gaze remained fixed on the blurry horizon. Her palms opened at her sides, screaming and aching for some kind of release. She raised them, slowly, and a white-hot fire began churning in her soul.

Lena!!

The dark-haired woman dropped her hands and turned back to the palace, her green eyes landing on Alex as she raced through the garden and down to the cliff edge. She was being tugged, hard, towards the structure, and Alex was saying words to her, but they were hitting her consciousness and floating away.

“Lena. Lena!! Can you hear me? Do you understand??”

Alex grabbed her by her upper arms and shook her gently, her finger digging in harder than she meant to. Lena’s emerald eyes finally snapped their attention on the knight captain.

“Yes. I’m sorry, I’m listening.”

“Leon is here. He’s either sabotaging Lex or this was the plan all along – in either scenario, you need to go.”

She snapped the door shut behind them and raced to their bedroom, stuffing things into a bag as she went, Lena following behind her.

“Go? Go where? I’m not leaving. I’m staying here with you and Alura.”

Alex stopped in her tracks and spun on her, her eyes wide with fear, her voice stern but shaking.

“Lena, he’s here for you.”

She blinked rapidly, her fingers closing slowly around the strap of the bag as Alex pressed it into her hands.

“I... what about you? What about Ruby and Sam? Alura?”

Alex waved her hand as she stormed to the study and rifled through a cabinet, muttering to herself softly.

“C’mon Kara, where the hell did you put it? It has to be here somewhere... come on... there!” She snatched out a short sword, sheathed tightly and attached to a dangling belt. She pulled it fully from the sheath and inspected it before slamming it back into place.

“Don’t worry about us. Sam and I have a plan in place for her and Ruby and she is already well on her way. I need everyone else here to defend Alura and the palace. Every single man that I can spare is riding with you to Urvish – it is hidden and defensible.” Lena had yanked off her dress, swapping it for a tunic, and was belting on her trousers when Alex draped the short sword across her chest and down her back. She tightened it, and her hands gripped Lena’s shoulders again.

“I can’t risk flying you, or I would. Reports from the front lines are turning this into a ground war – their arrows and weapons are too dangerous and we still don’t yet know what the Cogorian military has up their sleeves. I am planning on holding him off here for as long as possible until reinforcements arrive – but if he manages to make it to you, the knights will keep you safe.”

They turned for the door and Alex pulled it open, but Lena wrapped a hand around her wrist and looked at her with flames burning in her eyes.

“Wait. Alex, I want to stay.”

“Lena, it’s far too dangerous – ”

“Please. This is my home now. You are my family, Alura is my family. Let me help protect you.”

Her shoulders slumped and worry filled Alex’s amber eyes. She stepped into Lena’s space, her eyes trailing down as she pressed a gentle hand to Lena’s stomach. When she looked back up again, they were brimming with tears.

“This isn’t about us anymore, Princess. You’re the most important person here now. We have to keep you safe.”

Lena’s heart felt like it had seized in her chest. The groaning bellow of the horn blasted through the open door beside them, and she squeezed her eyes shut tightly as her emotions battled bitterly in her heart.

Then she covered Alex’s hand with hers and pressed tightly, nodding.

“Do I have time to say goodbye to the Queen?”

Alex shook her head, her brows twisting in pain.

“We are already behind.”


 

Chapter Text


 

Drumming.

Everything now was drumming.

The pounding, drumming slam of hooves on damp soil.

The wracking, drumming way Lena’s heart beat against her ribs.

The muted, tireless, drumming fall of rain as it struck the leaves of the trees above them.

Everything now was drumming.

They were cresting the hill for Urvish, and the tall, thick trees were thinning away, exposing them to the open air of the field.

The knight lieutenant in command held up a hand, and they halted in their tracks. Their horses huffed and stamped anxiously at the ground, their breath misting in the fog. Crows flapped and soared and cried overhead. Lena pulled Leia up beside him and he glanced over at her, before nodding to two knights on his left flank. They took off down the hill, and he turned back to her with concern written on his features.

“Once I’m certain we’re not about to fall into a trap, Princess, we will go.”

She nodded quietly, but the dread that filled her was drumming, drumming through her veins.

 

 


 

Yellow teeth bared and black eyes narrowed as they took in the grey sky. The ships creaked over the rolling waves, the sails snapping in the wind. It was an unusual rhythm, an ominous and melancholy cadence.

Leon did not enjoy sailing in this weather, but they had been waiting for the fog for some time.

It was the only way to take the eagle-eyed Kryptonians by any measure of surprise.

Deep horns bellowed across the water, announcing their presence -  which he had expected. His salt-stiffened leather boots remained planted and steadfast on either side of the wheel, swollen knuckles gripping the smooth, worn wood.

His hair was yanked back and tied with a cord, his face newly bronzed from the days at sea. He gestured over for his first officer, who quickly took the helm.

Leon stomped to the bow, gripping a taught line and bending his knees to ride the rocking ship steadily. He squinted out at the shores, the cliff face, the glinting palace that shone even in the damp, colorless morning. He snarled and turned back to the men congregating around the deck of his ship.

“Hear me!!”

They all paused in their duties, turning to regard the angry, glaring man above them.

“We are here in the name of Cogo! We will take these shores, as we have taken so many before us – for they have taken your promised Queen!!" A swell of cheers echoed across the water, and his burnt lips cracked into a wide grin. "These abominations will not see another day as free creatures!”

A roar rose up from his ship, and then the ship next to his, and the ship next to that one. He looked up, taking in the majesty of his fleet. It swelled up on the horizon, hundreds of sails dotting the roiling black seas. The ships on the front lines were overflowing with Luthorian soldiers and Cogorian sailors. They had been slowly arriving from the middle and rear fleet since late in the night, all anxiously awaiting their signals.

He turned glittering eyes back to the cliff faces and pointed at the sailors manning the large guns on the ship decks.

“READY!!”

Arrows clicked into place.

“AIM!!”

Thousands of lungs were filled at once and held tightly.

“FIRE!!”

At once, a sound cracked across the water like a shot. Enormous arrows attached to enormous lengths of rope split the air, glinting green and whistling with danger. They slammed, hard, into the rock face of the cliffs, sending boulders and stones tumbling to the white sand below.

“RAISE THE LINES!!” came the next call.

The ropes were hauled to the very top of the ship’s masts and locked tightly into place, forming a line that arched from the ships to the cliffs. Men began climbing the masts, armor on, sword strapped to their waists, chains in hand. They paused in production lines, teeth gritted and bared, waiting for the next signal.

Even more had been lowered into small boats that were already being rowed towards the shore. In minutes, the first splashes of boots in shallow water could be heard on the deck.

Leon grinned, his eyes slicing backwards over his shoulder.

“... AWAY!!”

With vicious cries, the first men slung their chains over the rope and tore down the lines for the cliffs. They slammed into the walls with their feet and scrabbled up the rock wall to the edge, hauling themselves over. The next joined them, and the next, and the next, until dozens of men were reaching down and hauling the rest up off the lines as they arrived.

The shore was soon teeming with black and brown uniforms, grouping into platoons and breaking off to their planned positions.

Leon surveyed his work, his jaw locking tightly. A small measure of unrest twinged in his chest.

He had expected opposition on the cliff face. The lines were not a surefire method – they had a tendency of turning into fatal funnels. They were banking on success from sheer number and nigh unbreakable kryptonite-enforced rope.

Yet none came.

Not a whisper of a cloak, not a glint of a sword, not a flash of armor.

He growled and turned to his first officer.

“Where are they?”

“Perhaps they have fewer soldiers than we hoped, your majesty.”

A slow smile crept across the king’s face, and his ego began to blossom in his chest.

“Yes... perhaps they do.”

In the amplitude of sound around him, one noise caught his attention – the squaw of a crow, grating and hostile. He looked up in time to see it diving at him, claws opened in fierce display, and threw his arm up into the air.

It settled on him, gripping at his bracer, feathers shuffling unhappily.

He ran his fingers through the soft feathers at the midnight-black creature’s chest. It cried and croaked and shifted along his arm as he murmured to it softly, before his head snapped up to seek the gaze of a group of men who had been silently waiting on the deck of the ship. One large man stepped forward, a thin pink scar marring his neck, his arms bare beneath his armor.

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Allair – it is time.” He raised his arm, launching the crow into the air. It flapped and screamed, before landing on the bow of a small boat bobbing along below them.

He growled and tightened his grip on the pommel of his sword.

“Follow Ingana – he will take you to the Princess.”

 


 

Amber eyes surveyed the fields to the southeast of the palace.

Knight Captain Alexandra Danvers-Arias was gripping the pale stone of the tower that sat on the northern edge of the courtyard. It stretched between glittering spires, until it descended down to the courtyard below. Formations of soldiers and sailors were marring the grass and dirt outside its walls, churning it to caking mud.

The path from the courtyard to the fields was the only way in or out of the palace by foot. The walls rose up between the courtyard and the fields beyond, forming an arched doorway that had, since its creation, remained un-gated.

This, now, had become the front door their enemy was knocking upon.

Her eyes flicked left and right, to the places where the courtyard began to recede back into the palace.

Knights in maroon cloaks were as still as statues, the symbol of the house of El emblazoned on their chests, swords drawn and at the ready, invisible beyond the doorway.

It was an ambush.

She could not risk flying Wenah im Rao, but it would not stop her from deploying her sky archers. They relished their duty and fearlessly took to the skies, shrouding themselves in the blanketing fog. They were concealed above, bows at the ready, arrows knocked and whispers away from flying.

Alura appeared at her side, her own armor securely in place – followed closely by Winn and Lucy.

They stood together for a moment, looking out over the courtyard and the writhing, forming mass of their enemy.

The Knight Captain’s voice was cold, impassive.

“Should we give them the opportunity to surrender, your highness?”

“Alliance rules of engagement dictate we should.”

“Well. I am nothing if not diplomatic. Shall we send Winn?”

She winked at Alura and they turned to look at him, in a set of armor that had clearly never seen use outside of training. He sputtered, pressing his fingertips to his own chest, stammering in response.

“Me? I... I... Don’t you think..?”

Alex snorted and shook her head.

“Relax, Sir Schott. Lady Lane is far better suited to this task.”

Winn tried not to let the relief show on his face as the small woman stepped forward with a determined nod.

“Gladly. Do you imagine that he will attempt to offer terms? Our lives in exchange for Lena and all of Krypton, I imagine?”

Alex’s face hardened, and a muscle ticked in her jaw.

“No. I imagine that the first arrow will fly before you are even within range.”

She turned away and began to make her down the stairs to the courtyard below.

“What then, Captain?” Winn called at her back.

She turned and locked eyes with him, shoving her cloak back and uncovering her sword.

“Then, Sir Schott? Then we are at war.”

 


 

“Lock it down.”

Chains clinked, tinkling and dragging over stones. Purple and black clouds shrouded the edges of Kara's vision. Searing pain was pulling her apart.

Everything was blurry here.

The faces, the voices, the horizon.

Muffled sounds swirled in and out of her ears, like the moving pieces in front of her swirled in and out of focus. One moment they were muffled and gargled, the next moment they were a blaring siren in her senses.

She tried to raise her head, cracked lips trying to form words, hands trying to form fists. A sharp, twanging nerve snapped in her wrist, and a harsh scream tore from her lungs.

A curse swam around the thin air, and she was being rolled onto her side. Something was pushing, pulling, tugging at the blurry pain burning its way through her shoulder.

The world went dark again.

She woke up for the second time in a dripping puddle of blood and water, still slumped onto her side, razor-sharp agony wrapped tightly around her wrists. The pain in her shoulder was sinking into an aching throb that scored up her neck and into her jaw. Tears tracked down her face, unbidden, dripping slowly into the swirling blood beneath her.

Muted voices, slamming doors, jarring footsteps.

A rough hand grabbed at the shoulder of her armor, half hauling her off the ground. Her eyelid was swollen shut now, and she tried to grapple at the fingers digging into her collarbone, but she was brought up short – by pain, by weakness, by chains.

Hot breath washed over her face, and she lost the strength to hold her head up.

If a voice could sound like a sneer, surely this was it.

“Keep her alive.”

She was dropped back to the stones.

Everything was blurry here.

And then everything was black again,

And then everything was silent.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

 

It had gone exactly as Alex had predicted. King Leon’s banner-men had arrived on the field, astride horses they had stolen from the undefended palace stables.

Lucy, clad in full armor, had landed carefully atop the wall separating them from the Cogorians sailors and Luthorian soldiers and called out to him, her voice carrying far across the field.

“King Leon!”

She waited a beat, though she received no response.

“The Queen of Krypton is prepared to receive your surrender! By midday – ”

The first arrow whistled past her before she ever even finished. Alex’s body visibly tensed at its sound and Winn’s hand flew up to grasp at her arm, but Lucy snatched herself out of harm’s way a second before it landed.

She had disappeared beyond the wall once more before the second one sailed by.

Alex’s eyes had locked Alura’s then, and an instant exchange of command was given.

The Knight Captain planted herself on the far end of the courtyard, centered on the arch that separated them from a formidable enemy, and screamed at her knights to steady themselves and prepare for battle.

And then they came in waves.

It had been hours of relentless attacks. Cogorian soldiers would push forward and get pressed right back again. A Kryptonian would go down, and a Cogorian would take a hit, or a Luthorian would retreat. Kryptonians were giving as good as they were getting – but it wasn’t sustainable.

They were far outnumbered.

Her Kryptonian soldiers, normally powerful and tireless, were being worn down by kryptonite. The sheer quantity of it outside their walls was a true force of contention. She felt heavy and tired, her limbs leaden. Her body ached with a fiery soreness that wasn’t from the hours of adrenaline-fueled fighting. Grappling hooks had begun sailing over the walls and sinking in, and her front lines had been split between defending the wall from above and below. The sky archers were raining arrows down from above, but they needed to dip below the murky fog to send their arrows true – and it was leaving them open to attacks.

The onslaught was paused now, briefly, and Alex was screaming at her commanders to regroup and take count. Observers in the spires were reporting on enemy movements, and the Cogorians appeared to be doing the same.

Alex took a moment to survey the scene.

Smoke and dust drifted across the courtyard in spirals and swirls. Blood stained the stones in a pattern around the archway, and the cries of the wounded punched through everything with a haunting melody.  

She watched another round of Kryptonians carry away a young, wounded squire, and true fear seized her heart for the first time that day.

Alura stepped out from the wing temporarily being used as a hospital, and Alex locked eyes with the Kryptonian Queen for the second time that morning. This time the exchange of information was far more muddled.

Alex approached her with a determined step.

“Your highness, this has to stop.”

“We can hold them back, Captain.”

“With all due respect, I think that the situation is a lot more dire – ”

“Krypton is strong, Alex, we will hold this line until reinforcements return from Bolenth.”

“We are losing, Alura.”

The older woman turned to her, her brows knitting together as her voice lowered.

“We can not violate Alliance law.”

Alex dipped her head and lowered her voice to the same timbre, stepping out of the path and around a corner as Alura followed her.

“Alliance law dictates that there are extenuating circumstances in which exceptions can be made.”

“And we must have exhausted all other avenues first!”

“What other avenues would you suggest?” Alex hissed softly.

Alura face’s briefly flared with anger, before her shoulders slumped and she pressed her palm to her eyes.

“... Rao.”

She glanced back around the corner they had turned, her eyes wandering over the bloodied and tired soldiers that were doing their best to rally. Several of them were muttering unhappily amongst themselves, and she understood their discontent.

They were fighting with one arm tied behind their backs.

Alex’s hand slipped around her upper arm and grasped it gently, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

“My Queen... we will deal with the outcomes. But there won’t be any conversations worth having if we’re all dead.”

Alura nodded reluctantly. Her eyes bore into Alex's with a melancholy acceptance, unwilling to unleash hell yet incapable of defeat.

“You make the call, Captain.”

“Yes, your highness.”

She turned on her heel and disappeared, back into rooms full of the cries of bloody victims.

Alex took a moment to gather herself, sucking in deep breaths and letting rage fill her chest. She clenched her fists and strode back into the courtyard, crying out for her commanders.

They assembled on her quickly, and she looked them in the eye, one by one.

“This reprieve will not last long. Gather your troops, and tell them what I am telling you. You answer to me in this decision, and you will ensure that your soldiers understand that temperance is the better part of valor. Am I understood?”

An acknowledging murmur circled her, and her jaw set with anger.

“Good. When the next wave begins, position your lines as discussed – and on my signal, we will be going eyes-free.”

Shocked gasps now circled her, and she waited for them to gather themselves again. The looks of fear made her feel anxious and overwhelmed in this decision, but there was nothing she could do for it.

She was the Knight Captain.

“This is not a choice that I make lightly. Many, many lives will be lost today, and they will speak of this for hundreds of years to come. But Krypton can not fall, and we are her front and last line.”

They nodded at her, slowly, and she could practically see the weight of this settling on their shoulders. She tucked her hands behind her back and put on a powerful, confident front.

“Go. Prepare your people. And for the love of Rao, do not burn down this palace.”

When the clamoring beyond the wall began to pick up again, the mood in the courtyard had shifted. Things were quiet now, a stoic pall having fallen over the soldiers. Even the wounded, it seemed, had silenced their shouts in the midst of the moment.

Before, when a fresh wave of enemy soldiers assaulted the walls and archway, there was a flurry of activity. Kryptonians fighting, slashing, dragging away the wounded, resupplying arrows, replacing broken swords. Now, they were in lines. Angled, sharp lines that circled the archway. They stood, stock still, braced and prepared for the word of command.

In their center stood Alex, her fists clenched at her sides, flanked by Winn and Lucy.

The first few Cogorian and Luthorian soldiers, who had seemingly gone to great lengths to rally themselves before pushing forward in attack, came racing through the archway with screams on their lips and swords high above their heads.

But the cries for victory and vengeance quickly died in their throats, as did their momentum, when they came face to face with rows upon rows of eerily silent Kryptonian soldiers. They were staggered – the first rows standing firmly on the ground, and each successive line floating high enough behind them to avoid friendly fire. As they rose, higher and higher, they created a wall of danger with an incredibly narrow focus.

If you were looking in on the Crystal Palace of Krypton on that dark day, you would find yourself staring into hundreds of glowing red eyes, standing out brightly against the milky grey fog.

The soldiers who had broken through to the courtyard began to back out again, stumbling over each other to force their way out of the courtyard. On the other side of the wall, the ranks of soldiers began to do the same.

A lieutenant looked at Alex poignantly, her voice carrying through the misty, bloody courtyard.

“Captain? Your signal?”

Alex shook her head, her eyes transfixed on faces of cold terror.

“We will not attack a retreating enemy.”

Cries began to rise up behind the wall – the screams of commanders, the arguing of soldiers, the scraping of steel, the knocking of arrows.

“What the hell are you doing?!” they cried. “We are here to take Krypton, not run from it! Attack!!”

“KEHP RAOGRHYS, KNIGHTS!!” Alex screamed. “HOLD!!”

A single arrow sailed over the wall, landing with a heavy thud into the muddied grass at Alex’s feet.

Deep breaths were inhaled, and near silence permeated like the thick fog. It pressed in on them, hearts thrumming in their ears like the buzzing, shifting bees in the wildflowers of spring.

Suddenly, a wave of cries shuddered down the field beyond the walls. The clashing of steel on steel rang out, slamming against the walls and rolling into the courtyard in waves. Screams of anguish and pounding feet sent the Kryptonians on edge, bodies tensed like tightly-wound coils, waiting for the inevitable violation of their walls by enemy ranks.

They waited, and waited... but none came.

It was beginning to sound as if the Cogorian and Luthorian armies had turned into each other, as if they had forgotten their foe, as if they had forgotten their plan.

The commanders, one by one, looked at Alex for instruction.

She frowned and took a tentative step towards the archway, but then a body came flying through it. It was bloodied and limp, and landed harshly on its side. A great gust of wind ripped through the opening, as if announcing his presence, and the burly fur-covered shoulders of King Thrall strode victoriously through.

“Ha! Put those fiery eyes out, Knight Captain Danvers – Dunol rides for Krypton!!”

 

 


 

 

“Lieutenant, the perimeter is clear.”

Lena peered out the window, a prickling feeling teasing at the back of her neck, but the trees were bare and empty. New life was barely beginning to spring forth, and the leaves were just buds on limbs.

She paced in agitation, and nausea was beginning to rise up in her throat. Her bond mark was burning unhappily in her skin, and she unconsciously rubbed her palm along the side of the swell settling into her hips.

“What the hell are you doing, Kara?” she whispered softly to herself.

“What was that, Princess?” asked the Lieutenant.

“Nothing. I... I’m sorry.” She inhaled deeply and turned from the window, stepping to the kitchen and hooking her fingers through the handle of the tea kettle. She filled it with water and held it up to the knight closest to her, a young northern woman who had recently been promoted from squire.

“Would you mind?” Lena’s smile was easy, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I’m assuming I can’t light a fire right now.”

The knight smiled and nodded. “Of course, Princess. I – ”

The sound of glass shattering reached Lena’s ears and took a full count of ten to register. The knight’s mouth opened and closed, and Lena watched her in confusion as she tried to form words.

She set the kettle down slowly and reached for her, but her hand hovered in the quiet space between them when an angry red spill blossomed across the knight’s chest as she sank to the floor.

“WE’RE SURROUNDED!!”

The remaining glass blew in as one, pierced through by arrows that sailed true to their targets. Unrecognized soldiers burst through the tattered frames, swords slashing and laying into Kryptonian knights without abandon. It felt as if the air itself had become a roar of deafening chaos, cries of pain and rage and the rasping grind of steel on steel.

Lena was rooted to the spot in the kitchen, unnoticed and immovable.

Through the din, her instincts had lost touch with reality. She was fixated on the soft, white rug that Kara had placed in front of the fire some months ago.

She ran through her memories of the last few weeks –  playing through the thoughts that had seemed so scary at first and had now become the most natural placement of events in the universe.

Thoughts of Kara’s golden hair, shimmering in the summer sun in their garden. Thoughts of one day placing her feet upon the hot sands of Ansom, watching the wind blow the grains into the horizon while she follows the steps of her mother. Thoughts of family dinners by the hearth, with Zor-El and Alura laughing about something while Kara and Alex fumed. Thoughts of a child, playing happily on this soft, white rug before their fireplace.

But it was being stained in red. It soaked through her thoughts, a shiny, violent maroon mark. A trembling hand reached up for her chest as the fight became a stifled whimper, and she sank back into reality with the knowledge that she was completely and utterly defenseless. The Lieutenant and his knights lay lifelessly on the floor before her.

Her palm pressed hard to the burning mark on her chest as boots crunched through wood and glass at the front door.

 

 


 

 

Kara’s eyes snapped open with a scream. She was greeted with a visage of utter blackness – a hood tied around her eyes. Her muscles tensed, and she yanked at the chains on her wrists like a savage animal, ignoring the slicing agony in her wrists and the overwhelming throb in her shoulder. Her hands were chained behind her now, and she pulled and tugged and screamed, until blood dripped down her fingers and her knees gave way beneath her.

The visceral searing in her chest was pervasive, and her weakness haunted her.

She filled her lungs with stale air and tensed her core, using her last remaining strength to bellow into the inky darkness her.

“LUTHOR!!”

It bounced from the walls, echoing back at her in a mocking blast, over and over and over. Her head slumped and dizziness washed over her, her senses deprived of everything but pain and sound.

As her scream finally faded away, leaving her with nothing but anguish, a soft, snaking laughter pricked at her skin, washing over scalp and down her back.

Her hands balled into fists, and she forced her shaking body to still.

“Well... I must say. You’re so much... less than I expected, Princess.”

 

 


 

 

Alex’s boots stepped through a puddle of what she hoped was water. She motioned for one of her commanders and brusquely instructed him to find a team to begin assessing repairs that would need to be made to the courtyard walls. The archway was beginning to crumble, and she eyed it warily as Alura appeared at her side.

“It could have been much worse.”

Alex glanced at her sharply, before letting her shoulders drop and nodding. “You’re right.”

They accompanied each other beyond the archway and took in their scarred countryside. Gashes of blood and mud scraped through the grass, trampled by the hooves of horses. Healers and priestesses toiled over the wounded and the dead.

The bracing thunder of cavalry crested the hill sloping down toward the shore, and Alex turned into the wind to greet the riders. King Thrall and his small personal contingency of soldiers stopped short before them. His face was adorned with a wry grin, but there was concern in his expression. He nodded to Alura.

“Your highness. The white flags have been raised. We will give no more chase – provided they do not attack. At current, however, it appears as if they are far more concerned with putting as much distance between us and them as possible.”

Alex nodded and opened her mouth to speak, but she noticed Thrall’s sharp eyes scanning the countryside before them and the treeline beyond.

“King Thrall – who are you looking for?”

He tugged on the reins of his anxious horse and narrowed his eyes, giving the horizon one last look before bringing his gaze down the Queen and the Knight Captain.

“I could not find Leon.”

Alura frowned. “He is likely hidden away on one of his ships with his tail between his legs.”

Thrall made to respond, but Alex beat him to it.

“No. That is not Leon’s way. Are we sure he is not among the fallen?”

She turned to Alura, who shook her head.

Her next thought struck Alex in the chest like a sledgehammer, and panic began to course through her veins as bile rose up in her throat. She immediately leapt to the skies, calling down to Thrall and his men.

“Do you know the way to Urvish??”

The color drained from Thrall’s face.

“Lena.”

He snapped the leather reins in his hands and pressed forward onto his feet, screaming at his cavalry to follow him. He bent over the neck of his horse as it galloped, full-tilt, towards the barren forest between them and the cabin nestled by the lake.

 

 


 

Chapter Text


 

 

A sharp-nosed hawk of a man crunched through the glass from the shattered windows of her peaceful retreat. He was followed in by a dozen armed Cogorian sailors, tall and built with chests like barrels. Though she was in the grips of fear, Lena squared her shoulders to him and lifted her chin, the message clear.

“Leon.”

He smirked softly, cracking the bronzed skin at the corners of his eyes. A flash of yellowed teeth glinted at her, and she felt a shudder filter down her spine in disgust at the lecherous way his black eyes dragged across her body.

Anger was pricking at the back of her neck.

“Hello, sweet princess. Thank you so much for inviting me to your... home.” He looked around at the shattered windows and bloodied bodies and barked a harsh laugh. “I hope you don’t mind, I couldn’t help but redecorate.”

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms to hide her shaking hands.

“If this is the part where you monologue at me, spare me the misery of listening to your awful voice and just kill me.”

He grinned at her, tucking his hands behind his back and circling her slowly.

“Tsk. Your brother was right... you are feisty. No matter.” He waved his hand at her, motioning to the sailor closest to him. “Unfortunately, I will not be fulfilling your request for death. I think you will find that you will grow accustomed to my voice, my Queen – I intend on keeping you for a long time.”

The sailor advanced on her, and she backed as far into the kitchen as she could – but her back soon ran into the edge of the table. There was nowhere for her to go. She cast around quickly, snatching a knife from the surface beside her, and held it up to the large man with trembling bravery.

“Stay the hell away from me.”

He eyed the blade in her hand, but never stopped his advance. With her heart pounding in her throat and tears pushing into the corners of her eyes, she swiped at him with it. He easily avoided her, his meaty hand closing tightly around her wrist in a bone-crunching grasp. She cried out in pain, the knife dropping from her useless grip, and in the next instant he was yanking her towards the front door.

She screamed at him, using her free hand to beat at his arm and back, digging in her heels and grabbing onto anything that she could find to slow her down – but nothing seemed to matter. He dragged her just the same.

 


 

 

Kara's eyes struggled to adjust to the light once the blindfold was ripped from her face. When they finally focused, she honed in quietly on the bald man before her. Her eyes tracked him around the room, assessing him for weakness, sizing him up carefully. He was taller than she’d expected, thinner. His fingers twisted around the trigger mechanism of an auto-loading crossbow, angry green bolts lined in the holster and ready for violence.

Though her chest and back seared with pain, she was coiled tighter than a spring – and on the outside, she gave away nothing. She could feel herself filling with rage, and she did her best to contain it.

She didn’t know how well it was working, considering there were already wisps of smoke licking the edges of her eyes. She knew that it was the best she could muster while chained down with kryptonite – but it felt better than nothing.

He regarded her with interest as she paced in front of her.

“No, you’re not quite what I imagined at all. I should have come down to see you when you were captured the first time – you’re far less intimidating now that I know you’re nothing but a weak-willed woman.”

Her fingers curled into tight fists, but she left the visage of stoic danger on her features.

His lip curled as sweat dripped down the side of his face. He tightened his grip on the crossbow and thrust it in her direction as he spoke.

“Where is your daddy, Princess?”

When he received no response, he cradled the crossbow in his arms and crouched down before her, tucking his hand beneath her chin and gripping her jaw forcefully.

“Come now, Kara – there’s no need to be rude. Be a good girl, and I promise that I will go easy on you.”

She simply stared at him impassively, bored, as if he wasn’t worth the breath or energy it would take to respond to him.

His lip curled slowly with disgust, before planting his palm across her face and shoving her backwards. She tumbled back into her chains as he stood, towering over her.

“Best not to waste time, then – I’ll get right to the point. Your kind, merciful people will all fall to their deaths, Zor-El. And you, with your kind, merciful spirit...”

He leveled his crossbow in her direction as she righted herself once more, her face a defiant statue. He shook his head.

“You will never be able to protect your country or your people when you’re too much of a child to accept that sometimes in life there are sacrifices that need to be made. The price of victory is blood, and you have not paid your fare yet.”

The coil on the string snapped and an arrow zipped past Kara, dragging along the edge of her arm. It tore through her tunic and scraped a divot in her skin, immediately dripping red.

She glared at him, but remained unflinching.

He snarled and locked the next arrow into place. His frustration was clearly mounting, and his eyes grew wild and angry.

“Why will you not speak, Princess Zor-El? Do you feel me beneath you? Am I not a worthy opponent for the great and powerful Kryptonian warrior? Or perhaps now you only reserve your energy for fucking my sister in your bed every night?”

Kara’s jaw tightened and her eyebrow ticked at the mention of Lena. She quickly smoothed her features, but it was too late. He caught it.

“Aah, so that’s it then? The bastard whore in your bed has been whispering in your ear. Telling you secrets, I’m sure. She was worth nothing when my father brought her home. I should have thrown her out with the trash the moment she arrived on our doorstep.”

Kara bit the inside of her cheek. She was seething, rage bubbling in her chest like burning lava.

“Bite your tongue, Luthor.”

He grinned at her, his eyes a little too wide as he giggled gleefully.

 

 


 

 

As the sailor yanked Lena out of the remnants of the front door, the sun shone brightly in her eyes, nearly blinding her. Leon and the remaining sailors filed out behind them. She nearly began screaming again, but a soft and shrill whistle caught her ears. It was haunting and familiar.

She dug her heels in again and froze for a moment, before clapping her hands over her neck and crouching down as low as she could get as the arrows whistled by.

Several struck true to their targets, including the gargantuan man who was holding her wrist in his iron grip – but it landed with a mere grunt, and he stared down at his shoulder as if in disgust and simply ripped the arrow from the muscle.

Another volley sailed into their midst, and two more of Leon’s men went down – while an arrow thudded heavily into the wood of the cabin just shy of the dark king’s head. A second arrow sank into the space between her captor’s neck and shoulder, and this time he released her to scrabble at his neck.

She seized the opportunity instantly and let her feet loose, intent on running back to the Crystal Palace if necessary, when sharp fingers reached out at the last minute and snatched her back by the flowing hem of her dress.

“I don’t think so, whore,” King Leon growled, pulling her to her feet and twisting her arm behind her back painfully. She kicked at him and swore, but he simply yanked her arm harder until the pain was a silent scream on her face.

A dagger was suddenly in his hand, the sharp edge of it pressing precariously to her throat. She felt a trickle of blood meander its way down the geography of her neck, before pooling near her collarbone.

“THAT’S ENOUGH!!” he screamed at the surrounding forest. “IF ANOTHER ARROW LANDS, IT’LL BE HER NECK! SHOW YOURSELF!”

Heart-pounding beats of silence greeted him, and Lena whimpered softly as he twisted her wrist even further.

“DO IT!”

Lena watched on, tears streaming down her face, as soldiers bearing the arms of Dunol stepped slowly from the misty forest. Their hands were raised, though their faces wore brazen anger. Their King himself suddenly appeared, and Lena’s chest ached for the comfort of his warm cloak around her.

“Where is Knight Captain Danvers?” Leon snarled beside her.

King Thrall shook his head, his hands clenching at his sides.

“She is with her men, in the courtyard of the Crystal Palace.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s the truth.”

“If Knight Captain Danvers does not appear before me in the next three moments, I will slit her throat just to call your bluff, Thrall.”

Blue eyes pierced through Leon with murderous intentions.

Lena’s shoulders and back throbbed angrily, but a gentle sob left her throat when Alex silently landed beside him. Her voice was bold as it carried the short distance between them.

“Let her go, Leon. We will never let you leave Krypton – but it is your choice to stay as a prisoner or a corpse.”

“Those are hardly my only options, Knight Captain – soon I will coat this grass with your blood and be on my way, enjoying the breeze as I sail back to Cogo with my Queen.”

He pulled Lena tighter against him, like a shield, and nodded at his men.

“Disarm them.”

 


 

“Bite my tongue? Hardly. She was a filthy little whore then, and nothing has changed now that she’s married to you. You know, I was making great political relationships, selling her off to the Cogorian King. Mountains of gold, and trade connections. But then you stole her from me. You’ve made her even more worthless, Zor-El. Who wants to buy a used whore? You’re lucky Leon still wanted her, after everything.”

Kara’s fists clenched and she could feel heat crawling through her body. Her spine was like a tightly wound snake, ready to send her body into motion in a split second. His grating laugh pierced her through like a sword, and he raised his crossbow. It was loaded with his next bolt, and he aimed it at her heart.

“I suppose you deserve each other. Tell me, what was it like down in that dungeon when you bunked up together and decided to destroy your kingdoms? Did you fuck her then, or did you at least have the courtesy of waiting until you were outside my walls?” His voice lowered, and his snarl deepened. “What did you think was going to happen? That you would get married and fly off into the sunset? That you would spend your afternoons wiling away in flower gardens, strolling through the roses?”

His finger tightened on the trigger and Kara’s senses went into overdrive. “Tell me how it happened, Kara. A huge wedding, set for ten thousand? Massive feasts, festivals, seven days of debauchery and partying, seven nights of fucking your new whore?”

Kara yanked at the chains on her wrists as a growl ripped through her throat. “Stop this now, Luthor. I am warning you.”

He stepped closer to her, his voice lowering to a hoarse whisper.

“Tell me what you envisioned for the years to come. Was she waiting for you to get home victorious from war? Barefoot and ready for you? Did you see her with child, belly swollen and blushing while she lies naked in your bed?” His crazed laugh echoed off the wet walls as his lowered to just above a whisper that dripped with cruelty. “Well that’s just too bad, Princess Zor-El. When I’m finished with you here, my next stop is the Crystal Palace. I’m sure that I will find her already in bed with King Leon.”

 


 

“On your knees, warriors,” Leon spit out, a smile dancing across his lips.

Swords and arrows had been piled on the ground before them, and Leon’s men were forcing the Dunolian soldiers, Alex, and Thrall to their knees, bloodied hands gripping at their shoulders. When Thrall growled and refused to go down, Leon twisted Lena’s arm until she was screaming with pain again.

“Ah ah, Thrall. Be a good subject, and kneel before me.”

Eyes like the sky, heavily conflicted, danced between insurmountable rage and unavoidable agony as he watched tears stream down Lena’s face. He slowly, slowly lowered himself to his knees, Alex beside him.

“That’s a good man.” A sickening smile curled Leon’s cruel lips. “I will tell your families that you died kneeling before a real king.”

He nodded at his soldiers, his dagger pressing tighter and tighter to the soft skin at Lena’s throat, and her heart hammered against her ribs as she heard the shrieking of steel on steel as swords were drawn.

“NO!!” she screamed, struggling against his grip. He yanked her back, hard, and spots danced before her vision.

“Don’t fight, Princess!! You must be strong – a good Queen supports her husband in his decisions. You will watch as I destroy these people who kept us apart for so long.” His cracked lips brushed her ear, and hot breath skated along her neck as he whispered to her. “And when you are safely where you belong... the Princess of Krypton is next.”

A vision of Kara’s head rolling across the tilting deck of a ship took hold of Lena tightly and refused to let go.

The intense, consuming fear gripping her chest turned suddenly into a burning, white-hot fire. It flowed over her like water, and she felt as if something deep inside her had snapped – like a band pulled too tightly that had found the end of its elasticity, and was recoiling deep within her. She realized then that she had closed her eyes – and when she opened them again, she was no longer of this plane.

She was an ethereal ghost, filmy and bright, standing to the side and watching her own body twist in the grip of the dirty king from Cogo.

She did not feel anger anymore. She was not scared.

She was powerful.

She was ancient.

She was a rising phoenix on fire, and she was in control of the universe.

She felt suddenly overcome with a sense of calm. Peace flowed through her, wrapping around her spine like a soft blanket. Sounds were muffled, distorted over her ear drums, and she watched with a quiet interest as Leon opened his mouth and gave a cry, deep and garbled, as if time had slowed to a crawl. She turned to look at his soldiers, who were raising their swords above their heads, intent on bringing them down sharply on the bent necks of King Thrall and Knight Captain Danvers.

Lena blinked slowly, before shaking her head. She tilted her face up towards the sun, its rays beaming down at her brightly, and felt the sudden urge to draw its warm rays into herself. She raised her palms at her sides and inhaled deeply, heat splashing through her as if she was nothing but skin waiting to be filled. It was as if she was standing there for a hundred years, absorbing the energy of a magnificent sun, but when she opened her eyes again time had stood still.

Alex and Thrall were there, on their knees – swords racing down towards the ground, towards their lives. They would be taken swiftly, harshly, as if they had never even mattered at all.

She couldn’t have that.

No... she couldn’t have that at all.

Lena tilted her face back towards the sky and raised her arms beside her as a ring of pure molten sun exploded from her chest.

It covered the land like a wave, tearing trees from their roots, cratering the earth, tearing away at the soil. It burned and seared, entering soft flesh like a brand, crawling beneath skin and peeling it away until nothing remained but a blackened, sooty smear. They didn’t even have time to scream.

 


 

Alex simply stared, open-mouthed, at the beautiful, violent carnage before her. One by one, Leon and his men were reduced to ash, a wave of white fire burning through them as if they were nothing. The sky was blood red and fiery – like the sun had been tugged down to stand just beside them, an ominous protector of its bloodline.

Suddenly, all that was left was Alex, Thrall and his men, and a singed ring a mile wide – with Lena standing alone in its center, wisps of smoke drifting from black hair and eyes that had turned pure white.

She stood as if in a daze, her hands trembling beside her, and Alex barely made it in time to catch her as her knees gave way beneath her.

 


 

Kara snapped.

She was overcome with a power so vast in its immensity that it had burned a line across the world, lighting everything in its wake with licking flames. Energy surged through her muscles like kryptonite had never existed, and she was on her feet in a blinding second.

Hot fire shot from her eyes and sliced through the chains on her wrists and feet like butter.

She was upon him in an instant, knocking away the final arrow as a flaming red glow became the only  thing he could see. She had him by the throat, pinned to the wall above her head.

“You made two mistakes, Luthor.” Her voice was deep, ethereal, echoing off the stone walls. “The second one was threatening my wife.” Her grip tightened as her fingers curled around the back of his neck and he gasped for air.

“She is stronger, smarter, and better than you in every single way. She is brave, and she is powerful. You are a weak coward who chains his enemies so they cannot fight back. She is perfect, and you are a monster.”

She slammed her fist into the wall behind his head and it cracked beneath the blow. His eyes widened in panic.

“I will not kill you. That would be too easy, too good for you Lex. I’m going take your kingdom from you and I will give it to her, and they will love her and serve her in ways that you will never know. And you will watch it all unfold from behind the cold walls of a Kryptonian prison. You will live the rest of your days in the lands of your enemies, with your crown upon the head of your sister, knowing that it was once yours and it never will be again.”

Rage and fear colored his face, and he scrabbled at her wrists and hands. “You’ll never set foot-hurk!“ She squeezed his throat again, her other hand sliding up his face and gripping the top of his bald head.

“You know, Luthor… I would cut your head off and bring it home to her as a gift, but without any hair I wouldn’t know how to carry it.” She grinned at him, before letting her smile drop ominously. Her eyes drifted downwards.

“I think I’ll settle for ensuring that you never have any heirs who could challenge Lena’s throne.”

He grunted and tried to kick at her, but his blows landed ineffectively. She snapped her eyes back up to him and she narrowed her gaze.

 “You see, Lex… your first mistake was assuming that I am kind and merciful.”

Her eyes blazed red, smoke wafting into the air and curling into the rafters.

“Don’t worry. I’m told that the medical staff in Fort Roz are excellent at handling… amputations.”

 


 

“Where is my wife?”

“Princess Zor-El- ”

“Do not placate me right now. Where is my wife?”

“Kara please, endeavor to understand – she needs rest –

“Winslow Schott if you do not tell me where my wife is this moment I’m going to relegate you to stable hand for the rest of the year.”

He crossed his arms and leveled her with an icy gaze. “Kara Zor-El, I am attempting to tell you. If you would close your domineering mouth for eleven seconds and let me speak, you would already know.”

She clenched her jaw and simply stared at him. He sighed and dropped his arms.

“There is something incredibly important that you must know, something that will change everything about... well, everything. You must be delicate and understanding, your words careful and kind-”

“Winn, my wife called the sun down to Krypton and used it to incinerate her enemies. What else could be more important - ”

Winn pursed his lips and approached her, reaching out. He grasped her forearm and squeezed it, tightly but gently, and looked at her earnestly.

“It is about you.”

Kara regarded him quietly, fear suddenly snaking its way into her chest.

“Tell me where she is, Winn.”

“She’s in your garden.”

Kara turned on her heel to leave, but stopped short and reached back, grabbing Win’s hand. She gave it a quick squeeze and a serious look. “Thank you, Winn.”

He blew out a long breath and bowed his head. Then she was gone.

 


 

When Kara approached the glass door to her garden, she found it cracked open. A gentle breeze was sifting through it, sweet and somehow melancholy. The sky was bright yet grey, turning the grass and vines a deep green. It was shot through with a pink that streaked the sky – a lingering remnant from the red that scorched the clouds. The flowers and leaves waved lazily in the wind.

She pulled the door open further, and stepped through silently. Her eyes finally landed on Lena, standing in front of the rose wall with her back to the door. She was barefoot, wearing a long white dress with pastel flowers splashed across the skirt. It flowed behind her as gusts lifted and twisted it gently. Her hair was down, wild, untamed, curls drifting along her back. One hand was reaching for a white rose, which she pulled down to her face and inhaled deeply.

Kara toed off her boots and tugged off her socks, padding into the soft grass in bare feet.

Lena’s voice stopped her a few feet behind the raven-haired woman. She could smell roses and the scent of something purely Lena – vanilla, and smoke.

“I am happy that you’re home,” came the soft voice.

Kara watched her carefully as she reached up, tugging down another rose to inhale deeply.

“And I am happy that you’re safe, Princess. I was so scared for you.”

Lena tilted her head back and turned her face into the wind. Kara watched her shoulders settle down as locks of hair brushed across her cheeks. Her eyes were closed, and a soft smile turned her lips up at the corners.

“Don’t worry. We were safe, zygai,” she murmured.

We were safe, zygai.

Memories snapped across Kara’s vision. Ones where those words had been spoken before...

A crinkle appeared between Kara’s eyebrows as she took a step forward, reaching out for Lena. Her hand tangled in the skirt of her dress flowing behind her. Lena finally turned to face her. Her green eyes were luminous, her skin golden and glowing, her hair dark and full.

She smiled at Kara as the wind kicked up, whipping past them.

Her hand was gently pressed to the underside of a slightly rounded belly, pinning the material of her dress down beneath it.

Kara felt as if she had been struck by lightning.

Her chest felt as if it had been caved in and filled at the same time.

It seemed as if her feet were no longer touching the ground, but she was anchored to the soil by million pound weights.

Tears tracked down each cheek and her legs turned to nothing, nothing but blue water. She dropped to both knees before Lena and reached for her with shaking hands.

“How... how long..?”

Lena took her hands in hers, stepping into her, and guided them slowly to her stomach. She pressed them along the curves above her hips gently, before trailing her fingertips slowly down Kara’s forearms, shoulders, neck, eventually reaching out to run her fingers through Kara’s hair.

“Three months. The night before you left for Bolenth.”

The blonde simply stared in reverie, her body trembling. Lena stepped deeper into her space and tugged her closer. She wrapped an arm around Kara’s shoulders as the Kryptonian pressed her cheek below her bellybutton.

She held her thus, for what felt like hours. Nails scratched gently along Kara’s scalp as she tenderly stroked her hair. Her fingertips drifted down her neck, soothing tense muscles.

She held her close as the breeze danced around them.

She held her close as tears raced down her cheeks.

She held her close when the sky cracked open up above them, casting waves of warm rain down on them.

She held her close and stood, steady and strong, while the powerful Kryptonian warrior shook before her on her knees.

And it felt exactly as it should be.

 


 

When Kara finally found her feet again, she was changed.

Her anger, her concern, her fear, had been washed away by the rain. She was filled with an aching, desperate love, like a raw exposed nerve floating along an ocean of fire.

Lena was beginning to shiver, her dress clinging to her, pale and wet. It molded itself to her soft belly, and clung to her breasts tightly. Her nipples were displayed through the now-sheer material, hard and taut against the fabric. Kara cupped her cheeks and kissed her, long and slow, pressing her body close to the brunette’s. Her kiss was gentle but claiming, thumbs brushing across cheeks, fingers threading in hair. Lena reached up and took hold of her elbows, whimpering against her lips softly.

“Take me inside, Kara.”

She didn’t need to ask twice. Kara bent and slipped her arm beneath her knees, tucking her other around her back and easing her into her arms. She held her close against her chest and Lena pressed her face into Kara’s neck, slipping her hand into her hair as she pressed a hot kiss to the underside of her jaw.

Kara went to step through the door, when Lena pressed a hand to her chest.

“Wait.”

The blonde looked down at her in confusion, and set her gently back down on her feet beneath the cobble-stoned overhang.

Lena reached down for the tie on her dress that was looped in a soggy bow, and tugged on one of the loose ends. The bow fell apart, and she slowly peeled the sides of her dress away. She let her arms fall behind her as the dress dropped down her shoulders, her elbows, her fingertips, until she was standing before her without a shred of clothing remaining.

Kara simply stared, and felt herself at risk of losing control of her knees again. Pregnancy wrapped around Lena like silk made of pure gold. Her skin was flushed and bright, her damp hair clinging to her face, her shoulders, her swollen breasts. She was radiating, and Kara needed to touch her.

Lena knew.

She stepped carefully into Kara’s space in her bare feet, reaching down to unbuckle the belt she still wore with her sword swinging at her hip. She pulled it off and gently laid it inside the door, out of the rain, before turning back to tug Kara’s tunic and bralette over her head. She bit her lip and looked up at the Kryptonian as her fingers worked the laces in the front of her trousers, loosening them and pressing her full, naked body against Kara’s as she pushed them down her hips. They fell past her knees and Kara kicked them off, taking Lena in a fiery kiss.

She backed her slowly through the door as thunder rolled through the sky, the rain coming down now in torrents and sheets. She closed the door behind her and it muffled the sound, rain striking against the windows. Chill lingered in the air in their darkened room, and Kara broke away from the kiss to reach for the soft blanket on their bed. She spread it out on the thick rug in front of their fireplace, and a carefully-placed shot of fire had it roaring in an instant.

Lena stood in front of it, smiling as the warmth washed over her.

“Mmmm.” She lowered herself to the blanket and turned so her back was to the fire, before settling back and propping herself up on her elbows. She stretched her legs out in front of her and slowly spread them, pressing her heels down into the blanket. Her smoldering gaze pinned Kara to the ceiling, who was simply watching her with parted lips.

“Come here, my love,” she whispered in a husky voice. “We have a lot of time to make up for.”

Kara sank to her knees before her, running her palms along the inside of her thighs in reverence. She pressed gentle, careful kisses to the underside of her belly, her hands tracing and teasing along her sides. Her thumbs brushed along the bottom of her breasts, and Lena arched up off the blanket into her touch.

The blonde reached over for an over-sized pillow on the chair beside the rug and tucked it behind Lena’s back. The brunette settled back onto it gratefully, her eyes shining as she stroked Kara’s back. She kissed down Lena’s neck and chest, carefully palming her breasts, testing the weight of them. Lena bit her lip and looked down at her with hooded eyes. She tangled her fingers in blonde locks and tugged her down to her skin. Kara groaned and pressed a hot kiss to the skin above her swollen nipple, then laving her tongue over the hard nub before drawing it into her mouth.

Lena arched up into her mouth and cried out softly, her normally-sensitive breasts extra responsive to the talents of Kara’s tongue.

Easy...” she moaned breathily.

Kara gently kissed circles around her nipple, covering it with her hand again as she kissed her way down her ribs. Her lips skirted the bottom of her belly, pressing tender kisses to the soft skin there.

She kissed her hip, running her tongue along the sensitive space between her hip and thigh, before settling down between her legs. Kara glanced up at Lena’s face and found an incredible sight – Lena, leaning back into the pillow, her chest heaving, fingers flexing at her sides, thighs spread for her, eyes closed, bottom lip drawn between her teeth. It made her heart skip a beat.

She looked back down at the task at hand. Lena’s legs were spread wide beneath her, and her center was glistening with want. Kara kissed the top of her pubic bone, flicking her tongue out to tease it gently, before pressing the flat of her tongue down her swollen and sensitive clit. Lena’s sharp intake of breath and the insistent hand in her hair set Kara on fire.

She sucked her clit between her lips and flicked her tongue over it slowly, rubbing and teasing it insistently. Lena bucked her hips up into her, her jaw dropping open as she moaned.

“Kara... mmmm, that feels amazing my love...” She dragged her nails across Kara’s shoulders.

The blonde sailed a palm up the inside of her soft thigh, dipping two fingers inside her to wet them before sinking them home, swift and deep. Lena gasped and threw her head back, clutching at Kara’s shoulders.

She moaned as Kara pressed her fingers up into that spot that always does it for her, her tongue making hard and fast strokes against her clit. She rolled her hips up into Kara’s mouth over and over, keeping time with her, and panted hard as a hot, sinking feeling settled between her legs.

Lena’s mouth opened in a silent cry as the orgasm hit her, hard and fast. Her toes curled and she screamed, bucking up into Kara hard. The blonde’s tongue never faltered, and she withdrew her fingers to snake her hands around Lena’s thighs, gripping her hips to hold her in place as she dragged a second orgasm from her with only her tongue. Lena’s hands covered Kara’s and pressed into them hard, her nails digging in as she whimpered and thrashed beneath her.

When she finally settled back down onto the blanket and pillow, she looked down at the way the blonde’s eyes traced over her stomach. She rubbed her fingers across the backs of Kara’s hands, which were still gripping her hips to hold her in place.

Kara’s eyes flicked up to hers, but she didn’t release her.

Lena didn’t mind.

Kara had always felt like an anchor, tethering her to something real and wonderful while letting her soar among her hopes and dreams.

She brushed hair off of her forehead, cupping her chin and beckoning her up. Kara raised up onto her hands and knees, pressing a soft kiss to her belly before capturing her lips. Lena tasted herself, and gently sucked on Kara’s lower lip. The Kryptonian moan sent chills through her body.

Her teeth bit gently into the lip between her teeth, and she pressed a soothing kiss to it.

Kara settled beside Lena, tucking her arm beneath the brunette’s head and drawing her close, her fingertips tracing the curve of her stomach. She felt as if she was going to be overwhelmed with tears again, so she cleared her throat and pressed her lips to Lena’s forehead.

“You know... when I was being dragged into the kryptonite dungeons in the bottom of the Red Keep, I never could have imagined that it would be the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Lena laughed softly, tucking her face into the space beneath Kara’s jaw and gliding her palm along the Kryptonian’s forearm.

“And I never could have imagined that the barbarian Kryptonian – who I thought was only good as a battering ram – would be the softest creature I’d ever met.”

Kara pretended to be offended, pressing her fingertips to her chest. “Excuse me Princess... I am a brutal warrior. I am not to be underestimated.”

Gentle fingers reached up, twining through damp blonde hair, and tugged Kara down into a kiss that was so full of love it made her dizzy.

“I’m not sure about that, my zygai. I think that soon something incredibly small is going to bring you straight to your knees.”

The Princess of Krypton grinned, tightening her arms around the brunette woman.

“I think you might be right.”

 


 

Anhani climbed slowly to the top of the cliff overlooking the rolling waves. Sea breeze brushed across her face, and she took a moment to inhale deeply, letting it mist over her skin.

Her feet were tired, and her hands ached as they held up the hem of her dress. She pushed through the grass that tangled around her knees, finally coming to a stop at the edge of a rock face. She was high above Krypton, the Crystal Palace glinting in the distance. The rolling hills and swaying trees of the countryside spread out behind her, but she had eyes only for the sea.

The sky was a receding slash of orange, red, and pink. It danced along the water, reflecting and brilliant as the colors blended and faded into the horizon. It seemed as if there was no beginning and no end between the sea and the air, but instead a thick line of flames that encircled the world.

A slow smile crept across her face, and the wind carried her soft whisper out to drift among the foaming, rolling crests.

They do not traverse our mortal seas... but sail upon an Ocean of Fire.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

She’d been home for four months, but sometimes she still had the dreams. They were coming less often, and the mind healer said they were normal - but that didn’t make it easier.They would grip her in the middle of the night, snake around her lungs and squeeze tightly until it felt like she could only exhale as a shout.

It would inevitably wake her, covered in sweat, hands ripping at another set of ruined sheets. Her ribs were a drum, her heart a mallet, thumping to the beat of war marching. Her trembling hands would eventually rest down in her lap, and she’d stare at them as if they were still covered in the edges of dirty trenches and broken boulders.

Tears would begin pooling at the corners of her eyes, and she would squeeze them shut tightly - as if she could stop them from falling, and thus stop it from hurting. It never quite worked.

Not until soft, clean, unblemished fingers would snake into hers. Pale, gentle hands would tug at hers, while smooth lips whispered hushed and easy assurances. They would pull her palms, knuckles, fingers, until they were firmly cradling the warm skin of a naked, rounded belly.

“You are home, zygai,” she would murmur, pressing her back tightly to Kara’s chest. “You are with us.”

Kara’s face would find the nape of Lena’s neck, her heart still thrumming in her chest, her eyes still tightly closed. Fingertips would caress her wrists and the backs of her hands, threading between her fingers and pressing her closer, closer. Lena would turn her head to press her temple to Kara’s, her voice still spilling gentle shushes as she traces away the last lingering remnants of memory.

When Kara’s spine finally lost its rigidity, she would sigh a breath into Lena’s skin, her lips tracing the slope of her shoulder and neck. Her palms would smooth across the filigree of geography that was taught and stretched skin - tethers that grounded a round universe to a solid pelvis, lines that she took the time to admire with her whole soul. A proud smile would curl along Lena’s red lips, her eyes dropping closed as she settled in and accepted the appreciation.

If she had dark smudges beneath her eyes, she wore them with grace. If she had an aching spine, she held it with honor. If she had tender breasts, she bore them with peace. Something quiet and calm had settled over her in these last few months - even when she had to stop in her tracks and press her knuckles to the small of her back, or blow out a breath softly and curl the heel of her palm into her side, her eyes would slip shut and the edges of her lips would rise.

Kara watched her more than once, when she thought she wasn’t looking, as she skimmed soft hands along her belly, inhaled deeply, and took a moment to simply exist.

It grabbed at her heart, more than anything - more than watching the brunette struggle to put her shoes on, more than being woken in the middle of the night to help her get out of bed (”I’ve peed sixteen times tonight I swear to Rao”), more than watching her softly conversing with naught but her own curved belly as she explained the chemical properties of acids and bases.

Those moments grabbed at her heart more than anything, because she was witnessing Lena become a Mother. More importantly, because the context of that was so different now than she could have ever known.

She was Wenah im Rao.

She was a champion of Krypton - the slayer of evil, a future Queen.

She was so much more than a Mother, yet it punctuated everything that made her so powerful.

She wore it like a crown, a noble banner that she carried with a quiet resilience that whispered of unspeakable power.

She was unstoppable, brilliant, a fiery goddess.

And when Kara would wake in the night, lost in the darkness, she was a beacon of love that always guided her home again.

 


 

She arrived in the very same instant that the sun broke the horizon on a new day.

Lena had awoken in early dusk, the sky a barely glinting fade of steel grey, gripped by a seizing tightness low across her belly. There was a stickiness between her legs that was new and a little terrifying, and she could feel it pooling beneath her.

She sucked in a breath, a deep, soul-filling breath, and slipped her hands beneath her stomach, circling it in her arms as she shut her eyes tightly and waited until the pressure eased. A trembling smile stretched her lips, and tears meandered their way slowly down the hills of her cheek bones.

Another.

She hissed softly and rode it through silently, intent on holding on for just one more moment, just one more breath, just one more heart beat. She wanted this quiet time for herself, this instance of solidarity, this new knowledge of her strength now as a woman and a Princess and a person – she could stand on her own two feet. She could make it through anything. She was powerful. She was a graceful storm of snow, and she could take down the whole world by herself.

Her palms rubbed gently along her sides as the pressure slowly faded once more. She pressed a hand to her center of life and smiled.

She was grateful that she would never have to.

Lena rolled back slightly and glanced over her shoulder, where Kara was tucked warmly against her back, one arm thrown across her eyes and her mouth open. A wider smile split her face this time, but now the tightness was returning again, and she needed her – so she reached back and found Kara’s hand, the one that was on her stomach, riding the gentle rise and fall of her breaths. She gave it a squeeze and Kara was awake in an instant, sitting up in bed with her hands on Lena’s hip. She blinked rapidly, struggling for a moment to remember how to exist, and Lena simply stroked her thumb over the back of Kara’s hand and waited patiently. Kara sucked in a deep breath and came back to reality, reaching down and cupping Lena’s cheek.

“Are you alright, my Princess? Is it time?” she mumbled, her voice deepened by sleep.

Lena nodded, and she watched as the tears welled in Kara’s eyes. The blonde grasped her hand and kissed it quickly, before slipping out of bed at light speed. She was suddenly fully dressed and standing beside Lena’s bedside, helping the brunette partially sit up and tucking pillows behind her. She held her hand and stroked her hair through another contraction, and leaned down to kiss Lena’s forehead – mumbling a promise to return as soon as Kryptonianly possible.

She was true to her word.

Once Eliza and Alex arrived, it was over very quickly.

If it was not for the utterly and spectacularly world-shattering emotions that Lena and Kara were experiencing, it could be said that it was all very simple.

And so she arrived, in the very same instant that the sun broke the horizon on a new day.

A singing cry tore through the deep breaths and murmured comfort and sweating hair, and Lena collapsed back on the pillows. A steady stream of tears flowed now, and she couldn’t help the laugh that rose up from her chest to see the beams of light streaming through the windows, striking an array of brilliant gold across the face of the woman she loved most dearly in the world – cradling against her chest what seemed to be a ray of pure sunlight.

Kara’s tears matched her own, and there was nothing else in that moment but an ethereal and unbounded and everlasting joy.

She was Era, and she ascended with the rising sun.

 


 

Two Years Later

Lena’s bare feet stepped carefully through the hot sand. It blew around her ankles, and she sank through to the harder, cooler grains beneath. Wind whipped through the filmy blue pants that were cuffed around her ankles, her brilliant white shirt reflecting an unsympathetic blaze of sun.

She was cresting a dune, here at the edge of Ansom. A storm was kicking up in the distance, an unrelenting breeze erasing her footprints behind her as if she had never made them. The heat shimmered along the shifting sands in the distance, pooling in pockets of geography and waving up towards the inexhaustible sky.

She planted herself then, at the top. The air was hot in her lungs, and it settled in her chest in a way that was familiar, but uncomfortable. She squinted out at the horizon, and stared for a long time into infinity.

Anhani had told her where to go, to find the place where she was born. She had warned her then, that the towns on the edges of the map were small – and as fleeting as the winds. She stood here on a dune, in the place where a dim hut had been, on a still night all those years ago.

There was nothing now but the whistle of wind and the heat and the steeping feeling that she had traveled so very far away from her home for nothing except a burn from the sun.

But when she turned back from the edge, turned away from the endless reach of the desert, she found what she had come all this way to find.

A smile was tickling at the edges of pale pink lips, while watchful blue eyes were trained on an oscillating head of platinum blonde hair. It bounced and swayed and tangled in time to the leaping bounds its giggling owner was making through the sloping hills of sand – before disappearing down the side with a screech and a roll.

Lena wondered for an instant how she was going to get all of that sand off her daughter, but she watched as Kara foisted her up into the air, spun her upside down, and shook her gently. She grinned, mostly to herself, but when Kara looked up at her, they shared in the moment.

It was then that she was struck by this singular thunderbolt of wisdom, that this was the truest gift her mother could have given her.

A stoic warrior with a heart of gold, an incomprehensible strength in her own soul, the most powerful love she could have ever imagined, and a daughter – giggling as she hung from one ankle, shoving sandy fingers into her mouth, a shock of hair falling straight to the earth.

A whisper skated through the wind and brushed across her shoulders as it whipped forward, sailing past her, pushing her away from the desert, pushing her back down the dune with steps of certainty:

“You are home, my love.”

She pressed herself against Kara’s side and a strong arm wrapped around her tightly. She took their child in her arms, and the girl tucked herself against Lena’s chest.

And she was, indeed, home.

 


 

Chapter Text

Avenues of Escape - Supercorp Spy AU, Summer 2019

“The nature of fieldwork is changing, Kara. We can’t provide you with the real time support you need anymore, not even from the remote offices. The current combat theater is too volatile.”

Kara’s eyebrows drew together. Her relaxed position –  feet propped up on Alex’s desk, knocking askew the shiny placard that read Director Danvers – suddenly grew a lot more tense.

“What does that mean?”

“We’re assigning you an analyst.”

Kara’s feet hit the floor with a slam, and she was up in an instant.

“Absolutely not.”

“You don’t have a choice.”

Blue eyes bore into Alex’s brown ones, but her sister simply planted her hands on her hips and cocked an eyebrow. Kara huffed a breath of exasperation.

“Like hell I don’t. I’m not taking a squint into the field Alex, he’s going to get us both killed.”

“Someone is getting Kara killed?”

The manufactured cheer in the lilting voice at the doorway was evident, though no less irritating. Kara’s shoulders bunched up near her neck and her eyes closed slowly.

“Alex…” she muttered through gritted teeth.

The apology in her tone came through, but the stern voice remained.

“Kara, Lena is the foremost expert on emerging cartels in the Caribbean, and you’re hands-down our best agent on the ground. This only makes sense.”

Kara could practically feel the smug smile starting to grow on the brunette’s face, and her nails dug into her palms. She took a deep breath in, counting to five like her therapist instructed her to, before turning to glare at Lena over her shoulder.

Lena flashed her a dazzling smile, a stack of folders tucked against her chest. Kara’s eyes trailed down her pencil skirt and completely impractical stilettos while Alex began outlining details.

“We were picking up a lot of activity between the Dominican Republic and the coasts of Puerto Rico and the Keys, but two weeks ago our contacts all dropped off the radar. We need you to go down and reestablish lines of communication. You leave in two weeks.”

Kara crossed her arms, her fingers tucking into the soft brown leather of her jacket, and leaned her hip into the side of Alex’s desk. A slow smile crept across her face, and her lower lip twitched when Lena’s own began to falter.

“Agency policy – an analyst can’t go on a field mission without SERE training and weapons qualifications. It’ll take her four weeks just to get the paperwork sorted.”

Lena’s smile dropped and her eyes narrowed. “Well I’m certain that it’s also policy for an agent to have a simple measure of common sense before going into the field, yet they seem delighted to make exceptions for you.”

Kara’s arms fell and she took a step forward, her finger pointed at Lena’s chest.

“If you think for one second – 

Ladies. That’s enough.” Alex began shuffling through the papers on her desk. “Kara, you’re correct. But the paperwork has already been completed.” She tossed a manila envelope at her chest, which the blonde caught effortlessly. “You will personally bring her up to speed on her missing requirements. You have until your date of departure.”

They both turned to her, talking over each other in loud protest, until she finally shoved her hands up into the air between them.

“I said that’s enough! Whatever your issues are, leave them outside of this mission and certainly outside of this office. Lena, if you want to go on this mission, you need to be trained. I’m not sending you somewhere potentially dangerous if you don’t know how to shoot a gun.” A triumphant snort was breathed somewhere in the vicinity of Kara’s face, and Alex turned her attention over. “And you – she’s going to be your responsibility. If anything happens to her, I’m putting it on your head. So train her, or it’ll be hell. Now both of you, get out of my office.”

She sat down, turning to her computer, her demeanor evidently intent on ending the conversation. Kara shook her head and pushed past the chair she’d been sitting in, slamming the manila envelope on the edge of the door frame as she left.

 


 

Lena stepped out behind her, shutting the door. They were left alone in the empty hallway, fluorescent lighting beaming down at them from above. The brunette pursed her cherry red lips and watched the blonde stalk around angrily for a few moments before sighing.

“If you’re done, I’m certain there is a better use for our time than you groaning about rules in this hallway.”

Kara’s grip tightened on the envelope, and Lena watched as she took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She noted with amusement that she appeared to be counting, but lost all sense of humor when the angry blonde stepped into her space – much closer than she’d ever been before. Lena smelled clean soap and worn leather, and the blonde hair curling around her collar did nothing to distract from the strong shoulders beneath the jacket.

“Fine. I have to train you? Then I’ll train you.”

Lena looked at her suspiciously. “And I’m certain that whatever it is you have in mind is strictly per regulation, Agent Danvers.”

“Be on the south lawn at 4:30 tomorrow.” She spun on her heel and stalked off down the hall, muttering to herself. Lena stared after her.

“In the morning..? Agent Danvers! …I’m talking to you!”