Lena and Kara were ‘practising snuggling’. This was such an excellent pursuit, Kara thought blearily. The red of Krypton’s setting sun bathed the room in a warm glow.
Beside her, Lena did a fully body stretch, sighing contentedly, before rolling up onto her elbows. Undeterred by the slightly increased distance, Kara simply turned her head and mouthed happily at the nearest part of Lena she could reach, her left arm.
“I think it’s time for me to talk to Kryptonian Immigration.”
Kara rotated her eyeball up hopefully. Lena was looking down at her with a soft expression few people ever got to see.
Things between them progressed like this, one steady step at a time. But this was most significant. There were some issues that were between Krypton and Lena alone, that only she could deal with. If Lena was ready to take this on now, it meant that everything else was just a matter of time.
With a rustle of clothing, Kara lifted herself onto one elbow. “You are certain?”
Lena gave her a cautious smile. “Yes. I just don’t think it is wise for us to treat this as final before everything else is in place. There are things that can still go wrong.”
Kara nodded slowly. “My father will arrange the conference. Do you wish me to be there?”
“There’s no need. You won’t be allowed in.” Lena leaned in to press her lips gently against Kara’s cheek. “If anything goes wrong, we can get the recording of the conference and mount a challenge. But I’m not too worried.”
The meeting was scheduled for a day when Kara was due to attend a training session on Earth with Supergirl. It was a Wednesday in National City and for once, time was more or less synchronous between there and Argo City. Kara had to go bright and early to have time for her powers to build up before training began. The original plan was for her and Supergirl to have lunch together after training but with the results of this meeting to worry about, Kara would be cancelling the lunch and returning directly to Argo City after training. She hadn’t wanted to go at all, but Lena had persuaded her to. So she hung out at Lena’s apartment, feeling her powers build up and then it was time for Lena to cross over to Krypton for her meeting and time for Kara to go to training. The two of them closed together in an embrace of hope and nervousness before Kara watched Lena walk through the portal.
Kryptonians do not kiss on the mouth except as a prelude to sex or as an integral part of it. Lena had blinked a bit on being told that but hadn’t objected. Between nibbling and nuzzling, they covered a lot of ground anyway and Lena always seemed sufficiently delighted with that.
But this thing with immigration was the last matter that was outside their control. If Lena sorted it out, there would be nothing holding them back anymore because everything else was just logistical. Their bonding would only be a matter of time.
Kara was going to be distracted at training today.
Lena seated herself in a large, stark room in the middle of Argo City.
Greetings were exchanged and introductions made, then Lena said to the panel arrayed before her, “I have been told that in order to be a citizen of Krypton, I must owe my allegiance to Krypton. That is understandable. However I am not a refugee. I have not been mistreated by the regime from which I come. I am simply making the decision that I have a new loyalty to Kara Zor-El. That decision is purely personal, not political.”
She waited for the panel to absorb this. “You are all experienced people. You must know that people do not reject all their old allegiances simply because a new person has come to be important to them.”
“We do understand this,” the head of the panel, Ruva Arl-nor, said. She had a hawk-like face but her expression was neutral. “You are saying that your allegiances will be divided.”
“Yes,” Lena answered simply. “I am content with owing primary allegiance to Krypton. But I will not relinquish my care for Earth. That means two things. First, if Krypton ever plans to something that would have a detrimental effect on Earth, it is not something I can imagine agreeing with.”
“We have no such plans,” Ruva pointed out.
“I realize that you do not intend hostilities,” Lena assured her. “But you may do something in your space program that could have repercussions all the way to Earth, for example. In that event I would protest.” As a long time Star Trek fan, she was thinking of the equivalent of environmental damage in space that might, for example, make space travel impossible. That was just an example, but the principle that something done far away from Earth might result in debris travelling to Earth or climate change on Earth was valid.
Ruva looked at the other panel members, who all had identical surprised expressions. “We had not thought of that,” she admitted. “But it seems reasonable that you would object. Krypton’s policy is not to harm others unless they attack us. Such a protest would not seem unnatural to us. Once an alien becomes a Kryptonian citizen, that alien has the same rights as the rest of us. Citizenship cannot be revoked in the absence of treasonous activity or attempted treasonous activity. So long as you confine yourself to activities that are not treasonous, it will not be lawful for us to revoke your citizenship just because you voice your opposition in one matter or another.”
“Very well, thank you.” Lena wondered idly when lawful protest became sedition in the eyes of Kryptonian law, but that would depend on the circumstances. It was unreasonable to expect an immigration panel to give her guarantees about a future that might never happen.
“What is the second thing?”
“I have been assured that there will be few restrictions on me visiting Earth.”
“That is correct,” one of the other panel members said. “As you say, we are experienced people. We understand that sometimes you will long for what you have always known. We do not wish to visit unnecessary hardship on you. In addition we understand that you are a prominent personage on Earth. For you to disappear entirely would prompt an investigation, a hunt, that may reveal our existence.”
“Thank you. Then I wish to know whether it would be open to me, on the occasional visit to Earth, to promote an advance in Earth science based on what I learn here.” Lena let the tension show in her face, saw them take note of it.
The panel members conferred.
At length, Ruva faced front again. “It is not the policy of Krypton to uplift other species with science and technology that they have not earned through their own abilities. We dare not. We have come close to disaster ourselves so we know that advancement does not always promise wisdom. Advancement without the knowledge to support it is even more dangerous.”
“I was not speaking of importing tremendous advances in their entirety,” Lena explained. “That will not be possible in any case because Kryptonian science and mathematics are fundamentally different from Earth sciences and mathematics...” She had already begun to absorb the Kryptonian basics and knew she needed an intensive adjustment period before she could start productive work with the science guild. But scientific method was the same and Lena was quintessentially a scientist. She was confident that she could do it and the Kryptonians had certainly not voiced any doubts on their part that she could.
“... It is not a simple matter of mere vocabulary. Concepts, principles, the whole approach, are completely different. So I do not intend to import an uplift. What I wish to do is to introduce small developments that would not be unnaturally out of step with the latest developments in human science. After all, I would be called upon to defend them. So it would only be sensible to promote small advances that would be believable and self-explanatory to those learned in that field. In that way, I would not have people on Earth searching for me to provide an explanation.”
She paused. “Would it content you if I were first to obtain consent from at least one member each of the science and military guilds before introducing any such advance on Earth?”
Ruva didn’t even have to consult the others. Heads were already nodding. She smiled. “Thank you. Yes, that would content us. Are there any other issues?”
“No,” Lena replied. “How will this be documented?”
Ruva nodded at one of the panel members who was industriously pecking away at a small panel on the tabletop in front of him. “We are adding a clause to this effect now. As soon as you have reviewed it and agree, it will go on the permanent record that as of this day, Krypton grants you citizenship which will take effect without further ceremony immediately upon the completion of your bonding with Kara Zor-El.”
Before long, Lena was able to read all this on the screen in front of her. “Yes, this is acceptable.”
Ruva smirked. “Well, language is clearly not a problem.” There was a rustle of humour from the rest of the panel.
Lena smiled. “I wish to thank you for your flexibility and the allowances you have made for me. I realize that there is no precedent. Other aliens have become Kryptonian citizens but not through bonding with a Kryptonian. You have devoted special thought to my case and I am grateful.”
Of course, Krypton didn’t want someone with Kara’s status and talent to have to move to Earth and away from Rao. So they had an interest in making whatever reasonable accommodation could be made so that Lena felt able to move to Krypton. But they had already agreed that such a move would not be a complete severance from Earth for her, so the fact they were willing to let her share with Earth what she could was generous. Or maybe they had thought from her expression that this was a deal breaker for her – since Lena intended no harm to come to either Earth or Krypton, she felt no urge to enlighten them otherwise.
She submitted to the biometric scans that would record her consent to the citizenship document, had copies sent to Kara, Jor, Zor and Alura’s personal accounts and accepted an actual hard copy on the plant-fibre parchment that was still used, if rarely, on Krypton. Everyone bowed in acknowledgement of her thanks.
The meeting was over.
Kara was waiting fretfully outside. Lena waved the parchment under her nose. Kara almost snatched it in her hurry to read it.
“This is good!” she said rapidly.
“What’s wrong?” Lena had expected rather more fulsome pleasure.
“There is trouble on Earth.”
Kara explained on the way back to her home. Her training session had been interrupted early because Superman had called Supergirl to tell her that an unidentified spacecraft had appeared in the air over Metropolis. The two women had flown there at once. (Kara trained in her brown wig and black sweats with a tank top underneath so that no one would casually confuse her with Supergirl.)
Upon their arrival, Superman, on his maiden outing on this Earth, had tried a cautious approach to the spacecraft but had been knocked back by a powerful directed wave that did little damage but left him dazed for a while. Military aircraft and missiles were being prepared but everyone was waiting to see what the spacecraft would do next. The possibility that it had no malicious intent still existed since Superman might have been perceived as a threat. But there was visible weaponry on the craft that looked powerful although no one yet knew what it could do.
Hearing this, Lena was ready to go back to Earth.
“Are you willing to wait a little?” Kara asked anxiously. She held up a cellphone. “Supergirl lent this to me so I could ask Kal and Astra if they could identify it.”
Lena nodded silently, biting her lip worriedly. She turned on her cell phone and found Sam Arias’s number. The Sam of this universe had no traumatic memories of Reign but she was otherwise much the same reliable, responsible and eminently trustworthy Sam Lena had known before and they still had the same history of knowing each other before Lena had moved to National City. Right now, Sam was head of finance in Luthercorp Metropolis. She didn’t have much to do with operations or research on a day to day basis but she could be trusted to follow Lena’s instructions to the letter.
“Astra knows of them,” Kara reported a while later. “She says they are pirates. Krypton has not dealt with them before but a species we are in contact with has. That species inhabits a part of space much closer to Earth than Krypton. According to Astra, they sent us pictures of these craft to warn us that they are predatory. The crew could be anyone but they will not have scruples. Astra believes they must want something from Earth and since Earth is not able to pursue them once they leave, they will have no compunction about doing damage to get it. Kal is retrieving what knowledge we have on them, including the craft’s offensive and defensive capabilities, and Astra is going through official channels to get him permission to leave his current duties so that he can join us to travel to Earth. We need only be a little patient. Do not worry, Lena. When I left, J’onn had already been alerted and was on his way, bringing Dreamer and Alex Danvers. Supergirl contacted her friend, the Flash, before giving her phone to me.”
Lena worried anyway.
The three of them came out of the portal into Clark’s apartment and Kara called him. He was there in a trice to let them out so they didn’t have to break any locks. On the way to meeting the others on the rooftop of the Metropolis branch of Luthercorp, Lena called Sam and started talking. By the time they got there, Lena had also called the other division heads in the building and basically told them to do whatever Sam asked them to do.
The spaceship was huge to Lena’s eyes. To a fan of Earth science fiction it looked about three times the size of what she had imagined the Defiant of Star Trek Deep Space Nine might have been, and was an ominous combination of dark purple and gray, with no visible lights. Lena spent a minute gaping at it before the voice on the phone in her ear recalled her attention.
“What’s she doing?” Alex Danvers parked herself next to Kara, nodding at Lena. Supergirl, Superman and the Flash were huddled around Kal as he briefed them on what the Kryptonians knew.
“She is requisitioning communicators for all of us from Luthercorp security.” With the loss of the DEO, the central processing hub for their in-ear communicators was gone. Supergirl hadn’t found them necessary while working mainly with the Flash and his other friends because between the Flash and herself they could always get up close to one another to talk and her superhearing could catch anything said to her from a distance. “I believe she is also giving instructions for the conversion of arc lamps into yellow sun lamps in case any Kryptonians are injured.”
“Okay. So, are you gonna fight too?”
Kara hummed in thought. “Unlike Kal, I have never been trained for tactical maneuvers. I can only defend myself and those with me. If that is sufficient to make me helpful, then I will place myself under Supergirl’s direction. We have agreed that she has the most experience dealing with abnormal threats on this Earth so while she will consult with the others, we will leave the final decisions to her. If she decides that my inexperience will be more hindrance than help, I will assist Lena or with damage control and rescue efforts.”
Alex eyed her curiously. “You’re very calm for someone who hasn’t done anything like this before.”
“Panic would not be helpful to anyone in this situation,” Kara said. “Please secure a hood for Kal. There has been no time to disguise him and Clark will soon have to remove his glasses and change back into being Superman. They will look too alike.”
“One of them should grow a mustache,” Alex muttered, but before Kara had time to reply that Kryptonians did not grow facial hair, she had already disappeared on her errand. She was quick about it, too, and returned in less half an hour with a balaclava from an army surplus store.
Supergirl was feeling the heat. Everyone had decided that she should call the shots. Unlike the people she tried to save everyday, these were people she was going to send into danger. It was a different kind of responsibility altogether. She was not fooled, though. Kal and Kara had ceded her leadership because it was common sense: she had the most familiarity with home ground and the kinds of things they might have to do with their powers. It didn’t mean they would suddenly be convinced by one single triumph, however glorious, that she could be depended on to make sensible decisions all the time. After all, she had been doing things like this with success over the years during which she had also been doing all she had done to Lena. It was a great thing that they were willing to put their lives in her hands but it was also great pressure.
Lena had just distributed communicators to them all from a bag that a Luthercorp security officer had brought up when a bright blue beam of light shone out from the spacecraft. The end of the beam coalesced into an indeterminate hooded figure. From it came a loud, halting mechanical voice that said with no preamble, “We require one ton of erythrite and one ton of plutonium to be delivered to us. If you fail to comply, we will initiate destructive measures. You have one hour.” There was a five second pause then the message was repeated.
Supergirl clenched her teeth as she glared at the figure. Why don’t you go boil your head?
Lena huffed. “That’s an impossible demand in the time given, even if we were inclined to comply with it. We need to communicate with that vessel, otherwise we can’t even buy time.” She presumed the crew of the ship had used the time before announcing their demand to put together enough English to know what to ask for and how to phrase it. It had been clumsy but it had been effective and it had been impressively quick.
Supergirl was still holding her communicator. In her ear was an earbud attached to the phone Kara had given back to her. She had just briefed the President with the news that these were space pirates, who might possibly have as yet unseen support.
On her left Alex had her phone on a news channel, holding it so both of them could see the screen. A somewhat messy evacuation was clogging the roads out of the city.
“The President agrees with you,” Supergirl said wryly to Lena. “No negotiating with terrorists when we’re held to ransom, all that jazz, but we still need to communicate. They have a fighter jet in the air trying all frequencies. Any ideas?”
“Not yet,” Lena shook her head. “Don’t know enough about their tech.”
“Oh, wait. The President’s calling for a strike from the Air Force.”
“But what about ...” Lena watched with the others as a line of white comtrails began streaking in towards the spacecraft. “... the UHF wave? And those jets had better not be carrying nuclear missiles.”
“No, but the ones they are carrying can still do a lot of damage if they hit the city.” Supergirl turned to the others. “Kara, Flash, watch the missiles. If the ship has countermeasures that deflect any of them towards the city, I need you to do your best to bring them to an uninhabited part of the land. Flash can create a vortex that will stop a missile’s momentum and Kara can direct their fall. Don’t send them out to sea or we might get tidal waves. Kal, unlike Kara, you’re not yet fully powered so for the time being, your priority is damage control and rescue.”
The jets split to form a wide circle around the spacecraft.
“Clark!” Supergirl turned to him urgently. “It’s you and me who attack that ship. We hit it when it’s firing at the missiles, damage the weapons and propulsion as best we can at superspeed. Then we can worry about talking to them.”
“The wave ...” Clark reminded.
“I know, but the best chance we have of getting in close to do damage is when they’re distracted with the missiles. I’m not seeing a better opportunity, are you? J’onn, I need you to keep watch on Clark and me. We have to hope they can’t hit us when we’re going at superspeed in erratic directions, but if one of us gets hit we may need you to catch us.”
A new beam of white light shot out from the ship and hit the Daily Planet building. As the top began to disintegrate and fall, Kal whooshed off, running. He re-appeared there high in the air and began to lightly push-punch against the leaning momentum of the falling structure. Lena had never seen that done before. She’d seen the Supers holding up falling structures to give people inside time to evacuate. But Kal had arrived from Krypton a bare hour ago. He might not have heat vision or freeze breath or full strength yet and whatever he was doing seemed to working to at least delay the collapse of the building.
“I can hear the strike command,” Clark said. He was already in his crestless Superman suit, complete with anti-kryptonite shield on his chest. (He had made peace with Lena very quickly after Lois had given him a shelling.)
“Remember the anti-kryptonite shield protects you from certain types of radiation. It may help,” Lena told the Supers. “If it doesn’t affect your effectiveness, there’s no harm deploying it.”
“Okay, thanks! Clark, let’s go, they’re about to hit their firing buttons!”
The Supers were off in a whoosh, Supergirl having given her phone to Alex.
The rest watched as missiles emerged from the jets. They converged on the ship for a second or two but then they veered off course.
“Here we go!” the Flash cried out and he was off. Kara disappeared after him.
Lena was on the phone to the labs below her but she was only waiting to hear the results of the scans being carried from there. She couldn’t see what was happening at the ship itself but she could hear thumps and crumps and the ship began to look a lot less pristine. The Supers must be working very, very fast.
Whitish vortices were forming under one falling missile after another. They slowed and one by one, began to fall more slowly in a different direction, away from the city. Since she didn’t have to push against their original momentum, Kara must be finding it not too difficult to re-direct them. There were too many, though, for even the Flash to have time to create a vortex under every one. As she watched, J’onn appeared and hugged a stray missile, pushing it with all his might. In the next second, Kara was next to him lending her strength. They managed to send it and a couple of others safely away and then Kara flew to replace Kal at the Daily Planet building.
J’onn towed Kal up and up, presumably hoping that the closer to the sun they got, the less atmosphere there was in the way of the sunlight, the faster Kal would charge up.
“Miss Luthor, we have detected an EM wave all around the ship!” The voice of one of her lab guys yammered excitedly in her ear. “It’s not directed, it just seems to surround the whole vessel. Maybe it’s a shield!”
Oh, blessings on Star Trek fans! “Have someone identify the frequency but the first priority is to find its source,” Lena rapped out. “Quick as you can, please!”
There was a bit of a kerfuffle coming through the phone as people in the lab re-arranged themselves, another pause, then, “Miss Luthor, it seems to be coming from the underside, right in the middle!”
“Thank you, good work!” Lena hung up and hit her communicator. “Supergirl, Superman, something in the middle of the underside of the ship is emitting an EM wave that surrounds the ship. Could be defensive. Could be blocking communications. Hell, for all I know, it could be holding the ship together. Whatever it’s meant to be doing, they want it to be there, which seems to me a good enough reason to get rid of it. We want them to listen to us. Hit that and they might.”
“Gotcha,” Supergirl’s voice was so garbled and made high by the speed at which she was travelling that Lena could barely make it out.
The Daily Planet building was crooked but steady now. Kara had melted some of the building materials to make it hold for the moment. The Flash, finished with his vortices, was helping with the evacuation of the building and Lena could just make out Kara doing the same.
There was a change in air. A trail of dust sprinkled down from the underside of the spacecraft. Lena realized that there had been a near undetectable hum emanating from it all this while, which had just stopped.
The ship began to list. J’onn and Kal re-appeared. J’onn was flying fast but he didn’t have superspeed and was promptly hit by the same directed wave that had first hit Clark a couple of hours ago.
Kal was not hit because he was going at superspeed with erratic changes in direction Lena could barely follow. As J’onn reeled away, Kara was there to catch him at a lower altitude and she lowered both of them to the ground. Buildings blocked Lena’s view of them but she imagined Kara fussing to make sure J’onn was okay.
There was a ‘crump’ sound and one part of the ship’s hull that had an odd protrusion on it suddenly caved in. “I have destroyed the wave cannon,” Kal’s voice announced over the communicator.
Relieved, Lena phoned Sam with instructions to get LutherCorp security to make the lobby of the building a temporary triage facility and go out on the streets to redirect any injured to it.
The ship was looking much the worse for wear now. Its weapon platforms were warped and the weapon barrels Lena could see were twisted in a U-shape so their ends pointed back on themselves. The hull was pocked with indentations from super punches. But it wasn’t completely disabled yet. One or two white beams of light were still shooting out of the far side, not at the city, thank goodness, but in an apparent attempt to shoot the three Kryptonians zipping round it.
She could hear Alex jabbering in a high voice by her side but before she could tune her brain to listen to what she was saying, the watching jets fired again. The ones on the side Lena could see sent their missiles into the hull of the ship. There was an ominous rumbling from the ship. Parts of it flared up as missiles struck.
“Get out of there!” Lena shouted into the comms. “It’s going to explode!”
And in the next second the ship disintegrated. Lena waved her hand in Alex’s face to get her attention, grabbed her by the elbow and hauled her off the roof to avoid any falling debris, although the bright whiteness of the explosion indicated that debris larger than dust particles was unlikely.
Alex shoved Supergirl’s phone in her pocket, muttering something about imbeciles, and tapped urgently at her communicator. Lena was doing the same but less than a minute later, Superman and Kal came clattering through the door into the stairwell.
“We’re fine,” Superman said quickly. “Supergirl's staying up there for a while to keep watch in case the ship had backup. How’s everyone else?”
“J’onn sounds a bit dizzy but he’s whole. Kara’s bringing him to the lobby downstairs.”
“That many missiles at once was overkill,” Superman grunted. “The ship’s just powder in the air now.”
“Well, they tried to attack this country and made demands without allowing negotiations,” Lena shrugged. “I can understand why the Air Force wanted to make sure they weren’t a threat any longer, although I wish they had just let you disable it. Did you get any warning at all that they were going to fire again?”
“Yes,” Superman said, “Alex was on the phone with the President and heard her give the order over her protests. She told us before they fired.”
That must have been while Lena had been talking to Sam.
By the time they reached an elevator, Superman was back in civilian garb and Kal had removed his balaclava. Emerging into the lobby, they found controlled chaos as paramedics rushed from one patient to another. It didn’t look terrible though. Most of the injured were sitting up and talking.
Kara and J’onn were sitting beside an obnoxiously large potted plant. It wasn’t long before Barry Allen joined them, also in civilian clothes. When J’onn felt steady again, they all trooped to Clark’s apartment, picking up several boxes of drinks and bags of ice on the way.
Supergirl joined them a while later and Lois Lane came in at dinner time. Well, it was her dinner time. The Kryptonians and the Flash had disposed of a large stack of pizzas by then so for them it was second-dinner time. All of them had used up a tremendous amount of energy. “I think all of you did very well,” Lois complimented them as she took a seat beside Clark on the couch.
“Supergirl directed our efforts effectively,” Kara demurred.
“Thanks, but I’d rather not ever have to do it again.” Slumped on Clark’s other side, Kara Danvers sighed. “Don’t get me wrong. It means so, so much that all of you trusted me to lead but now I’ve done it, it’s just not the kind of responsibility I want.”
“Things like this don’t happen very much,” Lena offered. She and Kara were side by side on dining chairs carried into the lounge area. “And it looks like you both trained Kal and Kara very well. You should be proud of that.”
Kara Danvers smiled at her pensively. Even after the private reconciliation dinner, she had noticed that when Lena looked at her, her eyes would skitter away immediately for several seconds before they returned to train on her properly. She could only imagine that when Lena saw her, an image of James or a dying Lex on Earth-38 superimposed itself over her own face and had to be forced away. It was like the ocular equivalent of a flinch, a traumatic reaction that she herself had caused in someone she had had the gall to call her best friend. She knew that Lena couldn’t help it. But each time it happened, she felt a resurgence of the old guilt. She had beaten herself up about it every time.
But Kelly had advised her that wallowing too much in guilt was no good for her either. And seeing Lena’s involuntary reactions would keep reminding her of it. So she understood why a certain amount of distance between them was good for them both, why there could be no going back to lunches and coffees every day for a long time, if ever. There were just some things you couldn’t expect victims to forget. Some of them quite legitimately wanted never to see the people who had mistreated them ever again, not because of ongoing rancour but just because they didn’t want the reminders. So Kara Danvers counted herself lucky that Lena remained willing just to be in her life at all.
Choking regret had gradually become a bearable gentle melancholy that now seemed to be an inextricable part of her. It slowed her down in a good way. It made her stop and reflect when she began to feel the onset of the sort of panic that made her do rash things. It made her set aside time for the meditation that art provided. It kept her sane, made her steady. It made her try harder to put herself in another person’s shoes. And on raucous game nights she could put it aside for a little while, safe in the knowledge that it would be back when the tumult and the shouting died and the captains and the kings departed. Because Kara Danvers wanted to have and to keep a humble and a contrite heart and she did not want to forget.
But now Lena was smiling at her and the ocular twitch had not happened. A sense of peace stole over Kara Danvers. There would always be a wistful regret, a shade of guilt and apology, whenever she interacted with Lena. But Lena was a friend again and Kara Danvers decided that she was fortunate after all.
Lena wanted to appoint Sam Arias as CEO of LuthorCorp in her place so she immediately began grooming her for the job instead of dumping it on her as she had done on their previous Earth. She hired Sam a couple of executive assistants and included them in the training programme.
The world would be told at first that Lena was on sabbatical. In time, when people grew confident that LuthorCorp could continue perfectly well without a Luthor present, there would be an unobtrusive announcement that she would not return to an executive role but had formally retired to pursue personal interests.
Lena didn’t want to divest herself of all her assets: some of them she had inherited, but some of them she had earned. She would continue to be a substantial shareholder of Luthercorp. An occasional appearance at shareholders’ meetings would go a long way towards allaying suspicions about her giving up a relatively high profile career and she could avoid many such meetings if she voted by proxy. She also took on the title of consultant to Luthercorp’s R&D so she would have a role that enabled her to introduce the improvements to science and tech she had discussed with Kryptonian immigration.
Lena told Sam in confidence about Krypton and arranged a periodic mail pick up in the spare room of Sam's house in Metropolis, timed always to be on weekdays when Sam’s daughter, Ruby, could be expected to be away at school or out with friends. Lena would use Sam’s executive assistant as proxy for most shareholder meetings, depositing the necessary documents in good time at the mail drop to be discreetly hand delivered by Sam.
She kept her apartment in National City as a standard portal destination and made Sam signatory to an account with the funds to pay a housekeeping service to maintain it.
Finally her ducks were in a row.
“Lena, what is this?”
Mystified, Kara looked over the new and strange machine Lena had lugged through the portal to Krypton.
“Let’s get it to your home and I’ll tell you.” Lena’s eyes gleamed in anticipation. There was a feverish excited determination in her Kara had not seen before. She began to be excited too.
Once they got to the El house, Zor and Alura too stared at the new equipment dumped unceremoniously on the floor.
For once, Lena was nervous. “I need to talk to Kara in private. Then I’ll explain this. If that is all right with all of you.”
“We can talk in my room,” Kara herself was twitching now too. She dragged Lena and her wheelie suitcase off before her parents could say anything.
In Kara’s room, Lena took her hand. “Kara, everything’s in place. I’m ready to be bound with you,” she said plainly.
Kara gasped. Tears formed. “I am so happy,” she cried. “It is all I have wanted for so long now!”
“I’m sorry I made you wait,” Lena said wretchedly. The Els already felt like family and she realized how much time and mental energy she must have unconsciously invested in them to make her feel that one and half years was enough, and more than enough, to be certain. But certain she was. She just felt a little bad to have taken so much longer than Kara had to be certain, no matter what Alura had said.
“No, no, I do not care about that,” Kara wept. “I am so happy!”
It was ridiculous.
It was wonderful.
“I thought ... we have not ... we have not been as intimate physically as I know you are used to. I thought you would wish to wait until after you knew with certainty that I would not be unsatisfactory ...”
After the spaceship incident, Kara hadn’t dared to try anything in bed with Lena on Earth while she had superpowers. Lena had had to stay on Earth to get Luthercorp Metropolis back on an even keel after the excitement of the day and to train Sam and put everything in place for her move to Krypton. So since then, Kara had gone for regular visits and her quota of nibbling + nuzzling + snuggling, but Lena hadn’t had time to come back to Krypton until now.
“I have no doubt at all that you will be satisfactory. In fact,” Lena gave her most devilish smirk, “I think you will be as wonderful at that as you are in other ways.”
She liked the fact that Kara, though as private an individual as Lena was herself, was not squeamish about discussing sex like an adult. It made things so much easier. She had been able to feel the tide of attraction between them strengthening with each new thing, bad or good, they learned about each other. What others might have termed weaknesses in each of them only inspired protectiveness in the other, not dislike. For Lena, discovering someone else’s weaknesses gave rise to indulgent toleration at best, or more often the preservation of distance or increased distrust. So the fact it was different with Kara was to her a pretty unmistakeable indication that this was right for her, Kara was right for her: Kara, with her quirks and her humour and her generous, sweet temper; Kara who, starting with no more than a mere prediction from the Matrix that she and a total stranger, an alien, might have a successful union, had defended her fiercely and dedicated a seemingly endless fount of understanding, patience and kindness to her. Another Kryptonian might have been daunted, might have ignored the alien name on his/her list, or put no more than token effort into meeting Lena. Kara was uprightness personified without being a tedious prig. To Lena, who still doubted her own moral compass sometimes, this was reassuring.
The smirk left her face almost as soon as it appeared. She had to be earnest now. “You are all that I could want in a lifelong partner.” She reached out and took hold of Kara’s upper arms. “In the bizarre and unlikely event that we do not find each other totally satisfactory in the bedroom, well, here’s the thing: I will still be happier with you than alone or with anyone else. That to me, counts for everything.”
And that was true. Neither of them was ruled by her animal appetites. Kara was just making allowance for the weight humans seemed to attribute to sex in their spousal relationships. But this was Krypton and she was Kryptonian. So long as they loved each other more than anyone else and their chief priority remained each other, Kara would be happy.
It was, Lena had decided, a very sane approach, not that she was anticipating needing to test it. There was more than enough attraction between them for her to be sure they would be able to give each other pleasure. Once attraction was there, it normally only required a bit of consideration and generosity to be a good lover. They regularly drove each other slightly crazy during their ‘nibbling + nuzzling’ sessions: if those already made them happier than any full-on sex either had ever had, well ... Lena was as certain as she could be that they would be taking to bedsports together with a hey nonny, nonny and a cha cha cha!
Kara melted into her arms and full of relief and joy, they stayed in a full-body embrace for an uncounted time.
Eventually Lena became aware that Kara was ‘practising nuzzling’. She nosed back against Kara’s hair and then her ear. She nibbled at it. Kara emitted a tiny, gorgeous sound of happy arousal that inspired Lena to try a lick, then a tentative suck. Kara groaned and pressed closer, her hands moving restlessly and more boldly than ever before.
Oh, yeah. Sex was not going to be problem. Lena could feel her own breath coming harder and faster, her heartrate rising.
But she remembered they couldn’t indulge right now. If they actually kissed, there would be no end to it for hours and they would probably do end up doing delightfully unholy things in bed until the next morning. “Your parents,” she murmured.
Very reluctantly, very slowly, Kara peeled herself away. “I believe you are correct that this will not be difficult,” she croaked solemnly, very pink and shy. She was experiencing a strong urge to spend days exploring Lena and having Lena explore her. Kryptonian women had more erogenous patches inside them than human women did. She was almost overcome with an insane need she had never felt before for Lena to conduct a very detailed and thorough tactile inspection indeed – and that could happen tonight!!! The thought made her cling on to Lena to maintain her balance.
Lena chuckled softly, not knowing Kara’s exact train of thought but quite accurately guessing the general direction in which it was heading and sympathizing deeply. “Ready to go and tell them? We should freshen up first.” Kryptonians did not use make up so Lena never came to Krypton with it. But they definitely had to tidy their clothing and wash their faces.
“Oh! There is one more thing ...” Kara was finally steady enough on her feet to duck away.
Zor and Alura knew the instant the two younger women re-appeared before them with excited smiles. If those hadn’t clued them in, the matching bracelets they were holding in their hands would have.
“You are to be bonded!” Alura exclaimed, clasping her hands together joyfully.
“Yes! Lena accepts and she is ready.” Kara could barely keep still.
Zor looked at Lena with very bright eyes. “Do you like the bracelets? We made the pair for Kara when she emerged from the genesis chamber but we do not wish you both to feel you have no choice in them.”
“They’re lovely,” Lena assured him. They were too. Nth metal bands the colour of platinum, they each carried a slightly different pattern of tiny gems surrounding the sigil of the House of El. They weren’t showy but they were distinctive. “I will be honoured when the time comes to wear mine. I want to thank both of you for having been so kind and welcoming to me.”
“None of it was forced,” Alura told her. “We truly enjoy your company and are happy that we may anticipate more of it.”
“And see what Lena has given me in earnest of our bonding!” Kara held out her hand to show her parents a ring with an inset pale blue jewel the exact shade of her eyes. In the light, it seemed to glow, almost to breathe. Alura took the hand and admired it as Zor hung over her shoulder to stare at it, mesmerized by its faceted gleaming. They said nothing but they didn’t have to: the looks on their faces were enough to satisfy Lena of their approval.
Finally Zor shook himself out of his trance and stepped back. He smiled at Lena. “Our felicitations are as much for us as for both of you.”
He really was a smooth talker, Lena thought, suppressing a hysterical giggle.
Then Zor coughed. “But now I am eaten up with curiosity about this.” He gestured at the machine Lena had brought.
“Oh, yes. It’s a generator for yellow sun radiation,” Lena explained. “I thought I should do something for Krypton if I’m to live here. It’s meant to bathe a room in radiation that duplicates the spectrum Earth receives. It’s adjustable so I can get some Earth sunlight if I want but at a stronger intensity, a Kryptonian would after half a morning’s exposure experience the full range of powers and can expect to maintain them outside the room for perhaps a third of that time, depending on exertion. Without an actual yellow sun to replenish the energy constantly, gaining the powers passively will always take a lot longer than actively using them up. I thought that the military could train a corps of soldiers in the tactical deployment of such powers for the limited periods that they will have them.”
The Els stared at her in awe. Lena had been so concerned about Krypton invading Earth in the beginning that the last thing they expected was for her to provide Krypton with something that would increase their military potential.
“We should consult with Astra in private first,” Zor found his voice at last. “But provisionally, I think you should make the gift in a ceremony before the whole Council after you and Kara are bonded, not before. Astra will be able to suggest ideas for tactical use that you can incorporate into your gift-giving speech to the Council.”
“I should explain,” Lena said apologetically, “that there is a built-in limitation. The radiation is real and the powers will be real but there is a tiny part of the Earth spectrum missing and a little something added. It’s not harmful to any of you, but it means that if a Kryptonian charges himself up with this and portals to anywhere with a yellow sun, like Earth, he’ll find that he won’t arrive charged up. This machine will give Kryptonians short-term powers to enable them to defend an environment without a yellow sun. If they want to be aggressors in a yellow sun environment, they will have to go uncharged and slowly build up their powers like you do when you visit Earth.”
Zor waved that off. “That is an understandable precaution for an Earther. I am very content with it as it is. As will the Council be. It is not like anything we already have. The invulnerability alone that it can confer will be an inestimable advantage to our soldiers.”
He turned a benevolent gaze on her. “It was not necessary for you to do this, but the fact that you did will bring even the most reluctant doubter to see that you are a boon to us. It also protects you. I assume that you have made it as difficult as you can to reverse engineer?”
Lena gave him a slow, sly smile. He was right. In addition, there were a couple of minerals on Earth that were not found on Krypton and they were an essential part of the generator mechanism.
Zor gave a bark of laughter.
“Actually,” Lena said, “I can also make yellow sun grenades for specific missions if they should be necessary. I just haven’t done it yet, and I won’t unless the individual soldiers designated for such a mission swear on their honour not to use them on Earth, even if they are given orders to the contrary.”
“Definitely the science guild,” Alura shook her head. “The military might want you but that is not your mindset. I advise you not to accept any offer they might make to you.”
“Never fear,” Lena chuckled. “I have very little tolerance for following orders.”
Then she hesitated. “Can I just ask for one thing? It’s not a condition, just a request.”
The Els nodded vigorously like a team of Noddys.
“Can you try your very best to see that Kara Danvers gets the opportunity to visit Krypton? I don’t want you to be anything but true to yourselves, mind. I just ...” she paused, trying to find a way to express herself without guilting the Els.
“I understand,” Kara said. “She knows we visit you but she does not yet know that you have been here. She may suspect it but she does not ask because, I believe, she fears the answer will bring her pain. For that reason neither you nor I have volunteered the knowledge of your visits to her. She will know, however, if you come to live on Krypton. For you to do that while she is forever denied would be cruel. You are not cruel and neither are we. I promised to re-assess the situation with her an Earth year after she moved to her new home. That year is not yet up but as you know, Kal and I have been going to train with her and Clark on Earth regularly.”
Supergirl was a much more peaceful and confident person these days. She enjoyed her nice little house with Eliza nearby. The house had a back porch that no one could see from the front or from any of the neighbouring properties, spaced out as they were in an unfashionable but decent suburb. Her freelance career was going strong and Clark, true to his prediction, was starting his new careers as both farmer and Superman while Lois wrote her articles in an office in the farmhouse and submitted her work by email, attending staff meetings mostly by video-conference. With Lex and Lillian Luthor no longer in the picture, the Supers and their alien and meta-human friends were dealing capably with anything requiring superhero intervention on Earth.
So Kara was entirely truthful when she said, “We believe now that our reputations will be safe if they visit. I will discuss this with Kal. If he agrees, we will not wait the full year before representing to the full family in council that they should be invited to Krypton. When they come, we can discuss their admission to the House.”
“Thank you.” Lena was relieved.
“The family council will include you,” Kara pointed out, “in anticipation of our bonding. When we are bonded you will automatically join our House officially because you have no House on Krypton.” She blinked as the thought occurred to her. “Of all things, we have omitted to discuss that with you. Will it be a difficulty?”
“No,” Lena said. “I will be glad to have the protection of a House and the sense of belonging it imparts.”
“Then you will be known as Lena Luthor of the House of El,” Kara murmured dreamily, gazing into the middle distance as she envisaged the phrase.
“Really? I keep my surname?”
“There is no precedent for humans,” Alura explained as Kara was still off in la-la land. “In fact there is no convention for women who are bonded to women. The woman from the lesser House joins the House of greater status but often, instead of changing her name, she keeps it, only changing the House insignia attached to it on formal documents. It is a matter of personal preference.”
“If I may be so bold,” Zor inserted, “I like the name Luthor. It is not a name encountered on Krypton. Here it will be unique and you have already distinguished it. I should be proud to have it associated with the name of El. I would prefer not to see it lost. But it is your decision. We will support whichever choice you make.”
“Then Lena Luthor of the House of El it is,” Lena smiled.
“I like, no, I love the sound of it,” Kara said happily, coming out of dreamland. She beamed as she rested the side of her head against Lena’s. And Lena? ... She loved the sound of it too.
When Lena left Earth permanently for Krypton, she was able to feel that her personal accounts on Earth had been squared away and that there would be no bitterness in her if she ever had to return to Earth to live for some reason.
Krypton had no tradition of a bride being ‘given away’. They would have considered it barbaric. So Lena’s anticipation of her bonding was unmarred by the feeling that she would be missing out on an essential rite of passage.
Kara Danvers attended the bonding ceremony of Lena Luthor and Kara Zor-El on Krypton, weeping silently with an equal mix of regret and joy. It was cathartic for her. She was here on her second visit to Krypton and able to see sights she had missed for so long, feel the atmosphere nowhere on Earth had ever been able to duplicate and be NORMAL and without responsibility. She got closure and the knowledge that she had not done so much harm as to prevent Lena from ever being happy again.
She had by then been admitted to the House of El and had elected that her formal name there be Kara Zor-El Danvers of the House of El. Jor and Zor had told her and Clark that if they wished to live on Krypton, the Els would find a way to make it happen. It was a fairly open-ended offer, Jor said. At the moment it was unconditional. But they should be aware that if they delayed their decision too long, they would be taking the risk that circumstances beyond anyone’s control might make it impossible for the offer to remain open. Also, coming to reside on Krypton meant exactly that. It would be a commitment. They would have to work on Krypton. So while they would have access to Earth with relatively few restrictions, there could be no commuting to Earth for a daily fix of superheroing.
Clark was allowed to bring Lois to Krypton to visit. Lois and Lena quite liked each other, but unlike Lena, Lois found it would not be easy for her to adapt. Her work did not translate so smoothly as Lena’s to working on Krypton. The press was not an industry of its own there. Each guild and each city had a number of public information officers who were responsible for the release of news. They argued a lot amongst themselves before deciding on the final release of anything controversial. But no one took the view that the public was entitled to know everything. Matters like public hysteria and safety and privacy were taken into consideration. It was far from a perfect system, but even Lois had to admit that Earth’s was just as imperfect. And the whole reason Krypton was still around was that at the critical time, the public information officers of the science guild had insisted as one that the public should know about the danger to Krypton. Faced with that impending disclosure, the Council had not delayed in re-directing the resources necessary to save Krypton so that the public information release would be able to include reference to those measures to stave off panic. On Earth, Lois knew, the public information officers might well have been quietly disposed off. The thought had never even occurred to the Kryptonian Council and public information officers were as well respected as anyone. So Krypton had its own checks and balances. But it didn’t have roving reporters who could report on anything they liked. All adults had to belong to a guild and there wasn’t one she felt she slotted into easily.
Clark too found himself unable to fit into Kryptonian society and didn’t think he would ever find the language natural. He was too human in sensibility and too Earth-centric to make the adaptation comfortably. So he and Lois and their son stayed on Earth but via Lena’s mail pick-up, the Els were invited to Jonathan’s birthday celebrations and other family events of note and they always sent at least one representative, usually Lena, Zor or Alura because they were the most fluent in English: Kara and Kal were too likely to confuse Jonathan. So no one was likely to forget that Jonathan Kent was a scion of the House of El. He would be told about Krypton when he was old enough and responsible enough for his parents to feel he could be trusted with the knowledge.
Kara Danvers had different concerns entirely. She would have had no trouble assimilating. Krypton could offer her an ordinary life without the responsibility of being a superhero. It might be easier for her to find a lover there. But her Matrix list would match her counterpart’s. If she wanted to be bonded with a life partner with whom she could lawfully have children, she would have to choose from whoever was still single on that list. On Earth, her choices were limited differently, by her powers and the necessity of having a secret identity, but she was otherwise free to marry and have children. (If her partner turned out to be female, she could petition for a special exception to be made for her to use the genesis chambers on Krypton. Whether permission would be granted would be circumstantial but no one was saying a hard no at present.)
To work on Krypton, she would have to catch up on a lot of Kryptonian science. On Earth she was comfortable with her work-life balance. Freelance journalism was interesting and other fields of endeavour were open to her if she ever got tired of writing the news. She was used to her powers and superheroing. She had Eliza and Alex and the prospect of a new nephew from Africa. She had Nia, J’onn, Clark and Barry and her other friends. So in the end, after much soulsearching, she chose to stay on Earth. If the pain of seeing Lena with her counterpart around all the time on Krypton played any part in her decision, she never spoke of it and not even Alex dared to ask. She was happy with her family and friends on Earth, happy with game nights and karaoke and sister nights and happier with herself than she had ever been now that her life was less charged and stressful. She had a full life with plenty of affection in it that she was fully grateful for. She was becoming equipped with the independence, maturity and wisdom to make better choices if she wanted a romantic partner. Whether or not all of that was worth the regrets ... well, that’s a purely subjective personal decision, isn’t it?
The Supers continued to wear crestless suits as superheroes on Earth but they wore the crest on Krypton. They both came to feel that the crestless suits were a salutary reminder that they were fallible and should not fall back into smug complacency about their moral superiority over anyone else. Now they knew that the Krypton of this universe was there, the loss of their own home world no longer weighed on them with the same heaviness as before. With people around to whom they felt accountable but who weren’t on their backs every day, they had a sense of security that they would never be totally unchecked while still feeling independent. They bore themselves less like the tragic heroes of their own romantic imaginings and more aptly like the less dramatic but no less real everyday heroes who peopled both worlds.
Lena joined the science guild and loved the work. She did not often work with Kara as they had different specializations but it was probably just as well that they were not surfeited with each other’s company. Within her first few years she would improve the safety and efficiency of the space elevator that brought Kryptonians up to their space docks and to the nearest moon and refine the power generation capability of Harun El to power the city domes as a supplementary failsafe to their main power generation mode. Her yellow sun generator and grenades helped the Kryptonian military defend an outpost when it was attacked by another species. Eventually she would be the first alien to be principal advisor to a Council member when Kara took her seat on the Council.
They moved into a home adjacent to Kara’s parents. Lena briefly checked in on her mail drop in Sam’s house once every few days. Wigs were an easy and effective disguise when, once every Earth month or so, Kara and Lena portalled over to Metropolis or National City for a few hours to buy food or download movies, music, news or publicized debates that interested one or both of them. She went to visit with Sam and Ruby (who knew her as eccentric aunt Lena with a penchant for reclusiveness who lived somewhere on Earth) and had the occasional coffee with Kelly and Andrea. She and Kara also sometimes accepted invitations from Kara Danvers, delivered to Sam for deposit at Lena’s mail pick up point, for meals or birthday or festival get-togethers. Lena always felt a little unsure if it caused Kara Danvers pain to see her, but she thought it would be more hurtful if she stayed away altogether, so they accepted on average one out every two invitations and invited her and Clark’s little family to Krypton several times each Kryptonian year. Only them though. It was too sensitive politically to invite non-Kryptonians from Earth (Lois excepted as Clark’s wife) and honestly, Lena was glad the choice was out of her hands because she didn’t want to have to say she didn’t wish to invite any of the others. She was at peace with them but seeing them occasionally on Earth for a few short amicable hours here and there was good enough for her. A small cadre of Earth enthusiasts developed and revolved around her on Krypton and even learned English so they could enjoy the downloads Kara and Lena brought back. (The movies presented to the councillors on Lena's first visit had been a great success and the councillors had lent them to friends or invited them over for the experience. The cadre had begun from there.)
Eventually Kara Danvers was able to go to Kelly and tell her that Alex had been through more than a year of counselling and was still going regularly, fulfilled state requirements to foster a child, was still doing a couple of hours of volunteer work a week with one charity or another, not necessarily Luthorcorp ones, and was willing to jump through any other hoops necessary for Kelly to feel like she could at least meet her for a coffee so they could achieve a less acrimonious closure. Kelly sighed but went for that coffee. She would be glad of her own forbearance because Alex with her head on straight and without the DEO was decidedly good company.
The action suit J’onn had given Alex rarely saw use because the charity work showed Alex so many other ways to do good. She was improving as a private investigator and though she wore the forearm attachment all the time, only touched the button to deploy the suit when the work became dangerous. She did not go out looking for trouble like a vigilante with itchy feet because, besides the fact she was preparing to adopt a child, her sister had told her that if she got into trouble that way, Supergirl would pull her out and then never speak to her again because if her ego meant more to her than her family, then perhaps she shouldn’t have family. It was tough love but it was effective because it carried the message that Alex was good enough without the action hero part of her previous life. It would take time and one failed relationship with another woman before Kelly stopped being wary but Alex fought for her and didn’t give up. They would marry six years after Kelly had stormed out of Alex’s apartment and Alex would get to foster her former child soldier.
After some (okay, a lot of) begging and pleading from Kara, Lena brought over a couple of pups, a Groenendael she named Finn and a sable-and-white rough collie Kara named Riva. Both dogs not very patiently endured the necessary quarantine and medical procedures to ensure they were safe immigrants to Krypton. Like Lena, they needed Vitamin D supplements but otherwise maintained good health. When they had a choice, they tended to seek Lena out. This caused a bit of moaning from Kara and her parents but Lena figured that the dogs had some part of their hindbrain telling them that she was somehow more ‘like’ them than the Kryptonians were. It wasn’t necessarily that great a benefit anyway since Finn for some reason liked to lie with his stomach on her head, which made her leery of reclining on the ground or letting him up on the furniture, and Riva was sometimes a literal gasbag at night and had to be banished to the balcony.
Lena took her brother’s teleportation watch with her to Krypton so there remained no way for anyone on Earth to initiate communications with Krypton other than her mail pick-up until she devised a signal beacon using the same principles as the portal - materials unobtainable on Earth were not required if no matter was transported on the carrier signal. She gave the alarm button to Supergirl and the receiver to her own wife.
At the close of this narrative, the continuing existence of Krypton continues to be unknown to the wider population of Earth.
Lena was right. She and Kara never had the least trouble in the bedroom.
THE REAL AND ABSOLUTE END