Chapter 1: Sold Is Such An Ugly Word
Lena sat by the window reading her father’s favorite book for the fourth time. Or at least she had assumed it was his favorite. Everything had been guesswork with Lionel Luthor. Everything he had been as a king he had also been as a father. Aloof, manipulative, amoral, hard to please, and all around difficult. Lena thought perhaps this was his favorite book, because it was always sitting on his desk in the study, a place marked between the pages.
So the morning of her father’s funeral, she snuck into his study and swiped the book from his desk. It had been left exactly where she knew it’d be, a place marked near the end. Good thing she thought to grab it then. Because as soon as the funeral had ended, and her father’s body had been taken away to be lain in the crypt beside his father and his father before him, Lillian had ordered Lena to her room and hadn’t let her out since.
That was six days ago.
She was well cared for still. Her handmaid was still at her beck and call. They brought her a delicious meal three times a day. Drew a bath for her every night.
But the door to her chambers were locked, and two guards posted outside it. Lena had yelled and screamed and cried when she’d realized she was now a prisoner in her own home. She had cried for days, cursed her mother’s name, called out to her brother for help. Only to be met with silence. She soon grew too tired for it.
And so Lena read. She read her father’s favorite book cover to cover, to pass the time. Trying to figure out why he had loved it. If he had loved it. Lena wasn’t really certain he had ever loved anything.
At last, in the early evening of the sixth day, the door to her chambers was unbolted and her handmaid hurried in. Lena barely looked up from her place by the window, expecting dinner, though it was a bit early.
Jess stood so long without saying anything, Lena finally had to look up and acknowledge her.
“Yes, Jess, what is it?”
Lena was surprised to see Jess didn’t have any food. She closed the book and set it aside.
“I’m sorry, Princess, but your mother has requested your presence at dinner tonight. She sent me to dress you.”
Lena scrambled to her feet, eyes wide in surprise, and daring to hope.
“I can go out? She’s letting me out?”
Jess was staring at the floor, but she lifts her eyes slightly.
“Yes, Your Highness, down to dinner with your brother.”
Lena reaches forward, grabbing Jess by the arms, starling the poor girl.
“Lex is here? You saw him?” Lena’s excitement is quickly overcome by her confusion. “Why hasn’t he...come to let me out? Why hasn’t he asked for me?”
Jess refuses to look at her, eyes firmly on the floor. Her voice is so small when she speaks.
“The prince- I mean, His Majesty, has been here. He...He never left, Princess.”
Lena’s face falls as realization finally dawns on her.
No. No. No. No. No!
Lena had assumed that Lex had gone away after the funeral to grieve. She had assumed that’s when Lillian had taken control and locked Lena up. She had assumed that’s why Lex hadn’t come to her when she’d cried out for him. Why he hadn’t had her released. She has assumed her brother wouldn’t stand for this. Wouldn’t let Lillian treat her like this. But now...she realized how wrong she’d been. Lex knew. He knew and he didn’t care.
I am completely alone. Lena realized.
Jess must have seen the anguish on Lena’s face. She pulled gently from Lena’s grip and wrapped her arm around the princess, rubbing her back.
“I’m sorry, Your Highness, but...we need to get you dressed.”
Lena nodded, thankful for Jess’s arm practically holding her up as she tried not to cry.
She allowed herself to be led over to the wardrobe where Jess helped her get ready for dinner.
Walking through the halls of this castle felt terribly strange now. Had it always been so empty, so quiet and gray? Had the guards always felt like bullies at her back? Lena had grown up here. Had lived her whole life here. And the castle had never been particularly warm, but it had been her home. She and Lex ran through these halls, memorizing every nook and cranny. But now as she followed the guards down the hall towards the dining hall, the place felt strangely unfamiliar, twisted. A nightmare realm.
She entered the dining room and there they were. Her family, or what little was left of it, already seated. Lex was at the head of the table, where their father use to sit. Lillian sat to his right. They were both expressionless as they looked up at her.
The guards followed in after her, closing the doors firmly behind them. Lena just stood there, staring at her brother and mother. This was her chance. Her moment to scream and shout while they could actually hear her. She had planned to. Planned to ask them what the fuck they thought they were doing. What the fuck was going on? Why she was being treated like a prisoner in her own house?
But standing there now, watching as Lex looks right through her, and Lillian’s mouth twitches with the faint hint of a cruel smile. Lena can’t bring herself to say a word. Because it’s clear to her now that something is happening that’s out of her control. It’s clear that her father’s death has made way for something terrible and that screaming and shouting and begging will do absolutely nothing to change it. This is her mother’s doing, and Lena fears what Lillian might do to her if provoked.
Finally, Lillian stands up calmly and speaks.
“Come, Lena. Sit with us, we have much to discuss."
Lillian’s voice sounds completely normal. Like it’s any other day. Lena can’t move. She’s suddenly petrified of her own family.
Lena must stand still for too long, one of the guards behind her, nudges her forward gently. It’s enough to get her moving. Lena tries to steel her expression, tries to straighten her back, and look composed. Because that’s what her father would do. Even if he were beaten, he wouldn't let it show.
She wordlessly takes the seat that’s been set up for her on Lex’s left, staring down at the empty place in front of her. She can feel Lillian’s eyes on her, and she refuses to squirm, refuses to give Lillian the satisfaction of seeing how scared she is.
“Excellent.” Lillian says, gesturing to one of the servant to bring out the food.
Lena spares a glance at Lex who refuses to look at her.
What’s wrong with you? She wants to ask him. Why are you acting this way?
Though Lena had certainly admired her father and craved his attention and approval, she’s not sure she had ever loved him. He was far too distant for that. Her brother was a different story. Lena loved her brother. In fact, Lex was the only person she had ever really felt close to. The only one she thought might understand her. And he loved her back...didn’t he? She had certainly thought so. Until now. Because now her brother’s face was blank, heavy bruises under his eyes from lack of sleep, and just a frightening emptiness to his expression.
Was he even alive in there?
The servants brought out their meal; Lena’s favorite, lamb and vegetables. But Lena couldn’t bare the thought of eating. It seemed an impossible task. Lena simply pushed the food around her plate. Lillian and Lex ate as if nothing was wrong, as if everything wasn’t wrong right now.
Nearly halfway through dinner, Lena couldn’t take it anymore. This was silence was torture. She took a deep breath, steadied herself, and spoke as calmly and clearly as she could.
“Would either of you care to explain why I’ve been locked away since father’s funeral?”
Lex goes absolutely still, ceasing all movement mid-chew, and glances in Lillian’s direction. Lillian arches her eyebrow as if she’s surprised at the question. She puts down her fork and wiped her mouth, glancing from Lex to Lena before speaking.
“Well, darling, that’s what we brought you down to talk about.”
Lex resumes chewing slowly, looking back down at his plate. Lena glances between them both, struggling to rein in her anger and fear.
“Let’s talk about it then.” She demands.
Lillian leans back in her chair, resting her hands in her lap and looking steadily at Lena.
“Lena, you are aware of the situation your father left us in, aren’t you?”
Lena’s brow furrows in confusion, so Lillian continues.
“Your father’s wars have left the kingdom reeling, darling. We’re out of money, out of soldiers, and the people are out of patience. They are all looking to Lex to lead them out of this darkness and into a new age.”
“Alright…” Lena probes cautiously.
Lex has stopped eating, pushing his plate away and leaning back in his chair, hands in fists.
“In order to do that, Lena, in order to right your father’s wrongs and put this kingdom back in order, your brother needs money. Money to pay your father’s debts and rebuild. A lot of money.”
“What does this have to do with me, Lex?” Lena asks finally addressing her brother directly. She leans forward to take his hand. “Why are you acting like this?” He jerks away from her touch violently. He stands so abruptly that his chair topples over behind him. He turns his back to the table and clasps his hands behind his back.
“Go ahead, Lex.” Lillian says with a strange smile “Tell your sister what has to be done.”
Lena looks from Lillian’s smile to Lex’s back. He doesn’t turn around when he speaks.
“In order to get the funds I need to take care of our people, I...I had to sell some things.”
Lena’s heart begins to beat faster.
“I sold off some of the border lands. I sold off some of the heirlooms. And...after being offered more than I asked for...I sold you, Lena.”
Lena stops breathing. Her heart, her lungs, her brain stops working. And for a moment she’s sure her ears stopped working properly too. Because her brother wouldn’t sell her. That couldn’t have been what he said. Couldn’t have been what he meant. Because no matter how fucking insane this entire week of her life had been Lena was still certain that this must all be a big misunderstanding brought on by her father’s death and her mother’s manipulation. Because Lex, the only person in the entire world she was certain gave a shit about her, would not sell her off like some whore.
Lillian clears her throat, bringing Lena back into the horror of this moment. Her heart starts beating again, too quickly actually, and her breaths are too fast, too shallow.
“Lex, darling, don’t be so dramatic. Sold is such an ugly word.” Lillian is saying. “She’s your sister, not a pack mule.” Lex sighs and his shoulders sag, but he doesn’t say anymore.
Lillian leans forward reaching across the table as if to offer comfort, but Lena flinches away from her touch, fixing her mother with a truly withering glare. Lillian sighs, looking disappointed in Lena’s rejection.
“Lena, what your brother means to say is...We’ve arranged for you to be married. Which is customary for a girl your age. In fact, I’m not really sure why your father didn’t do this years ago.”
Lena clears her throat, which has grown rough from all the tears she’s holding back.
Lillian nods, watching Lena closely.
“Yes. After your father’s death I advised your brother to put an offer out there and someone has accepted.”
Lena nods, feeling herself grow colder, fading out of herself.
This isn’t happening.
Lena knew that her kingdom and especially her family weren’t well regarded among the surrounding kingdoms. In fact, her father’s reign was filled with betrayals and misdeeds. Lots of wars and feuds. The Luthor name had many enemies. Lena shuddered to think who would want to marry her and why.
“Kal-El of Krypton.”
That gets Lena's attention, her eyes snap up to scrutinize Lillian.
“What?” She studies her mother’s smug expression. “You’re joking.”
Krypton was known for its self-righteous progressiveness. They were a very proud, and very scholarly people. Lena’s father had hated them because they have refused to do business for generation. Lionel had always assured Lena that Kryptonians thought they were better than everyone else, especially the Luthors. A war had never been fought between the two kingdoms, simply because Krypton’s military had always been superior and they refused to engage. Of all the surrounding kingdoms, why would they want a Luthor princess marrying their son?
Lillian shook her head.
“We were just as surprised as you are. But they offered your brother a very generous bride price in exchange for your hand in marriage.”
Lena had heard enough. She stands up slamming her fists on the table in frustration. Lex flinches at the sound, but doesn’t turn to face her.
“Have you not stopped to wonder why they would do that? It makes no sense! They hate us! Lex, brother, please don’t do this. Stop this now. Father wouldn’t want this.” Tears begin to flow as she begs to her brother’s back. Her shoulders shake with rage and her nails cut into her palms.
God, why won’t he just look at me?
“Lex, please, don’t let her do this to me! Don’t let her tear us apart.”
Lillian stands up and smooths her hand over her dress. Speaking over Lena, she beckons to the guards to take her away.
“Don’t do this, brother! Please!” The guards seize her by the arms just as Lex finally turns around to face her. His expression is no longer void. He looks pained and ragged, but not at all torn. Tears brim in his eyes, but his voice is steady when he speaks.
“It’s already done, Lena. I’m sorry.”
Lena is speechless as the guards usher her away and back to her room.
That’s where Lena really falls apart.
She cries and she screams. She rips the curtains from the windows, tosses the tables over, yanks the pictures off the wall. Lena rages until she’s exhausted. Rages until she falls asleep.
She is woken in the middle of the night by someone softly running fingers through her hair.
It’s Lillian. Lena doesn’t have the energy to be surprised. It hurts her throat to speak, so she softly whispers.
“What are you doing here?”
Lillian is quiet for a long moment, just continues playing with Lena’s long raven hair.
“I came to check on you.”
Lena closes her eyes, a fresh wave of tears threatening to rise up.
“Why?” she croaks. “You hate me, don’t you? That’s why you’ve arranged all this, right? Because you hate me? You’ve always hated me?”
Lillian wasn’t really Lena’s mother. Everyone knew that. Lena was Lionel’s mistake. His transgression. His beautiful bastard daughter. Lena’s real mother had left her on his doorstep and fled. Lillian had been gracious enough to allow her husband’s bastard to stay and live in her house, play with her son, call her mother. But the truth of Lena’s blood had always been there flowing between them like a raging river. Lillian had been hard on Lena since she was a little girl. Lena was never good enough. Never pretty enough. Never smart or proper enough. Always an embarrassment. Always a disappointment. Always a burden. Lillian may have allowed Lena the name, but she never ever let her forget she wasn’t a true born Luthor.
Lillian’s face doesn’t change at all.
“Yes. I suppose, I have.” she says almost sadly, sighing deeply. “But believe it or not, I’m not doing this to hurt you, Lena. I’m doing this for your brother. For our kingdom, our people. We all have to make sacrifices, you know. Lex has to sacrifice you. And you have to sacrifice your life here with us. For the greater good, darling.”
Lena glares at her.
“And what about you, Mother ?” Lena spits the word at her. “What are you sacrificing?”
Lillian smiles a little, stroking Lena’s face.
“Always such a clever girl.” she gets up from the bed and starts to leave. “Your new husband will be arriving tomorrow to retrieve you. You should pack whatever you’d like to take first thing in the morning.”
Just as Lillian is about to go, Lena sits up.
“Wait!” Lillian halts with her hand on the door and turns back to Lena. Lena hesitates to ask the question. “Do you think they want to kill me? The Kryptonians, I mean.”
Lillian thinks it over for a moment, then shrugs in the darkness.
“I honestly don’t know. But if so, that seems like a terrible waste of money.”
In a strange way, Lena actually does find this comforting.
“Night, Mother.” Lena says, her voice turning to ice.
Chapter 2: This is Your Chance to Be a Hero
The Kryptonians arrive
The next morning Lena wakes and discovers none of it was a dream.
Her father is dead.
Her brother is a coward.
And her so-called mother is a manipulative cunt.
Everything is wrong.
Lena had spent the majority of the night drifting out of nightmares and into the despair of her thoughts. She considered trying to escape. Contemplated suicide briefly. Went through many theories as to what the Kryptonians would do with her.
A small part of her wondered if perhaps she was being dramatic.
After all the Kryptonians weren’t known to be a cruel people. Unlike their neighboring Daxam they had outlawed slavery long ago. Which confused Lena considering they had agreed to buy her.
None of this made any sense. And while she spent the morning packing she tried to comfort herself with theories and explanations. Tried to find solace in logic. But none of that mattered, because by the end of the day, she would be at the mercy of strangers, headed to a strange land. She would probably never see her brother again.
Jess helped her pack and dress for the journey. Then they just sat together staring out the window waiting for horses to appear at the gate. Lena looked over once and saw that Jess was crying quietly to herself. The sight surprised her. Jess had been working here in the castle for years, first in the kitchen, then as Lena’s handmaid. But they had never been particularly close. Certainly friendly, but not quite friends. Lillian always discouraged being too fond of the servants. Lena did suppose though, that after seeing someone everyday for years at a time, taking care of them, sitting quietly with them, a certain attachment was unavoidable.
Lena reaches over and carefully places her hand over Jess’s, she squeezes gently, and offers the smallest of smiles. The other girl seems embarrassed. She quickly wipes the tears from her face.
“I’m sorry, Princess. I just…” Jess shakes her head “I’m just so sorry this is happening to you.”
“Shhhh.” Lena scoots closer, wrapping her arm around the other girl as she continues to cry quietly. Lena is all out of tears for now, but this is nice. Knowing that someone cares.
At just past midday, they spot riders coming over the hill. Jess pulls away composing herself.
Sniffling a bit, Jess says “I do hope they’ll be good to you, Your Highness.”
Before Lena can muster a response, there is a firm knock at the door. A guard sent to escort her downstairs.
The guard and Jess, carry Lena's two crates of luggage. It’s not much really. One case for her clothes another for her books. She leaves everything else behind.
Lex and Lillian are waiting for her and their guests in the courtyard.
Lena takes her place beside Lillian, composing her face into something unreadable.
Lillian studies her anyway, as if trying to find one last thing to criticize about her hair or her outfit. She must find nothing out of place, because finally she faces forward again and says
“I’m told Kal-El is quite handsome. Be grateful you’re getting a young attractive husband.”
Lena scoffs, her fingernails digging into her palms as she struggles not to lash out.
Lillian shakes her head in disapproval of Lena’s unladylike noise.
“Honestly, Lena, I know men aren’t your... preference, ” Lillian’s face twists in disgust, and Lena rolls her eyes “But at least he won’t be some past his prime pig twice your age.”
“Am I meant to say thank you, Mother?” Lena sneers, “Oh, yay, a handsome captor is all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Enough! Both of you.” Lex barks, sighing deeply. “Let’s just get through this.”
Lena shakes her head. “I can’t get through this, Lex. This is my life now.”
He meets her eyes briefly, his jaw tense and his gaze hard, before shaking his head and turning away.
Seven riders enter the courtyard, followed by a carriage. Lena is surprised to see that the lead rider is a woman, finely dressed in armor and trousers.
The young woman rides with confidence, her long blonde waves falling heavily over her shoulders. Her cloak is embroidered with the crest of the House of El. A sword on her hip. Lena is immediately transfixed.
The riding party pulls right up to the front steps and halts. The blonde woman dismounts first, swinging gracefully down from her horse, and the rest of the riders follow after her. Stable boys rush forward to take their horses.
Lena’s eyes turn to the carriage expecting the prince to emerge at any moment, but no one steps forward to open the door and no one steps out.
Instead, the beautiful blonde woman bounds up the steps two at a time, until she standing before what remains of the Luthor household. Her wonderfully blue eyes land on Lena and look her over not too subtly, before turning to Lex and bowing slightly.
Lena can’t take her eyes off the blonde, but she can definitely imagine the offended look on her brother’s face.
“Your Majesties.” The woman says, nodding at Lex and Lillian. Her eyes dart back to Lena. “Your Highness.” She bows to Lena specifically this time, more fully, her hair slipping forward to shield her face.
The rest of the riders come to stand behind her, all bowing briefly.
“And who might you be?” Lillian asks, barely disguising her distaste, as her eyes rove over the Kryptonians.
The blonde stands out of her bow, dragging her eyes up Lena as she does. After a lingering look in Lena’s eyes, she turns her gaze to Lillian and Lex, clasping her hands behind her back.
“Forgive me. I am Princess Kara Zor-El of Krypton. I’ve come to retrieve Princess Lena and escort her back home to Argo.”
Lex looks even less pleased than Lillian as the woman speaks.
“You’re a princess of Krypton?” Lex doesn’t even try to disguise his outrage.
Lena watches Kara control her expression even as her hands curl into fists.
“Where is your prince?” Lillian asks “We were told to expect Kal-El.”
The Kryptonian princess forces a smile.
“My cousin sends his deepest apologies, but he is occupied at Court at the moment. He hoped to lessen the insult by sending someone of equal caliber to meet with you.”
“Equal caliber?” Lex mumbles skeptically.
Lillian ignores him.
“Very well, this is my daughter...” Lillian gestures to Lena rather unceremoniously. “Princess Lena Luthor. We do hope she’s to your cousin’s liking.”
Lena shoots a glare in her mother direction, before being distracted by Kara stepping directly in front of her.
“Hello, Princess.” Kara says softly. Lena quickly remembers her manners, and gives the woman her best curtsy. The Kryptonian’s dark blue eyes bore into Lena’s as she does.
“Your Highness.” Lena almost whispers.
Lillian must not like the way they’re staring at each other, because she does her best to draw attention away from Lena.
“You and your men must be tired after such a long journey. We’ve had our kitchen prepare a meal.”
The mention of food finally draws the blonde’s focus from Lena. She gives Lillian and Lex a genuine smile this time.
“That is very kind. Thank you.”
Lillian nods, no doubt proud of herself for seeming kind.
“And of course, if you’d like to stay a night or two and rest, we have plenty of accommodations.”
Lex looks at Lillian sharply, as if this wasn’t something they’d discussed, but he doesn’t have to worry long.
“Thank you, Your Majesty, but we need to be heading back to Krypton today.” Kara glances at Lena, a strange expression on her face. “My cousin is eager to meet his new bride.”
Lena's fascination with the blonde is quickly overtaken by disgust at her words. Lena's skin crawls.
“Of course.” Lillian nods graciously, beckoning the Kryptonians forward. “In that case, we’ll get you all fed and send you on your way.”
They escort the Kryptonians into the grand dining room and Lillian has lunch served. No one seems eager to speak.
Kara’s royal guards are seated at a separate table. Kara, a large Knight she introduced as Ser James, and a short young man called Lord Schott all sit among the Luthors.
They all eat in uncomfortable silence for most of the meal. The Kryptonians eat ravenously, though not messily. Lex and Lillian pick at their food, and Lena doesn’t bother to eat at all. Kara seems to notice this, finally breaking the silence.
“Not hungry, Princess?” Kara asks gently. She gestures to Lena's untouched food. “I’m sorry to say the food we’ll be eating on our journey back to Argo will not be as enjoyable as this.” She offers Lena a small smile, that twists Lena’s empty stomach in a not entirely unpleasant way. Lena tries to ignore whatever that feeling is, pointedly pushing her plate away.
“I haven’t had much appetite lately.”
That earns her a sharp look from Lillian. Kara’s smile falters, something like pity flashing in her blue eyes. Lillian seems to notice and quickly tries to reassure the Kryptonian.
“Just nerves, I’m sure. Right, Lena, dear? So many big changes lately.”
Lena says nothing. Kara is still staring at her with concern, basically ignoring Lillian. Lex speaks for the first time since they sat down, finally forcing Kara’s attention from Lena.
“Tell me more about your kingdom, Kara Zor-El.” Lex prompts curiously. “Our peoples have been estranged for so long, Krypton is something of a mystery to me.” This peaks Lena’s interest as well.
“Yes, Princess.” Lena says “It’s like you’re from another world.”
Kara’s blue eyes glance between the Luthor siblings as she takes a drink of her wine.
“Of course, what would you like to know?”
Lex folds his hands on the table and leans forward with interest.
“You have more than one sitting monarch at a time?”
Kara nods, before explaining further.
“Yes, for the last few hundred years, Krypton has been ruled by three royal families at a time.”
“Seems like overkill.” Lillian chuckles, taking a sip of her wine.
“Yes.” Lex brow furrows “Does that not cause unnecessary conflict? How do you ever get anything done if you have to constantly convince two other parties?”
“Well, I suppose, we’ve found that the conflict is necessary in order to make the best decision.”
Lex laughs at the prospect. It’s the first time Lena’s heard him laugh since their father died. She thinks it doesn’t sound the same.
“How do you mean?” He asks Kara. Kara leans forward, her eyes glance between all the Luthors.
“It’s all about balance, Your Majesty.” She says with conviction. “No one person or family is allowed too much power in Krypton. It’s a safeguard against tyranny.”
Lex doesn’t look at all convinced, sitting back in his chair.
“And this works?” Lena finds herself asking. Kara’s eyes turn sharply to her, and Lena can’t seem to look away. “This pleases the people?” Kara nods slowly.
“So far? Yes, it seems to. We’ve had no civil wars since the system was implemented. It’s been hundreds of years of peace.” Kara tells her proudly.
“Fascinating.” Lena replies, finally breaking their eye contact and sipping from her wine.
“Very.” Lillian says curtly from behind her wine glass.
Lex sits up again, studying Kara closely.
“And, Princess, I’m curious, do all women in Krypton dress up like men? Or are you granted royal privilege?”
Lillian almost chokes on her wine, shocked at Lex’s rudeness.
“Lex!” she scolds him, angrily.
The blonde visibly tenses at Lex’s question, but doesn’t look very offended.
“It’s alright, Your Majesty, not a completely unjustified question.” Kara clears her throat. “All women in Krypton are welcome to dress however they like. The men too, for that matter.”
None of the Luthors can hide their surprise, looking nervously at one another. Kara chuckles.
“In Krypton’s cities you’ll find that most women wear trousers like me. In more remote areas near our borders, especially closer to Daxam, many still chose to wear dresses. It’s all personal choice.”
Lex shakes his head. Lena can’t tell if it’s just in disbelief or also in disapproval.
“And you carry a sword as well? Despite the fact, you have a bodyguard?” Lex gestures to Ser James. Ser James and Lord Schott have remained quiet during the entire meal, and they don’t look to keen to join the conversation now.
Ser James looks up from his nearly empty plate, and straightens in his chair now that he’s under scrutiny.
“Oh, Your Majesty, I’m not her bodyguard.” he says with an amused smile “I’m here as her friend.”
Lex’s face twists in confusion and also something close to alarm.
“Trust me.” Ser James continues “Kara is more than capable of taking care of herself.”
Kara smiles and tries not to laugh at the look on Lex’s face. Lena finds herself fighting a smile as well.
“Combat training is a very common practice for Kryptonian women.” Lord Schott asserts, drawing Lex and Lillian’s gaze. The young man seems to regret speaking as soon as he finds all the Luthors’ eyes on him. He stutters. “They also help make up our armies.”
Lex’s eyes go comically wide.
“You’re joking!” Lex can’t contain his shock. Lillian rests a hand on his forearm to calm him.
“It’s true.” Kara says, firmly, clearly growing tired of Lex’s close-mindedness.
“That’s why your armies are so large.” Lena concludes. Lex glares at her, annoyed she’d point out Krypton’s superior military.
Kara, however, seems pleased. She smiles at Lena and nods.
Lena quickly glances away, but continues to smile at her brother’s clear discomfort.
The table falls into tense silence and soon Kara pushes her chair back and stands.
“Thank you so much for your hospitality, Your Majesties. It is greatly appreciated, but I think we’ve already taken up too much of your time. We really should be on our way.”
Back in the front courtyard, Kara has two of her guards unload a rather large chest from the back of the carriage. The Kryptonians hand it off to two of the Luthor guards. Kara gestures to the chest.
“And here is the agreed upon…” She hesitates, glancing at Lena “payment. You’re welcome to count it.”
Lena doesn’t return the Kryptonian princess’s gaze. For all of the blonde’s charm and the interesting customs of her kingdom, the chest full of treasure is a stark reminded of exactly what this is. Of exactly what Lena is to these people. Property to be bought and sold.
Staring at the chest, makes Lena want to crawl inside it. Makes her want to become just as valuable to her family as what’s in there now.
How is this more important? She wonders. How is this more important than the lifetime she and Lex spent consoling each other in the shadow of manipulative cold parents?
Lena doesn’t understand. Doesn’t think she’ll ever really understand this.
The urge to cry rises up in her sudden and sharp.
God, is this really happening?
Lena slows her breathing and tries not to blink, staving off this fresh wave of panic and sorrow. She wishes the Kryptonian girl weren’t watching her so closely, concern clear in her expression. Lena’s not sure she can remain composed under such scrutiny.
“That won’t be necessary.” Lillian says, in response to Kara’s previous statement. She gestures for the guards to take the chest away. Lex has returned to looking rigid and uncomfortable. Hands behind his back, chin held high, eyes forward. He looked like a king now, though a reluctant one.
“Well then…” Kara says, rocking awkwardly on her heels. “I’ll give you a moment to say your goodbyes.” She steps away respectfully. She goes over and checks to make sure her horse is saddled correctly as the rest of the Kryptonians mount up.
Lena turns to her mother, expecting nothing.
Lillian smiles tightly at her, her eyes searching Lena’s face for something.
“I think, we’ve said all we need to, don’t you, dear?” Lillian says, pleasantly. Lena can only glare at her. She gives Lillian all of her anger and none of her sorrow.
She steps over to face Lex, who to his credit does look sad to see her go.
“Brother?” Lena says, unable to keep a pleading note from her voice.
This is your chance, Lex. She thinks. This is your chance to be a hero.
He squares his shoulders and meets her eyes. Lena sees something settle in the green of his eyes. She knows it’s over before he speaks.
“Goodbye, Lena.” he says calmly.
Lena nods slowly, turning away just as a single tear escapes her.
Get it together, Lena! You’re on your own now.
She quickly makes her way down the steps to the carriage without looking back. Kara is there waiting to help her with a infuriatingly sympathetic expression. Lena ignores the pity on the blonde’s face and the helping hand she offers. Lena climbs into the carriage defiantly. Kara closes the door behind her.
Lena watches from the window as Kara bows to the remaining Luthors and mounts up.
The carriage jerks into motion and they're off.
It’s not until she hears the castle gates close behind them, well away from Lillian and Lex, that Lena curls in on herself, lays down in the seat and cries her eyes out.
She can hear Kara’s strong voice outside the carriage saying
“Come on, boys. Let’s get her home.”
Chapter 3: Maybe Squirrel Isn’t So Bad
Lena must have cried herself to sleep, because next thing she knows the carriage is still and it’s dark outside. She sits up and stretches, her sides and chest noticeably sore from sobbing. Outside she can see the glow of a fire and hear laughter and conversation. Lena wipes at her eyes and tries to smooth out her dress. She knows she must look terrible after the crying and the sleeping and the traveling. She finds herself briefly wishing she had a mirror before remembering that she shouldn’t give a damn what these people think of her.
Lena opens the door to the carriage and places one foot on the ground. She doesn’t anticipate how soft the earth is, so her shoe sinks down into the dirt causing her to tumble out of the carriage and right into strong Kryptonian arms.
“Easy there, Princess! I’ve got you.” Kara says cradling Lena against her chest and pulling her the rest of the way out of the carriage.
Lena is momentarily distracted by the taut muscles of Kara’s shoulders and the woodsy smell of her blonde hair. So distracted, in fact, that she allows Kara to hold her for entirely too long before squirming against the Kryptonian’s embrace.
“Put me down!” Lena demands, pushing Kara away angrily.
Kara puts her down carefully on her feet, but keeps one hand on Lena’s arm to steady her. Lena shakes her off, putting some distance between them.
“Don’t touch me.” Lena hears herself say, holding a hand out to ward Kara off. Something close to hurt crosses Kara’s face. She lifts her hands palms out and takes a single step back.
“Alright, I’m sorry.” Kara’s voice is gentle. Lena’s heartbeat slows and she lowers her hand, realizing she may have overreacted a bit.
“No, I...I’m sorry. I just…You frightened me.” Lena apologizes, feeling silly. Kara shakes her head.
“It’s alright. I understand.”
Lena narrows her eyes at the blonde.
How could you possibly understand? She doesn’t say.
Instead, Lena glances around, taking in their surroundings. Looks like they’ve made camp just off the main road. Several tents have been set up in a circle around a rather large fire. The rest of the Kryptonians are behind Kara sitting around the fire eating from a cauldron. They’ve all stopped and turned to stare at her and Kara.
Lena wraps her arms around herself. She can’t help the fear that creeps up the back of her neck. She’s never been surrounded by so many strange men before. Not without her father or her brother or at least some Luthor guardsmen.
Kara seems to sense Lena’s discomfort.
“We set up a tent for you.” she says tilting her head. “Let me show you.” Kara offers her hand, making Lena unconsciously flinch. Kara winces and frowns. “Sorry.” She says withdrawing her hand. “This way.” Kara gestures Lena forward instead.
Lena follows Kara to the largest of the tents and slips inside when Kara holds open the flap for her. Lena hadn’t realized she was cold until she feels the warmth of the tent. She uncrosses her arms, wringing her hands instead.
It’s nothing fancy. Just her two luggage crates and a bed with a small table beside it. A large torch by the entrance and a single candle by the bed give off soft fire light. Lena quickly moves over to stand by the bed as far away from Kara as possible.
“I hope this will be alright for a few nights.” Kara is saying, standing awkwardly, rubbing at the back of her neck.
Lena says nothing, walking over to the crate with all her clothes.
Kara clears her throat. “You can get changed and...settled.”
Lena just watches as Kara bows slightly, before exiting the tent. Lena can’t help but smile to herself a little.
What a strange girl.
Lena quickly changes into a sleep gown, just barely getting it on before Kara is back. The Kryptonian freezes in the entryway, halfway in the tent and turns bright red as Lena quickly pulls the gown into place.
“I’m-I’m so-sorry.” she stammers, looking pointedly away from Lena. “I should have knocked or shouted or something. I should have done something.”
Lena feels her own face heat up, as she smooths the gown out nervously and goes to sit on the makeshift bed.
Kara steps the rest of the way into the tent, slowly walking over to Lena and offering her a bowl of stew.
“I thought you might be hungry. You didn’t eat before we left.”
Lena eyes the food halfheartedly. It doesn’t smell bad and Lena can feel hunger gnawing at her stomach, but the idea of eating is still pretty unappealing.
“Thank you, Your Highness.” Lena says taking the bowl and holding it in her lap. Kara immediately takes two steps back, for which Lena is grateful.
“You don’t have to...call me that.” Kara says awkwardly.
“What?” Lena looks up at her curiously. Kara is rocking on her heels again, hands clasped in front of her.
“Your Highness or princess or any of that. You can just call me Kara.”
Lena studies her closely. Kara is a tall girl at least while wearing her riding boots. She carries herself confidently in her trousers and armor, her hand rests easily on the hilt of the sword on her side. Her blonde waves shift and sway over her shoulders and across her face as she rocks restlessly. Her blue eyes glance around the tent as if she’s trying not to stare at Lena.
“You don’t have to be afraid.” Kara says after a moment, jolting Lena from her inquiry.
“I don’t?” Lena asks skeptically, meeting her eyes. Kara frowns and steps forward. She kneels just in front of Lena so they’re on the same level.
“I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. I promise.”
A crinkle forms between the girl’s eyebrows and her head tilts along with her frown. Lena is surprised by her sincerity, by the seriousness of her tone. Lena doesn’t know what to say. Doesn’t know whether to believe her.
Kara doesn’t press her. She just stands up with a sigh.
“I’m in the tent to your right. A guard will be by the fire all night. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.” She walks over and pulls the flap back before adding “Try to sleep, Your Highness. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then she ducks out, leaving Lena alone.
“Goodnight, Kara.” Lena whispers to the empty tent.
Lena doesn’t remember falling asleep.
After Kara left her tent, she reluctantly tasted the stew and quickly discovered she was ravenous, finishing the bowl. Then she had laid down and listened to the sounds of the soldiers talking outside. She couldn’t quite make out their conversations, but the murmur of the voices mingled with the sounds of the countryside. Every once in awhile they would erupt in laughter and Lena would startle, before catching the distinct feminine laugh among the uproar; Princess Kara.
What sort of princess sat around the fire joking with guardsmen? Lena had wondered. What sort of princess wore armor and a sword and didn’t care to be called Princess?
Eventually, the conversation outside had died down as the Kryptonians drifted off to bed. Lena guessed, in the quiet darkness of her tent, exhaustion finally caught up to her.
Now as she is prodded awake by the sounds of activity outside, she glances around in sleepy confusion. For a moment she is alarmed because she doesn’t immediately recognize her surroundings, before the memories of yesterday rush back to her.
Oh, yes. I’m a prisoner. How could I have forgotten?
Lena gets out of bed and quickly changes out of her sleep gown. She takes the time to brush out her hair and hurriedly wrestle it into a side braid. It didn’t look nearly as neat as when Jess did it for her, but it would have to do. Lena assumes she’d only be tucked away inside the carriage all day anyway.
Lena paces the length of her tent anxiously, wondering if the Kryptonian princess would come retrieve her soon or if perhaps she was expected to venture outside herself or if she were even allowed outside by herself. So far she had been treated well, like an honored guest rather than a captive. But Lena remained reluctant to think the best of the situation. She couldn’t help but think of the chest full of wealth her family had received in exchange for her and the way Kara had spoken about Kal-El's eagerness to meet her. It still made Lena blood boil and her skin crawl. The idea of this foreign man she’d never met, sending for her the way Lena would send Jess to the kitchen to fetch food.
At last, Lena couldn’t stand to wait anymore. Despite having eaten all of the stew last night, her stomach cramped with hunger. And the longer she was left alone with her thoughts the darker they became.
Lena cautiously poked her head out of the tent, glancing around. She was surprised to find that there wasn’t a guard stationed right outside. Stepping out of the tent entirely Lena was startled to see that the majority of the camp had been torn down already. Hers was the only tent left standing. The Kryptonians hurried about packing and loading preparing to continue their journey, even though it was just now dawn. The morning sun was just peeking halfway over the horizon.
“Good morning, Your Highness!” Lord Schott approached her slowly, a friendly smile on the young man’s face. Lena eyes him warily.
“Hello, Lord Schott.”
The young lord couldn’t have been much older than Lena herself, and he didn’t carry himself like a lord. In fact, he seemed a bit self-conscious, gesturing with his hands nervously as he spoke. It reminded Lena of the way Kara had behaved in the tent last night, nervous and awkward. Perhaps it was a Kryptonian thing. Though unlike the princess, Lord Schott didn’t carry a sword and he didn’t wear any armor. He was a small fellow, not really built for fighting.
What sort of kingdom was she entering? Where princesses were warriors and lords were weaklings? A rather interesting one she supposed.
“I hope you slept well, Princess. I don’t imagine you’re use to camping much.” Lord Schott was saying. When Lena said nothing he held out a bowl toward her that she hadn’t even noticed he was holding. “I saved you some breakfast.”
Lena carefully took the bowl from him, which was filled with bread and some yellowy brown mush that may have been eggs.
“You have to be quick about food around this lot.” he tells her gesturing around at the guardsmen, with a smile.
Lena does her best to return his smile, dipping her head in gratitude for the food.
“Thank you, My Lord. It was very kind of you.”
Lena glances around awkwardly looking for somewhere to sit and eat. What little camp there was last night has been packed up. She briefly considers going back into her tent to eat, just before she watches two of the guardsmen go in to begin packing and dismantling it now that Lena is awake.
Lord Schott gestures over to several logs that have been set up around the fire, which has since been put out.
“Come. Sit.” He says kindly. Lena does has he suggests and situates herself on a tree stump uncomfortably. He sits down across from her, giving her plenty of space, for which she is grateful. Lena starts in on the food. It doesn’t taste as bad as it looks.
“Lord Schott,” Lena says after a few bites “where is Princess Kara?” Lena has found herself looking around for the blonde Kryptonian in vain.
“Please, Princess, you can call me Winn. Lord Schott was my father.”
Lena’s brows furrows in confusion, but she doesn’t question it.
“Kara and James rode into a village not far from here early this morning to get some supplies.”
Lena eyes widen in alarm. The princess had promised to protect her then instantly ridden off and left her alone with all these soldiers.
Winn must read the distress on her face. He leans forward as if to touch her before thinking better of it. He offers a reassuring smile instead.
“She asked me to look after you, when you woke up. But don’t worry, she’ll be back soon.”
He looks genuine enough, relaxing Lena enough to resume her meal. She can feel him eyeing her sadly.
“I imagine this is difficult for you to believe, but no one here would hurt you, Princess. These are all good men. And besides, Kara wouldn’t let them.”
Lena scoffs skeptically, startling Winn.
“Why? So I’m in pristine condition for her cousin? That’s lovely.”
A pained expression settled on Winn’s face, and he presses his mouth into a thin line.
“Besides, she can’t control what happens when she’s not around, Lord Schott.” Lena concludes coldly.
Winn bites his lip choosing his next words carefully.
“I can understand your anger, Princess. But I promise, soon you’ll find your circumstances aren’t quite as dreary as they appear right now.”
Lena sets aside her empty bowl and leans forward preparing to ask what he means, before their attention is drawn to the sound of horses approaching.
Lena turns to see Kara, Ser James, and another guard riding towards them, their horses weighed down with supplies.
Winn stands and steps away from her before Lena can question him further.
Several guards step forward as Kara dismounts, they take her horse and the supplies as Kara strides over to Lena and Winn.
Lena tries to ignore how golden and brilliant Kara’s hair looks in the morning sunlight, and the way her stomach flutters when the girl greets her with a bright smile.
“Good morning, Princess.” Kara nods to Lena rather than bowing, so Lena simply nods in return. “Have you eaten?” Kara asks when greeted with Lena’s silence.
“Yes.” Lena says quietly, avoiding Kara’s gaze, and shifting uncomfortably. “Lord Schott has been keeping me company.”
.“Yes, I didn’t want you to be alone while I was away.” Kara turns her gaze to Winn, who smiles shyly and nods. “Thank you, Winn.”
“Anytime.” Winn replies brightly, bowing slightly to Lena.
“Well then, Princess, if you’re ready, I'm eager to get back on the road.” Kara says with a sigh.
Lena only nods her agreement.
Kara claps her hands to get the whole camps attention, raising her voice into a strong command.
“Let’s move out!”
All the guardsmen that were milling about finish up their tasks and prepare to mount up. Kara turns back to Lena. Instead of offering her arm or reaching for her this time, Kara simply gestures grandly towards the carriage, never entering Lena’s personal space.
Lena feels herself relax. The princess at least seemed to be making an effort to make Lena feel comfortable and safe. Lena knew Kara’s kindness meant very little given what she may face in Krypton, but still in this moment Lena found herself very grateful that the blonde was respecting her boundaries.
They traveled all day and on into dusk. Finally breaching the borders of Lena’s new home: Krypton. Once inside the safety of her own land Kara decides they can settle for the night.
This time Lena allows Kara to help her out of the carriage. Lena briefly clasps Kara’s hand in hers, and immediately drops it once both her feet are firmly on the ground. Kara doesn’t comment, but a sympathetic look crosses her face.
It’ll take some time for the Kryptonians to set up camp and prepare a meal. So Lena walks around the campsite several times, happy to stretch her legs after being cooped up in the carriage all day.
Lena isn’t kept under strict guard. In fact, no one seems to be particularly assigned to watch her. All the men bow slightly as she passes them, keeping a respectful distance. She isn’t being treated like a prisoner which she was both grateful for and perplexed by.
Were the Kryptonians so self-righteous that they couldn’t bare to treat Lena like exactly what she was? Their prince’s whore? Lena wondered bitterly.
Though perhaps Winn had been right when he’d spoken to her that morning. Maybe their was more to the situation that she understood.
One of the guards came to politely inform her that her tent was set up. But Lena jumps at the sound of his voice, taking a few frighten steps away from him.
Kara bounds up, having noticed Lena’s alarm, and pats the guard's shoulder to dismiss him. He bows slightly, glancing apologetically at Lena before leaving.
“Would you like to eat by the fire tonight?” Kara asks gently.
Lena looks over Kara’s shoulder where the men have begun distributing bowls of food from the cauldron. They laugh and shove at one another good-naturedly. Kara must sense Lena’s hesitation.
“It’s colder out tonight and we’re further north.” Kara says as Lena wraps her arms around herself “Come eat by the fire. That and the stew will warm you up before bed.”
Lena rolls her eyes, relenting.
They’ve been nothing but kind so far. She reminds herself.
“Very well.” she says, gesturing for Kara to lead the way. The blonde’s face lights up with a toothy smile, and Lena finds herself smiling back.
Are all Kryptonians this easy to please?
Kara leads her over and all the men part to make way for them. Kara hands Lena a gloriously warm bowl of stew that smells delicious and has Lena sit down next to Winn. He smiles and scoots to allow Lena plenty of room on the log they’ll be sharing.
“Nice of you join us, Your Highness.” He says eating a big spoonful.
“Thank you, Lord Schott.”
“You seem to enjoy the formalities.” He points out.
Lena nods. “Yes, they help keep things...professional.” Lena tells him taking a bit of her stew.
Lena suppresses a moan at how warm and hearty it is. Nothing like what she usually ate back at home, but still very good for roadside food. She squeaks in surprise as Kara drapes something over her shoulders. It’s Kara’s cloak, red and thick, embroidered with the sigil of the House of El. Lena pulls it closer around herself, grateful for the warm.
“You look cold.” Kara explains, taking a seat next to Lena and digging into her food. Lena can smell Kara on the cloak, the same woodsy earthy smell as her hair. She blushes as she catches herself watching the blonde. Kara eats hungrily and without posh, adorably stuffing her face.
“You’re a strange sort of princess.” Lena says not unkindly. Kara turns looking Lena up and down with a shrug.
“No stranger than you are to me.” She sounds amused. Lena rolls her eyes.
“How far are we from your home? Argo, right? Krypton’s capital?” Kara nods.
“Yes. That’s where the royal families live. We’ll be there by the end of the day tomorrow.”
Lena takes another dainty spoonful of stew, and Kara smiles at her.
“Don’t worry, Princess, you won’t have to dine like this much longer.”
Lena shrugs and wipes at her mouth.
“I don’t mind it. The stew is very good, actually.”
Winn laughs beside her, startling Lena a bit.
“It should be.” He says “It’s stag tonight instead of squirrel.” Lena can’t help that her nose crinkles up in disgust.
“Squirrel?” She asks, clutching her bowl protectively, as if someone might sneak up and try to put squirrel in her food.
“That’s what was in the stew last night.” Kara says, stifling a laugh. Lena’s eyes go wide in horror as she glances from Kara to Winn in disbelief.
“You’re messing with me.” She says hopefully. Kara does laugh then, shaking her head. It's a beautiful contagious sound.
“I’m afraid not, Highness.”
The appalled look on Lena’s face makes Winn cackle.
“Did you like it?” Winn asks her.
Lena stutters, “I-I was really hungry.”
Winn and Kara both laugh harder, even a few of the surrounding guardsmen, who have grown quiet in Lena’s presence, snicker and smile.
“I suppose maybe squirrel isn’t so bad.” Lena concludes, going back to eating her stew.
“You may find that true about alot of things that seem unpleasant, Princess.” Ser James speaks directly to Lena for the first time from his place on Kara’s other side. Everyone goes quiet waiting for Lena's reaction to his weighted words. Lena tenses and stops chewing for a moment before composing herself. Kara shoots Ser James a warning look.
After a moment of painfully awkward silence, Lena manages to respond.
“I certainly hope you’re right, Ser.” Lena says calmly. Ser James avoids her gaze, seeming to regret his comment. Lena sets aside her empty bowl and stands. “I think, I’ll retire for the night.”
“Goodnight, Your Highness.” All the guards mumble awkwardly around their food. Kara stands as well.
“I’ll escort you.”
Of course, Lena doesn’t need an escort, her tent is only ten steps away, but she doesn’t protest as Kara follows after her.
Just like the night before, Kara holds open the tent flap for Lena and follows her inside.
“I’m sorry about James.” She blurts immediately. “He didn’t mean any harm really.”
Lena sits down on the makeshift bed and begins removing her boots.
“Tell me about him.” Lena asks quietly.
“About James?” Kara takes a few steps closer, wringing her hands nervously.
“No, about your cousin. Tell me about Kal-El.”
Kara straightens up. “Oh.”
Lena looks up at her expectantly, finding a strange look on Kara’s face. The blonde has her bottom lip caught between her teeth.
“Lena…” she sighs
“My mother said he was handsome.” Lena tells her angrily “As if that were meant to make everything better.”
Kara slowly, slow enough for Lena to stop her, comes to sit on the end of the bed. She sighs again sadly.
“He is handsome, I think. I mean, he’s my little cousin so I think he looks kind of dopey most of the time.” Kara chuckles a bit to herself “But...I’m told by basically everyone else that he’s handsome.”
Lena says nothing, playing absentmindedly with the fabric of her dress. So Kara continues.
“He’s very kind. And a bit bumbling when he’s not in public. But he’s also brave and smart.”
“Dopey. Kind. Bumbling. Brave. Smart. Well, he sounds like quite a man, your prince.” Lena voice is mocking, but her face shows no hint of humor. “I must be a lucky girl.”
She won’t look at Kara, but she can tell the girl wants to reach out and touch her, wants to offer some kind of comfort. Kara resists though. Lena feels tears begin to sting her eyes so she stands and turns away as if to undress.
“You can leave me now, Princess.” She dismisses Kara quickly, determined not to show anymore weakness than she already has. Kara hesitates, lingering for a moment longer on the bed before getting up.
“I promise that...things will be different once we’re home.”
Kara leaves and Lena is left there thinking.
I don’t really have a home.
Later that night, as Lena lays awake in the darkness unable to sleep, she hears bickering outside. It’s hard for her to understand at first, the voices are hushed and too far away for awhile, before drawing closer to her tent.
“You didn’t tell her? Why not?” one voice says, scolding.
“Because! It was-She was...I don’t know, okay!” That was clearly Kara. “She was upset and I just didn’t...I just didn’t know what to say.” The Kryptonian princess sounds sad and frustrated. Lena sits up in bed, listening more closely once she realizes they’re talking about her.
The other person sighs heavily. Lena thinks it may be Ser James.
“Don’t you think that once she knows, maybe she’ll feel better, safer. I don’t know. It just seems cruel to let her go on thinking…”
“I’m not trying to be cruel.” Kara snaps. It’s the first time Lena’s heard the blonde speak harshly. “What makes you think that to her, the truth will be any better than what she thinks now? What’s the difference really?”
“There’s a difference, Kara. You’re beating yourself up about this now, but...I think-”
“It doesn’t matter.” Kara cuts him off, sounding too tired to fight anymore “It doesn’t matter what you or I thinks, James. To her...to her this is all still a nightmare.”
They fall silent for a long moment.
“We’ll explain everything once we’re home. My parents will know what to say. Tomorrow is soon enough.”
Lena finds it impossible to sleep after that.
Chapter 4: Hold On Tight, Princess
The journey to Argo draws to a close
Kara woke them bright and early the next morning, clearly eager to return home to Argo. They were on the road before the sun broke away from the horizon.
Lena had lay awake half the night worrying and wondering after what she had overheard the night before.
Ser James seemed to think that whatever the truth was would please Lena, or at the very least ease her anxiety. And yet Kara was reluctant to be honest with her.
Lena didn’t know Kara very well, obviously, but she certainly trusted the Kryptonian princess more than she trusted her knight friend. Afterall, Kara had been nothing but kind to Lena, and had promised to keep her safe. Of course, that all could have been lies. A ruse meant to placate her while they traveled. It was true that a prisoner you treated with kindness was less likely to cause trouble than one you treated with cruelty.
Even so, what could be the big secret? In Lena’s mind the worse was already upon her. She had been sold like chattel to a stranger to do with what he saw fit. What deeper truth awaited her in Argo? Lena had shuttered to think.
In the morning, when Kara woke her, Lena had briefly considered confronting her. Demanding to know what was in store for her. But the sight of Kara's kind eyes and bright smile had kept Lena silent. Perhaps, Kara was right, and Lena would rather not know. Not yet anyway.
Now, she sat looking out the window of the carriage as it rocked this way and that, taking in the Kryptonian countryside. Lena was surprised by how different Krypton was from her home, even just the landscape was like another world. Her home kingdom of Manor was a rather drab land. Full of towering brown forests, steep cliff mountains, and dusty mining country. Everything seemed so gray there. Like it were covered in a layer of dust. But Krypton...Krypton was beautiful. Most of what she had seen so far was sprawling moorland, shallow hills and valleys full of wild flowers or tall green grass. There wasn’t a tree in sight. Lena hated to admit that she kind of loved it.
In the afternoon, Kara called for a halt near a small stream so they could water the horses. Lena, who normally prefered to stay safely stashed away in the carriage, decided to venture out and stretch her legs. She managed to get out of the carriage on her own this time. And just as before the Kryptonians were polite and granted Lena her space, no one bothered her.
She finds Kara down by the water, cooing to her white filly as the horse drank from the stream.
“Hello, Princess.” Kara greets her with a soft smile, obviously surprised and pleased to see Lena out of the carriage.
“Hello.” Lena says, averting her eyes from the blonde and studying the horse instead.
She is a strong young horse, white with a silver mane and tail, she has one gray sock on her left front leg. She drinks greedily from the stream, and seemed to take great pleasure in pawing at the water.
“She’s beautiful.” Lena mutters, reaching out to run her hand over the horse’s neck. She can feel Kara’s eyes on her.
“Yes, she is.”
Lena smiles despite herself and hopes the horse standing between them will hide the blush that rises in her face.
“Her name is Raza.” Kara goes on to say, patting the filly’s neck appreciatively.
Lena can’t keep the surprise from her voice. “She has a name?” Her brows furrow in confusion, as she finally looks over to meet Kara’s eyes. Kara’s expression mimics her own.
“Of course, she has a name!” Kara laughs “I named her myself. Right after she stood for the first time.” She adds proudly.
Lena shakes her head.
“We never named horses in my house.” Lena tells her. “Father would have found that sentimental.”
Kara plays absentmindedly with a braid in Raza’s mane.
“Perhaps it is, but...I don’t know. I can’t help but care.”
Lena hates that she’s made Kara’s smile retreat.
“That’s not a bad thing, Princess. I wish he had cared a bit more.”
Kara looks up at her then. “I never offered my condolences...for your father, I mean.”
Lena shrugs and looks away. “Why would you? You hated him, didn’t you?”
She refuses to look at Kara’s face, but she hears such sympathy in her voice.
“How could I? I didn’t know him. And...no matter what… he was your father. And you lost him. I can be sorry for that.”
Lena nods sharply, desperate to change the subject.
“I may never have named my horses, but I do love riding.” Lena says cheerfully. “It’s one of the few unladylike things mother allowed me to do.”
Kara’s face brightens.
“I wish I had known! We would have brought you a horse! Or...oh no, did you have a horse at home? One you were fond of? We could have brought it for you.”
“No, no, it’s alright. I had many horses in the Luthor stables, but like I said...We never really got attached.”
“Well,” Kara says firmly “You can ride with Raza and I then.” she pats Raza’s back as if to demonstrate how sturdy she is. “If you’d like?” Kara asks, sounding less sure of herself.
Lena smiles. “Yes, that might be nice.”
Raza paws at the water as if in agreement, splashing both Lena and Kara who shriek in surprise. Both girls dissolve into laughter, grinning at each other over Raza’s back.
When it’s time to mount up again, Kara effortlessly swings up into the saddle, steadying Raza, before reaching down for Lena’s hand. Lena bites her lip nervously, before grasping Kara’s hand and swinging herself up. Raza dances in place for a moment and Lena wraps her arms around Kara in an effort to stay on. Her front pressed firmly into Kara’s back. Her face against the red fabric of Kara’s cloak, just above the symbol for the House of El.
Kara laughs and it’s a full, musical sound.
“Hold on tight, Princess.” Kara places her hand over Lena’s which are clasped tightly just below the Kryptonian's breasts. “I’ve got you.” She whispers over her shoulder.
Lena’s heart is pounding and not because she’s up on the horse. She nods against Kara’s back, not trusting herself to say anything at the moment.
They move out, resuming their journey and Kara swears they’ll reach Argo before dinner.
Kara and Lena travel in comfortable silence. They ride ahead of everyone else, and Lena can hear the scraps of conversation from the riders behind them, but Kara seems perfectly content to just admire the land.
Every once in awhile, Kara will reach up and touch Lena’s hands as if to check she still there. Though Lena knows perfectly well the princess can feel her breathing, can feel her arms tighten around her middle when they climb a hill, can feel Lena turning her head against her back.
Kara urges Raza forward at a gallop, Lena clinging to her as they crest a particularly big hill. Kara halts Raza at the top of the hill, taking in the view. A massive valley opens up ahead of them. The landscape flattens out into farmland, miles and miles of crops, dotted with farm houses and a few tiny villages. And there on the far side of the valley, perched just beneath the horizon, a city rises up. It’s towers shining and sharp jutting up towards the sky. Lena has never seen anything like it.
“That is Argo.” Kara sighs in relief. “That’s your new home, Lena.”
I'm sorry if the pacing for this story is a bit stalled or frustrating. I didn't originally intent to dedicate this many chapters to their journey to Argo, but then I found I really wanted to make the most of the mostly one-on-one time Kara and Lena get while traveling. Because once they get to Argo the cast of characters is really going to open up and there will be alot of people not just for me to deal with as the writer, but for Lena to deal with as a newcomer. So yeah, that's why I've been sorta lingering I guess on their travels. No worries tho. Argo will happen in the next chapter and also meet the parents :)
Chapter 5: Welcome, Princess
Argo at last, and meeting the family, a twist at the end
Argo is magnificent. It’s a beautiful sparkling city like something out of Lena’s fairytale books. It’s almost as bright and brilliant as it’s princess. Lena can’t help but think.
News of the Kryptonian princess’s return must spread like wildfire. Citizens slip quickly out of their homes and businesses to gather in the streets and greet Kara with nothing short of adoration. The guardsmen form a line on each side of Raza in order to hold the doting masses at bay as they travel through the outer rings of the city. Kara seems to wholeheartedly return the people’s affection. She waves and smiles, looking benevolent and humble. Almost embarrassed by the attention, though certainly not unaccustom to it. No one seems to pay any mind to Lena shyly clinging to the Kryptonian’s back, face buried in Kara’s cloak. It makes Lena wonder how often Kara rides into town in the company of foreign women.
The royal palace is a large compound at the city’s center, consisting of towers and villas and gardens and fountains. It’s nothing like the castle Lena grew up in. It’s bright and open, full of warmth and people.
Kara pulls Raza to halt just inside the front gate, in front of the main house. Kara dismounts as a dozen servants and their children wander over to greet Kara, Winn, and James, who return their interest warmly.
At last, Kara turns back to Lena and helps her slip down from Raza’s back. They are entirely too close when Lena’s feet hit the ground. Lena’s hands gripping Kara’s shoulders, Kara’s hands on Lena’s hips. Lena is quick to pull away, maybe too quick, as a blush colors her face.
Kara doesn’t introduce her to the people milling about eyeing them curiously, instead she just gestures for Lena to climb the steps.
“Let’s get you inside, Princess. We’ll be expected for dinner soon.”
Lena nods wordlessly, taking Kara’s direction.
Kara waves goodbye to everyone, apologetically.
“James, Winn, we’ll see you at dinner?”
James and Winn exchange an awkward look.
“Perhaps, tonight is more of a family affair.” James says, pointedly looking at Lena.
Kara frowns, but nods “Perhaps.”
Lena watches as James and Winn both force a smile and bow slightly.
Kara inclines her head to them, then offers Lena her hand. Lena stares at it for a moment, like she’s never seen a hand before, then takes it with a reluctant smile and allows Kara to lead her into the palace.
Kara leads Lena hurriedly through the palace halls, clearly knowing the place like the back of her hand. But Lena loses track of the turns they take rather quickly. This place seems endless.
“I thought your family would have been there to greet us.” Lena says curiously, as she shuffles along behind Kara’s long strides. “And Kal-El...I thought he’d be here.”
“They’re here.” Kara tells her. “They just...I didn’t want you to feel overwhelmed when you’ve just arrived.”
Is she just being thoughtful or is she stalling? Lena couldn’t be sure. She is about to ask Kara that very question, when Kara stops her short.
“Here. This is it.” Kara says, opening the door and showing Lena inside.
“This is what?” Lena enter cautiously.
It’s a bedchamber. A very lavish bedchamber. A canopy bed covered in more pillows than Lena can count and a bathtub big enough for five people right by the balcony which overlooks a blooming garden. Rows and rows of empty bookshelves line the walls. And Lena’s two crates from home already sit inside, waiting to be unpacked.
“This is your room.” Kara tells her, brightly “Well, for now anyway…” What Kara doesn’t say hangs between them. Soon she’ll marry Kal-El and then she’d be expected to spend a certain amount of time in his bed. At least until an heir was produced. The thought chases the smile from Lena’s face. Kara frowns as well.
“It’s beautiful, Kara. Thank you.” Lena says quietly, venturing further into the room, running her hand over the empty shelves and smooth surface of the tub. “It’s lovely.”
Kara nods, pleased that Lena approves.
Two servant girls appear at Kara’s back, falling quickly into curtsies when Lena and Kara turn toward them.
“Your Highnesses.” They say in unison.
Both girls stare openly at Lena as they enter the room at Kara’s behest.
“This is Siobhan,” Kara points to the taller of the two “and Alana.” She points to the shorter girl. “Your handmaids.”
“Oh.” Lena can’t help thinking of Jess, all the years they spent together, the closest thing she had to a friend. These girls reminded her of Jess. Both had dark brown hair, brown eyes, dressed plainly for work.
“This is Princess Lena.” Kara tells them, unnecessarily.
“Two of them?” Lena smiles “You must think I’m high maintenance.” She teases Kara, who sputters for a moment.
“They’re here for whatever you need.” Kara says finally. She turns to the girls. “Run her a bath, please.” The girls spring into action at Kara’s command.
Lena considers protesting. A part of her is eager to get everything over with. Eager to meet her fiance, her new kings and queens. Eager to know what Kara is keeping from her. But another part, a bigger part, is tired and grimy from traveling, and incredibly nervous about meeting her prince.
Kara gives her a soft smile. “Try to get some rest, Princess. We’ll be having dinner soon, so…” Kara rocks on her heels again. Her nervous tick, Lena supposes. “So just try to relax.”
Kara goes and Lena misses her instantly, which makes her angry.
Relax? Unlikely. Lena wonders if she’ll ever be able to relax again in her life.
Lena watches the sun sink into the city from the comfort of her bath and for a little while she’s able to stomp out the dread that’s tightening in her chest. Then Siobhan and Alana come to dress her for dinner, and the anxiety springs back up like weeds.
Lena picks out her favorite gown, a dark green fabric with silver seams. Even her mother had to admit it compliments her eyes like nothing else. The girls braid her hair intricately and produce a silver tiara to match the dress. It always seemed a little much to Lena, the whole crowns and tiaras thing, but she was technically a princess, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to look the part.
Lena’s not sure why, but she wants to look good for this. For whatever happens next. Maybe because this is her life now, whether she likes it or not, so she might as well look put together even if she’s going to fall apart. Maybe because displeasing or disrespecting her new husband is not advisable given how powerless she is here.
Or maybe it’s because Kara will be there.
Though she hates to think of the implications of her desire to look nice for Kara. Nothing good can come of it.
Kara comes to retrieve her just as the sky turns fully dark. Lena trembles with nerves as Siobhan answers Kara’s knock at the chamber door. The sight of Kara standing in the doorway does nothing to calm Lena.
The blonde looks incredible, but even more so than usual. She is dressed very formally, in a dark blue tunic with silver buttons down the middle, white trousers, and black boots. Her signature cloak was missing Lena notices, but the House of El sigil does mark the front of her left shoulder in silver. Her hair is down, golden waves tumbling around her shoulders, but a small braid wraps around her head like a crown.
Lena stares. Not staring was not an option. Her mouth may have even fallen open, momentarily.
Kara bows grandly, a smirk on her pretty face, like she knows how good she looks.
“You look wonderful, Princess.” Kara tells her, since Lena seems to have lost the ability to speak.
“Th-Thank you.” Lena stutters, hastily curtsying for Kara, which earns her another smirk. “Y-you clean up nicely.” Lena says finally regaining her composure.
Kara turns and offers Lena her arm. “Well, if I’m going to be standing next to you…” Lena grins and blushes, linking her arm with Kara’s. “Are you ready?” Kara asks softly, placing her other hand on Lena’s arm.
Lena looks straight ahead, steeling herself.
“Does it matter?”
Kara sighs, but doesn’t respond. She quietly escorts Lena through the palace, across courtyards, and finally to what seems to be the center of the compound.
“This building contains the formal dining room and the throne room where we hold court.” Kara tells her as they enter.
As they walk through the foyer, Lena finds herself clutching onto Kara’s arm, her nails digging into the fabric of the tunic, her heart pounding. Kara notices of course, she stops them in front of two guardsmen who are waiting to open the dining hall doors for them.
Kara turns Lena to face her and takes both her hands, squeezing gently.
“Hey, hey, it’s alright, Princess. It’s alright.” She coos softly, as Lena avoids her eyes. She stares instead at their joined hands.
“I’m afraid.” Lena hisses. She angry and ashamed of herself. She’s meant to have more control of herself than this. Lena may have lived her entire life at Lionel’s mercy, dependant on his generosity and willingness to claim a bastard. She may live the rest of her life at the mercy of the House of El, reliant on their civility to keep her unharmed. She may have absolutely no control over her circumstances, but dammit the only thing Lena always had control of was herself.
So why couldn’t she pull it together now? Why was she wavering?
Kara is there, her face close to Lena’s, their foreheads almost touching. She’s rubbing soothing circles on the back of Lena’s hands with her thumbs.
“I know. I know, you are. And I’m so sorry, for all of this. For all you’ve been through. It’s alright to be afraid, Princess.”
Lena takes a deep breaths trying to slow the rapid beating of her heart.
“And remember,” Kara says “I promised, not to let anyone hurt you. Remember that?”
Lena barks out a bitter choked laugh. “How? How are you going to protect me from this?”
A pained expression settles on Kara’s face and she won’t meet Lena’s eyes for a moment.
“I need you to trust me.”
Lena laughs again, harshly.
“I’m asking you to trust me, Lena.” Kara is pleading with her, and she calls her by her name. And Lena wants to. She wants so badly to trust in someone. But that had never been her life.
Lena takes a few moments and calms her breathing, her face falling into a neutral expression. She pulls her hands from Kara’s and links their arms again, turning towards the door.
“I guess, I don’t have much of a choice.”
Kara studies Lena with concern for a moment longer, before sighing heavily and nodding to the guardsmen, who have stood impassively throughout their exchange.
Both guardsmen reach forward and pull open the double doors.
Lena is struck by the sound of music pouring from the dining room, her eyes immediately drawn to the small band tucked on the corner stage of the expansive room. In the middle of the room, a long marble table that could easily seat twenty people is being filled with food by busy servants. And in their midst are the ten members of Krypton’s royal families.
They were all caught up in their own conversations. Talking casually, laughing, nibbling at the appetizers. But ten heads turn abruptly as Kara and Lena enter. All conversation ceases as the band plays on. Lena is sure they must all hear the thundering of her heart beating out of her chest.
For one terrible moment nothing happens at all. Every eye in the room just openly stares at Lena and no one speaks and Lena thinks she’d rather die than stand there for one more moment. Then mercifully, an older woman with long dark hair and a sharp nose stands up from her place at the table. She smiles brightly and opens her arms, beckoning Kara forward.
Kara gives Lena’s arm a reassuring squeeze, before gentle extracting herself from Lena’s side and rushing forward to embrace the other woman.
The woman hugs Kara close. She pulls away only to look Kara over carefully, as if for injury, smoothing the hair from Kara’s face and tucking it behind her ears.
“Welcome home, my daughter.” She says, patting Kara’s cheek fondly.
The other royals stand as well, as the servants slip away. Next Kara hugs a tall older man, his hair peppered with grey, who kisses her forehead. Next a tall young woman rushes forward, nearly toppling Kara over. The woman’s hair is dark with a hint of auburn and Kara laughs warmly as she returns her embrace. Lena feels a strange spark of jealousy as she watches Kara linger in this other woman’s arms. It is quickly shoved aside however when Kara pulls away and turns back to Lena, and everyone else’s eyes follow hers.
Lena struggles not to fidget. She clasps her hands together in front of her, and lifts her chin proudly. She would not let them make her feel small.
The older brunette, Kara’s mother, takes a tentative step forward, a welcoming smile on her face.
“Hello there.” She says inclining her head slightly.
Kara rushes back to Lena’s side, smiling reassuringly. She takes Lena’s hand and presents her to the room.
“Everyone, may I present, Princess Lena of House Luthor.”
Lena curtsies, clutching onto Kara’s hand.
“Princess,” Kara continues “this is my mother and father, Queen Alura and King Zor-El of Krypton.” She gestures to the older man she hugged, who steps forward to join his wife. He has kind blue eyes that remind Lena of Kara’s, and he inclines his head to her in greeting.
“Welcome, Princess.” he says warmly, his voice low and smooth. Lena feels her shoulders relax at the sound.
“Thank you.” She manages to say, clearing her throat.
Next, the young brunette steps forward, trailing behind her is another young woman, significantly shorter, with brown hair and a dimpled smile. They are both older than Lena and Kara, but only by a few years. Lena watches as the taller girl reaches blindly backwards, searching for the shorter one’s hand. They hold hands, their fingers intertwined, and Lena can’t help but openly stare.
“This is Princess Alex Danvers,” Kara grasps the taller girl’s shoulder fondly “and her wife Princess Maggie.”
Lena’s eyes go wide.
Wife. She said wife. They’re married. Lena mind struggles to believe what she’s being told. She knew Krypton was progressive, but she had no idea...she could not have hoped or imagined for such open acceptance for people like...well like her.
“Oh.” Lena cannot restrain the sound of pure surprise and awe.
Alex and Maggie exchange smiles at Lena’s reaction, before curtsying slightly.
“Welcome, Princess.” They say together, taking a step back.
Lena is still unabashedly staring at the couple, when Kara pulls her away, introducing her to an older couple.
“This is my aunt and uncle, King Jor-El and Queen Lara.”
Lena remembers her manners and turns her attention towards the king and queen. The king is shorter than his brother, but obviously older. His hair is completely silver, but his face is still handsome, if a bit unreadable. He inclines his head to her politely. His queen is much the same, polite but straight-faced. Her hair dark brown and curly, but her eyes a dark blue. She was beautiful.
These are my in-laws? Lena wonders.
An older blonde approaches Lena with a enthusiastic smile. She takes the hand Kara isn’t holding and cradles it comfortingly in both of hers.
“I’m Queen Eliza Danvers.” She introduces herself, squeezing Lena’s hands. She is bright like Kara, dark blonde waves around her shoulders, and a soft expression. “And this is my husband, King Jeremiah. We’re Alex’s parents.” Her husband lays a hand on Queen Eliza’s shoulder, drawing her back gently with a fond smile.
“Careful, Eliza, you’ll overwhelm the poor girl.”
Eliza nods and releases Lena’s hands, taking a polite step back.
“It’s just lovely to meet you, dear.” Eliza says. King Jeremiah inclines his head to Lena with a warm smile.
“Yes, Princess, welcome to our home.”
And last, Kara almost reluctantly turns Lena the last of her family.
A young man, dressed just as finely as Kara in red and silver. His blue eyes just a shade darker than the blonde’s and his hair all but black. The rumors were true: he was very handsome. It annoys Lena that her mother had been correct. The prince flashes Lena a toothy smile, before stepping forward and taking Lena’s hand. He bows and brings the back of her hand up to barely brush his soft pink lips.
“Hello, Princess, I am Prince Kal-El, Kara's cousin.”
Lena can feel Kara tense up at her side. She wants to look at her, to understand what has her suddenly nervous. But Lena’s eyes are drawn to a woman that stands at Kal-El’s side.
She is young and beautiful. A mane of dark brown hair falls down her shoulders and a friendly smile. Lena’s eyes travel down the woman’s body to settle on her swollen round belly, which the woman caresses absently with both hands.
“And this…” Kal-El continues, taking the pregnant woman’s hand and looking at her fondly “is my wife. Princess Lois.”
Lena’s eyes go wide as she looks from Kal-El to Lois to Lois’s belly.
Lois waddles forward, inclining her head to Lena, but not even attempting to curtsy in her condition.
“It’s nice to meet you, Princess.”
Lena thinks she might faint. That is the only rational response to what’s happening right now.
What the fuck is happening right now?
Kara has some serious explaining to do
Chapter 6: Oh Shit
Lena finds out the truth, finally
Okay, so I got a lot of comments on the last chapter about why Kara's kept this big secret and why she's being so cruel etc.
Which are totally valid concerns. I promise Lena has the exact same questions. The real honest to God answer is I like drama and angst, because I'm awful. But nevertheless you guys got me thinking and got me inspired, and this chapter is the result.
This chapter is actually from Kara POV to sort of help us get some perspective on what she's feeling and thinking and maybe why she's handled things this way. I'll admit Kara doesn't have a "good" reason, but in my experience people rarely do.
Anyway, you can expect the POV to switch back to Lena after this. I really prefer writing from her perspective for some reason, but who knows maybe another Kara POV chapter will pop up at some point out of necessity.
Also, don't get use to me updating two days in a row. I'm a total slacker, for which I am sorry.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kara made a mistake.
That much was clear to her now. She realized this at the exact same moment Lena’s eyes fell down Lois’s body to land with nothing short of shock on Lois’s baby belly. The look on Lena’s face was some twisted mix of confusion and horror. It made Kara’s stomach clench painfully and her face heat in shame.
“I...I-I don’t understand.” Lena takes a slow step backward away from Lois and Kal-El. Her eyes dart between the couple and back down to Lois’s stomach. “What’s going on?”
Every brow in the room furrowed in confusion except Kara’s. Everyone turned to look at her sharply except for Lena who was still staring at Lois in disbelief. Kara felt herself wince at all the attention, panic rising quickly in her chest.
“Kara?” The look of pure outrage on her mother’s face prompts Kara to quickly avert her eyes. “You haven’t told her?” The accusation in her mother’s voice must catch Lena’s attention.
The brunette turns slowly to look at Kara, her surprise morphing into anger. Kara recognizes the same fierceness in Lena’s green eyes that had been directed at James a few nights before as they sat around the campfire, and a cold spike of dread crawls up the back of her neck. She had hoped to never see that green gaze aimed at her in such a way.
“Haven’t told me what?” Lena demands, her voice growing low and cold.
Kara opens her mouth to offer an explanation before realizing none of her explanations are very good.
“Kara, how could you not tell her?” Alura sounds exasperated, her tone scolding.
“I wasn’t sure how.” Kara growls at her mother, frustrated and ashamed. “I didn’t know what to say! And the longer I didn’t say anything the harder it became, alright. I’m sorry! I should have told her!”
“Tell me what?” Lena all but shouts, pulling Kara and Alura’s attention. Kara takes a step towards her, reaching for her hand. Oh, how she wished they were alone. Having everyone here, staring, witnessing the pain her omissions had caused was unbearable.
More than anything she wished she had been braver days ago. She wished she hadn’t been such a fucking coward while they were on the road. James was right. Kara had only made Lena’s situation worse by lying.
“Lena, I’m sorry-”
“Don’t touch me!” Lena wrenches away from Kara’s touch, stumbling several feet back away from everyone. Kara flinches at the memory of their first night on the road when Lena had said the same thing outside the carriage.
Lena had been terrified then. Terrified someone would beat her or violate her. Terrified of Kara. They had come so far since then, in just a few days time. But now Lena’s voice trembled with anger rather than fear and she looked at Kara like she was a traitor or a trickster. Like she had meant to be so cruel.
“Why am I here?” Lena demands “What are you going to do with me now?” Her voice is steely and harsh, as she looks at each one of them with her chin high and her gaze steady. As if accusing them all. As if they were all to blame.
Eventually, her shining green eyes land back on Kara. “Will you pass me around to all your lords? Let them have their way? Or perhaps you’ll have a great hunt? Turn a Luthor loose in the forest and see how far she can get before the hounds descend. That wouldn’t be very civilized though, would it? And Kryptonians are nothing if not civil.” Lena’s words drip venom, and Kara could cry to think of what Lena must think them capable of. What she must think Kara capable of.
Kara shakes her head and tries to step toward her again “Lena, no, no…”
But her mother’s hand clamps firmly down on her shoulder, holding Kara back.
“Princess,” Her mother says, slowly, evenly, like she’s talking down a frightened horse “I can assure you, we mean you no harm. No one here will hurt you.”
Lena barks out a harsh bitter laugh, nodding skeptically.
“Right! Of course not! That’s what your princess has been promising me since the moment we met. But all she has done is lie. This entire arrangement has been a lie!”
Kara’s hands ball into fists, with the effort it takes her to stay still, to stay silent under her mother’s hand.
“You’re right, Your Highness.” Alura tells Lena carefully. “Kara withheld some very vital information from you. And that was wrong of her.” Alura glances briefly at Kara, who shrinks guiltily away from her mother’s touch. “But not everything was a lie.”
Lena glances from Kara to Alura, and Kara can see her mind turning. Lena straightens her back and crosses her arms over her chest, thrusting her chin up defiantly.
“Why am I here?” She asks again, deliberately. “The truth.”
Kara fixes her gaze on the floor as her mother steps forward to explain. This is the moment she’s been dreading.
“The truth is we don’t usually participate in arranged marriages in Krypton. And we haven’t for several generations now, even among the royals.”
Kara has to resist the urge to look up and gauge Lena’s reaction, instead she keeps her eyes on the floor and let’s her mother say everything she should have said days ago.
“However, when word spread of your brother’s offer my daughter became very…” Kara can feel her mother’s eyes on her again, choosing her words carefully “...Kara became concerned with your situation. We, of course, had heard of your father’s recent death. And before that rumors abound of the way he conducted his business and politics.”
Kara does glance up then, knowing Lena’s father was something of a sore subject. Lena’s lips were pressed into a thin line, perhaps with the effort it took her not to interrupt or disagree on her father’s behalf. But Lena remained still and silent as Alura continued.
“Your father had many enemies, Princess. Kara knew this. We were all concerned about the sort of people that might come forward to claim you. So Kara proposed that...well the only way we could think to control the outcome, the only real way to intervene would be to...purchase you ourselves.”
Alura lets that sink in, the room deathly silent as Lena absorbs the confession.
“You didn’t buy me for Kal-El…” Lena states more than questions, her eyes darting back to Kal-El and Lois where they stand hand in hand, looking more than a little uncomfortable.
“No.” Alura confirms. “We knew your kingdom was still very...close-minded. So we decided it would be simpler if your family thought you were being betrothed to a man, instead of…” It’s rare for Kara’s mother to hesitate. Even rarer for her to bite the inside of her cheek as if reluctant to say what needs to be said.
“Instead of…?” Lena seems genuinely confused for a moment. Kara is staring at her carefully from up under her eyelashes, desperate for a look of understanding to cross Lena’s expression. And then it does. Lena’s eyes widen slightly, her anger momentarily forgotten in place of her surprise. The brunette’s cheeks flush and her eyes turn slowly to Kara as realization spreads across her face.
Kara feels her own skin heat up from her chest to the tips of her ears. She holds Lena’s gaze and finally can’t help but crack a small apologetic smile.
I hope that POV changes wasn't too disruptive (I won't make a habit of it)
If you're still struggling with Kara's deception or feel that her or Lena are being OOC, all I can say is that this is an AU. Kara is not perfect, she makes mistakes, she can be scared and selfish. And if Lena seems overly meek or subdued, that's probably because she grew up in an overbearing, manipulative, emotionally abusive household in a kingdom that under values women and encourages them to be submissive and subservient. Let's not forget, Lillian was not allowed to become the ruling Queen after her husband's death. Instead, she is the Queen Regent or Queen Mother. Lena being strong, independent, and outspoken isn't something she would have been praised for in the past.
I'm not sure how long this fic will be (it's not all planned out), but I hope you guys stick with me and can enjoy where this all leads. I only do Happy Endings :)
Chapter 7: And The Hits Just Keep On Coming
Kara and Lena have a much needed discussion. And Lena's world opens up like she never thought possible
“Your Majesty, may I be excused?”
Overwhelmed is the only way to describe how Lena is feeling now. She had to admit, the moment she realized she was betrothed to Kara Zor-El she had felt an instant wave of relief wash over her.
She wasn’t to marry some mysterious, entitled prince who intended to do God knows what to her. No, instead, the universe had at last shown a shred of decency and allowed her to be promised to a woman. And not just any woman. A woman who had been nothing but kind and accommodating since the moment they met. A woman whose blue eyes made Lena feel safe and wobbly all at the same time. A woman who didn’t seem to possess any of the usual prejudice and haughtiness of royalty.
I’m betrothed to Kara Zor-El. I’m going to marry Kara Zor-El. Oh God.
Lena’s entire body had visibly relaxed after her initial shock had passed. But her relief was only pure for a moment, before her anger flowed back in.
The Kryptonian princess had lied to Lena from the moment they met. And continued the ruse despite Lena’s obvious misgivings about marrying a strange man. Kara had continued to withhold the truth even when she knew how scared and uncomfortable Lena was. She had allowed Lena to go on thinking the worse of her engagement. Why? Surely, not to be cruel. But certainly to gain Lena’s trust under false pretenses.
The moments after Lena’s revelation were filled with such emotional whiplash, that Lena just decided to focus on one. Anger. She was rather familiar with that and knew the proper way to express it. Her unexpected elation at the prospect of marrying Kara, on the other hand, was completely out of the realm of her experience, so Lena opted to ignore it for now until she could fully understand it.
And so Lena had fixed her eyes firmly on the floor, curled her hands into fists, and in a tight calm voice asked to be excused.
A look of dismay flashes across Queen Alura’s face as she watches Lena demeanor change again. And for a moment, Lena thinks the Queen will deny her request and force her to endure dinner. The Queen gestures briefly at the dinner table where the food has been growing cold.
“We haven’t even eaten yet. You must be hungry for something substantial after your journey?”
Lena shakes her head curtly. No, she had most definitely lost her appetite.
“No, thank you. It’s been…” Lena’s eyes dart to Kara briefly, who is staring at her intently “a terribly exhausting few days. And I would really just like to be alone.”
Queen Alura sighs, obviously left with no excuse to deny Lena, and nods her head.
“Yes, of course, Your Highness.”
Kara steps forward her eyes wide with alarm.
“I’ll escort you back to your room?” Kara asks a bit desperately. Lena avoids looking in her pleading blue eyes, because surely she couldn’t withstand that.
“No.” Lena says a bit more sharply than she intends. Kara’s face falls, her shoulders slump. And for a moment it looks as if Kara might insist. Then Princess Alex approaches her, resting a reassuring hand on Kara’s shoulder and effectively quieting further protest from the other girl.
“Ask one of the guards to escort you, Princess.” Queen Alura tells her.
Lena manages a small curtsy to the room, before swiftly taking her leave.
Back in her chambers, Lena is left alone with nothing but her thoughts, which are still sort of spiraling. She decides unpacking her books would be a good way to distract herself.
A couple of hours pass and Lena’s anger slowly gives way to exhaustion. She didn’t know what to feel anymore. Her grief over her father’s death and her family’s betrayal was still fresh in her mind. A dull ache in her chest like she was hollow. Then there was her anger both towards her mother, her brother, and now Kara as well. Though her anger towards the blonde was strange thing. She was both angry and hurt by Kara’s breach of trust.
Kara was the first and only person who had made Lena feel even a minuscule amount of safety since her father died and it had all been a manipulation. Or at least, it felt that way, whether that had been the Kryptonian’s intention of not, Lena felt mislead. So whatever slight thrill she may have felt about their betrothal was overshadowed by Lena’s apprehension about the blonde’s trustworthiness.
Just as Lena is about to call Alana in to help her dress for bed, her handmaid enters hesitantly, holding a rather large plate of food.
“What’s this?” Lena asks, taking the plate and gratefully inhaling the smell of food.
Not long after excusing herself from dinner Lena had realized she was ravenous, but had been too stubborn to request food.
Alana stares shyly at the floor. “Princess Kara is outside. She’d like to speak to you.”
Lena’s eyes widen in alarm.
“Should I um...tell her you’re indisposed?” Alana asks, giving Lena an easy out.
Lena hesitates, contemplating the pros and cons of speaking to Kara right now.
Cons, she still didn’t know what she was feeling. She was feeling too much really, something that was severely frowned upon in the Luthor household. She didn’t know what to say to this woman now. This woman who she was meant to marry. This woman she maybe kinda wanted to marry now that she knew it was in the realm of possibility. What if she said something that alluded to her attraction to Kara and embarrassed herself? What if Kara didn’t return her affection and was simply doing her duty? Lena could hardly bear the thought of being shackled to someone who didn’t really want her.
Pros, she knew that Kara possessed the ability to set her mind at ease. The Kryptonian princess had done it before and could probably do it again now if Lena only allowed her. Something about the blonde’s presence was a comfort to Lena, and she was in desperate need of some comfort right now. Besides, Kara was obviously here to explain herself. Perhaps Lena might gain some insight and understanding from whatever Kara had to say for herself. And what if, Lena dared to wonder, what if Kara wanted her too?
“You can leave us for now.” Lena told Alana, setting her food on the table and stepping cautiously towards the chamber doors.
She finds Kara sitting just outside her door, knees drawn up to her chest. Kara is still dressed in her lovely blue tunic from dinner, but it has been unbuttoned revealing a white undershirt beneath which has been untucked from her trousers. The blonde looks rather disheveled.
Kara startles at the sight of Lena in the doorway and nearly jumps to her feet before Lena stops her.
“No, just...stay there. Please.” Lena says, stepping out and closing the door behind her. Kara gives her a curious look as Lena steps across the hall and slides to the floor, mirroring Kara’s position. Lena avoids Kara’s eyes, drawing her own knees up and hugging them closely.
They sit in awkward silence for a moment. Lena leans forward resting her chin on her knees.
“I’m not allowed inside?” Kara asks, with a timid smile.
Lena toys with the fabric of her dress to avoid looking at Kara, who is most definitely staring.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk to you just yet.” Lena says simply. She sees Kara nod out of the corner of her eye.
“And you wanted to be able to leave if you don’t like what I have to say?” Kara muses.
“What do you have to say?” Lena asks, boldly.
Kara sighs and fidgets, her hands wringing in her lap.
“I’m sorry. Truely. I imagine you must feel...mislead. And I just...I can’t tell you how much I regret how I’ve handled things.”
Lena reminds quiet. So Kara continues.
“I realize now, of course, that keeping the truth from you was unnecessary and unfair. But I promise, Princess, I never meant to be cruel.”
“Why did you?” Lena asks, suddenly looking up into Kara’s sad blue eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Kara opens her mouth to explain, but struggles to find the words with Lena’s gaze on her. She looks up, resting her head back against the wall with a sigh.
“I originally planned to tell you the truth once we were away from your family, at camp that first night. But when we arrived and my suspicions about your situation were all but confirmed, I knew what you must think of me.”
Lena’s brow furrows. “Your suspicions about my situation?”
Kara nods, her eye still on the ceiling.
“You didn’t agree to any of this. Right? The offer your brother sent out was vague, but I was pretty sure whatever arrangement resulted from it was against your will. They sold you, didn’t they?”
Sold is such an ugly word. Lillian’s voice sneers inside Lena’s head.
“That’s why I did all this in the first place.” Kara says her voice getting low and angry as she speaks “Because it seemed obvious to me that you were in danger, and I just couldn’t stand the thought that this was all happening to you and you didn’t even have a say in it.” Kara sighs in frustration, not with Lena but with the way Lena had been treated. It’s the first time Lena has seen the princess look angry.
Lena feels hot tears brim in her eyes, instead of looking at Kara she stares at the floor just in front of Kara. Too afraid to blink and let the tears shed.
“Anyway,” Kara says, her voice softer now “I saw how angry you were, how afraid. And later I heard the way you spoke about Kal. How much you loathed the idea of him and I...I couldn’t stand the thought of you feeling that way about me.”
Lena remembers that second night on the road, when Kara had escorted her to her tent and tried to tell her something. Tried to tell her the truth. But Lena had distracted her by asking about her cousin, not even bothering to hide the scorn in her voice. At the time, she had hated the idea of Kal-El. Her prince. Her betrothed. But that was when all she knew about her engagement was that it was against her will. That was when all she knew of her betrothed was the fact that he was willing to buy her like a slave. She’s honestly not sure how she would have felt, if Kara had come right out with the truth that first night.
Kara finally brings her eyes back down to fix Lena with the most intense sincere gaze.
“The longer I didn't tell you the more difficult it became. I didn't know what to say and I made a mistake. It was selfish and cowardly, Princess. And I am truly sorry.”
Lena believes her. And God does Lena need to believe her. Lena laughs harshly to keep from crying. She shakes her head and hastily wipes tears from her eyes before they can fall.
“I can’t believe this is my life now.” Lena confesses. “I just...I still can’t believe my brother did this.” Lena shakes her head. “I thought he loved me.”
Kara looks on her with pity and Lena has to resist the urge to resent her for it.
Kara allows Lena a few moments of quiet, to rein in her emotions. Lena can tell the whole time the blonde is itching to come closer to her, to offer some physical comfort. But thankfully, Kara resists, respecting the boundary Lena has set between them. Lena wouldn’t know how to handle being close to her right now.
“I have more to tell you, Princess.” Kara says carefully, once Lena has calmed down.
Lena laughs harshly. “More? I don’t know that I can handle anymore. After all this.”
Kara gives her a small smile. “It’s good news this time.” She assures her.
Learning that they were to be married rather than she and Kal-El wasn’t exactly bad news. Lena thinks.
“What my mother said before is true.” Kara starts, choosing her words carefully. “We haven’t participated in arrangements like this for a long time. Most Kryptonians choose their own partners, whether it be for money or status or...love.”
Kara says the word love like it’s silly. Like she’s silly for thinking it.
“Getting you here, away from your family, required us to agree to a marriage. I volunteered, of course, because well I’m not married, so…”
Lena’s brow furrowed and she leans forward listening intently.
“But the truth is, Princess, I have absolutely no intention of marrying you against your will.”
Lena’s eyes widen and she sits up, completely taken aback. Kara forges on, avoiding Lena’s eyes.
“I promised you I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you, and that was not a lie.”
Lena stammers, her eyes searching Kara's sweet face for any sign that this is a lie or a trick or a joke.
What does this mean?
“I-I don’t understand…” Lena doesn’t dare to hope. In fact, at this point she doesn’t even know what to hope for. Lena has been so concerned with what she didn’t want to happen, that she honestly hadn’t given any thought to what she did want to happen.
Kara takes a deep breath, before explaining further.
“You can stay here with...us in Argo for as long as you like. My honored guest. Or...if you’d prefer to live outside the palace, an apartment in town perhaps, or a house in the country, I’d be happy to arrange that for you.”
Lena can’t believe what she’s hearing. Kara continues, oblivious to Lena’s shock.
“Or if you’d prefer to...go somewhere else, I’d take you there. Anywhere you’d like.”
Kara is sincere. She is offering Lena absolute freedom as if it were nothing. She was offering Lena the world, and Lena could cry from the joy of it.
“But…” Kara hesitates and Lena’s heart sinks. She knew this was all too good to be true.
There’s a catch. There is always a catch.
“Sorry, I’m no good at this.” Kara says nervously, running a hand through her hair. “Honestly, Princess, even though we haven’t known each other very long I…”
Kara’s cheeks flush pink, and she won’t look Lena in the eye.
“I just mean that...if you’d like, if you think it’s something that could make you happy…”
Spit it out!
Kara huffs a big sigh and smiles shyly, finally meeting Lena’s eyes. “I would still very much like to marry you.”
And the hits just keep on coming…
Lena just sits there, her mouth open, speechless, staring into Kara’s beautiful blue eyes. Eyes that speak to the genuineness of her declaration. Kara is so shy and vulnerable in that moment and Lena is so...confused.
Why would Kara want to marry her if she didn't have to? If she had a choice why would she choose Lena?
“I...Kara, I don’t know what to say.”
Kara looks away, trying and failing to hide the disappointment that flashes across her expression. She nods and offers Lena a small reassuring smile.
“That’s okay.” Kara says quietly. She stands up rather abruptly, busying herself with patting off her wrinkled clothing. Lena stands too, shaking her head, trying to wipe the shocked expression from her face.
“Today has been...this as all been…” Lena tries to find the words to express how she’s feeling.
“You’re overwhelmed, I’m sure.” Kara says, sympathetically. Kara takes a step closer to Lena, and slowly takes one of Lena’s hands in both of hers. “Listen, you don’t have to...decide anything now. I just want you to know. You aren’t trapped, Lena. You have options now. You’re safe now. And...I want you to take some time and decide for yourself what you want to do. How you want to spend your life.”
If I'd want to spend my life with you?
Lena squeezes the Kryptonian’s hands in hers. Kara's words touching her in a way she was completely unprepared for.
Here was someone, a stranger, who had come to rescue her without even having known her. Someone who was offering her sanctuary and solace. Someone that was offering her the world and asking nothing in return. The fact that Kara was giving her more choices than her own flesh and blood ever had was unbelievable.
Lena was suddenly overcome with exhaustion.
“I need...I just need some time.” Lena mutters.
Kara nods, pulling away. “Take all the time you need, Princess. Goodnight.” She bows slightly to Lena, and smiles before turning away.
“Yes?” Kara turns back looking at Lena with concern.
“I'm...I'm still angry with you. For lying. But...thank you.” Lena whispers “Thank you for everything.”
Kara smiles sadly. “You don’t have to thank me, Princess. Not for giving you the choices you should have had in the first place.”
Lena doesn’t have anything to say to that. She watches Kara disappear down the hallway and around the corner.
Lena returns to her own room and quickly eats the food Kara brought her. Alana helps her quickly dress for bed, and Lena melts into the soft mattress. She curls up and let’s tears roll down her cheeks.
She’s never slept so well in her entire life.
Everything's out in the open now.
Now Lena just has to decide what she wants...*spolier alert she wants Kara (as always) it just might take her a while to figure that out
Chapter 8: Shall we?
Lena explores the royal palace and meets some of the people in Kara's life, all the while wrestling with the new opportunities she's been presented with
I am so sorry this update has taken so long! Honestly, I feel so bad for making you guys wait. At first I was just being lazy (as usual), but then this whole hurricane situation started and this whole week has been hell, and I honestly just didn't have time or was way too anxious to write anything coherent. But I am safe and sound now at my parents' place, so no worries for me.
Anyway, here is an update, I hope you enjoy
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena sleeps through the morning and on into the early afternoon. She sleeps like the dead. Succumbing to the physical and emotional exhaustion of everything she’d been through since her father died nearly two weeks ago.
When Lena finally wakes, it’s to the warmth of the sun streaming in through the windows and the sounds of her handmaids gossiping in the next room.
Lena extracts herself from the rather large, pillowed bed and wanders into the adjoining room. There she finds Alana and Siobhan unpacking and folding the clothes she brought with her from home.
The girls immediately stifle their giggles when they notice Lena and fall quickly into curtsies.
“Your Highness! We didn’t mean to wake you.” Alana says, her eyes on the floor.
Lena wanders over towards the balcony doors, looking out into the garden.
“You didn’t disturb me. I think, I slept far too long.” Lena assures them.
“You’ve been on a long journey, Princess. You needed to rest.” Siobhan tells her, continuing her work with the clothes.
“Perhaps.” Lena says absentmindedly. Now that she’s awake thoughts of the day before are beginning to seize her. Kara’s offer of freedom. Kara’s proposal. Kara, in general.
“Did I miss anything important?” Lena tries to sound casual, moving away from the balcony doors. What she really means to ask is if Kara called on her while she slept, but that would be admitting that she wanted Kara to call on her, and that would be too much.
Her handmaids exchange a look.
“No, Your Highness.” Alana says.
Lena swallows her disappointment.
“Though, Princess Kara, did instruct us to introduce you to the royal tailor. If it pleases you.” Alana continues.
“Royal tailor?” Lena walks over and examines some of her clothes. Was there something wrong with her wardrobe?
“She lives here in the palace and caters exclusively to the royal families.”
Siobhan elbows Alana in the ribs, startling the other girl whose eyes go wide. “And their guests!” Alana quickly asserts, glaring at Siobhan. “She dresses many members of court.”
Lena watches the display with a hint of amusement. “I see.” She says. “And Kara would like her to dress me?” Lena asks, trying to stifle a spark of irritation.
“The princess only meant it as a courtesy.” Siobhan tells Lena, gently, sensing her annoyance.
This soothes Lena a bit. She’s probably being too sensitive, looking for reasons to stay angry with Kara.
“Very well.” Lena nods her assent.
After eating a quick breakfast of cheese and fruit Alana fetched from the kitchen for her, Lena is escorted by the handmaids across the palace grounds to the tailor’s quarters. Lena is once again struck by the sheer size of the Royal Palace.
The compound was big enough to house not only all three royal families, but also any number of court members and servants. And the atmosphere is constantly buzzing with activity. Gardeners and groundskeepers tending to the landscape and fountains. Men and women dressed in ropes similar and varied to Lord Schott’s pass by deep in conversation, some with their noses buried in books. They bow slightly as they watch Lena pass. Servants performing various duties bow deeply as Lena passes. And children of unknown origin run amuck, playing with toy weapons, shrieking with laughter. They completely ignore Lena, oblivious to their manners while caught up in their games.
Lena finds it hard to imagine living in a place brimming with so much activity, so full of life. It makes her smile.
The royal tailor is pettie blonde woman with no title, introduced to Lena only as Tessmacher. She is rather young, not much older than Lena and Kara, but very confident in her examination on Lena.
The young woman eyes Lena up and down in a way Lena might consider lude if not for her profession. Lena struggles not to squirm under the scrutiny.
Lena was rather confident about her body. Lillian had always discouraged Lena from drawing attention to herself. Always having the Luthor’s own royal tailor ( a elderly woman who barely spoke and had been dressing Lena as long as she could remember) dress Lena in modest attire. Never wanting Lena’s decency questioned.
Even so it was no secret to Lena that she was beautiful and endowed in such a way that most people found her attractive. There had been no shortage of noblemen and their sons in Manor who were quick to tell her so as soon as her father was out of earshot. Not one of them could seem to resist leering at Lena from the young age of twelve or thirteen. Of course, they were just as likely to hiss words like “bastard” while staring at her chest.
Lex had always been quick to jump to Lena’s defense. He had always treated her with a respect few bastards were afforded and demanded that others do the same while in his presence.
It was difficult for Lena to reconcile her memories of a young Lex starting brawls to defend her honor on the dance floor, with the same cold king she’d left behind a few days prior. Lena can’t quite pinpoint the moment she’d lost her brother’s love or what she’d done to earn his indifference, but the memories of how they once were tormented her.
Tessmacher finally speaks once she’s circled Lena appraisingly.
“Princess Kara wanted to offer my services to you while you’re here in Argo. She mentioned your kingdom’s fashion was a bit...stifling when it came to gendered clothing. Is there anything in particular you’d like me to make for you?”
“Oh.” Lena doesn’t hide her surprise, glancing around at all the fabric and clothing in various states of completion, looking for ideas. She had expected Kara to have something in mind for her, not for Lena to choose herself. Once again Kara was offering Lena a bit of freedom she was unaccustom to.
“Um, well…” Tessmacher is eyeing her expectantly. “Green compliments me.” Lena blurts, nervously. Her cheeks instantly heat up, embarrassed by her own vanity. “Or so I’ve been told.
Lena adds quickly.
Tessmacher smiles slyly. “I imagine most things compliment you, Your Highness.” This does nothing to ease the flush in her cheeks, but Lena relaxes slightly and smiles at the flattery.
“I like green.” Lena tells her with more conviction. “And reds too. Not together though.”
“Alright,” Tessmacher says, “Greens and reds, that’s a good start. Are you interested in some trousers and tunics or would you prefer to stick to dresses?”
Lena remembers Kara’s discussion with her Lillian and Lex about many women wearing trousers in Krypton. And she couldn’t possibly forget Kara’s stunning outfit from the night before. She can’t imagine looking nearly as at ease as Kara in such an outfit.
“Um, mostly dresses, I think. I’ve never really worn...men’s clothing.” Lena explains, as Tessmacher walks around the room gather materials and tools.
“It’s not men’s clothing here, Princess. Especially not among the royals.”
Lena recalls briefly meeting Kara’s family last night. All the women except for Queen Eliza and Princess Lois had worn similar outfits to Kara.
“Perhaps, we could try trousers. Something more casual for riding?”
Tessmacher smiles, pleased with Lena’s willingness to experiment. “If you’d like.”
Lena spends a couple of hours with Tessmacher, being measured and examining different fabrics and designs. Tessmacher was very excited about Lena’s Kryptonian wardrobe. By the time she left they’d planned several different outfits. Tessmacher assured Lena she’d get to work immediately and have some things ready for her in a matter of days.
“I think, Princess Kara, will be pleased.” Tessmacher had whispered with a grin.
Lena wasn’t sure what to make of that. Did she want to please Kara? Was the point of her visit to look good for this woman she was meant to marry?
As Alana and Siobhan are escorting Lena back to her quarters, the prattle on about the styles and fabrics and colors Lena had chosen, falling over themselves to compliment and encourage her. But Lena was barely listening, caught up in her own thoughts of the future.
As they are walking back towards her quarters, Lena catches the sound of laughter and oddly enough swords clashing. The sounds are distant, muffled by her handmaids’ conversation and the hum of fountains.
“What that?” Lena asks, drawing the girls to a halt. Alana and Siobhan stop and listen.
“Oh some of the royals must be in the practice arena sparring.” Alana explains, pointing vaguely in the direction of the ruckus.
Lena hesitates. “Would...would Kara be there?” She tries to ignore the grins and knowing looks her handmaids share.
“Probably, Your Highness.”
Lena hesitates again. Everything about the day before had been so intense and overwhelming. The sincerity and seriousness of her last conversation with the Kryptonian princess weighed heavily on Lena. She had all but rejected Kara’s generous proposal of marriage. Kara had been so sweet and vulnerable, and Lena had been dumbstruck.The thought of facing Kara now in the stark light of day was daunting. And Lena still didn’t have an answer for her. It was clear anyone would be lucky to marry Kara Zor-El, but here Lena was saying she needed time. Time for what? What better offer would she get? What more could she want in a spouse?
“Could we go over?” Lena asks, pushing aside her thoughts. “Would I be intruding?”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t, Princess. This way.” Siobhan leads them onwards.
The sounds of laughter and the clanging of swords grows louder as they approach. The arena is a grassy courtyard thats walls slant down into bleachers for an audience. The stands remind Lena of the tournaments she’d been to with her family back in Manor. Except at those events the seats had been wooden and portable. These seats were stone and built as an extension of the arena walls themselves. Scattered throughout the field were racks with various weapons (swords, spears, hatchets, shields, bows and arrows) and obstacles.
A small group of people are gathered low in the stands, huddle closely together. This is the source of the cackling. And just below them, Lena spots Kara. She is confidently twirling a sword, squaring up against the girl she introduced as Princess Alex.
The Kryptonian is beautiful. As usual. Her long golden hair down and swinging this way and that as she moves. She is smiling brilliantly, amusement clear in her expression. She is dressed down in a white sleeveless shirt, trousers, and riding boots.
Princess Alex is dressed similarly, she also holds a sword, grinning at Kara challengingly.
The princesses lunge at each other, their swords colliding between them. They both spring apart as quickly as they came together. Kara counters, quickly moving back into Alex’s space, the sunlight glinting off her blade. Alex dodges her attack rather easily, but can’t seem to launch one of her own.
Kara is all strength and conviction, whereas Alex is speedy and cautious. Watching them fight is like watching a well worn dance. They clearly know each other well, perhaps too well. Just when one seems to get the advantage, the other swiftly steals it away, leaving them even once again. They jest and banter as they move around each other, laughing all the while. Their small audience in the stands clap and cheer, spurring them on and picking sides.
At last, Kara charges forward during a lull, managing to catch Alex off guard. She disarms the brunette and holds the sword to her throat with a smug grin. Alex yields, unhappily.
The Kryptonians had yet to notice her when Lena begins to slowly clap, still standing just inside the archway of the arena’s entrance. Every head swivels in her direction.
Lena steps further into the arena still clapping. The other people in the stands join her, until Kara smiles, bowing grandly at the applause. Lena sees Alex roll her eyes, nudging Kara’s shoulder playfully.
Kara swats back at the brunette, before bounding over to Lena.
“Afternoon, Princess.” Kara says, cheerfully. She leans on her sword, bowing her head to Lena.
The blonde is all sweaty, chest heaving. Her shirt is unbuttoned at the top, revealing an expanse of glistening bare chest, her blonde locks stick to her neck and face.
“It’s nice to see you out and about.” Kara tells her, drawing Lena’s eyes up from where they were blatantly staring at Kara’s collarbone.
Lena stammers. “Hi, yes, I um…” She’s usually so composed, and now in the presence of this woman she can barely form a complete sentence.
Kara smirks, standing up straight, like perhaps she knows exactly what she’s doing to Lena.
“I’m glad you found us.” Kara says, having mercy on a flustered Lena. “There are some people I’d like you to meet.”
Lena glances over the blonde’s shoulder. The audience as since climbed down onto the arena floor. They mill around pretending to talk and look at anything but Lena and Kara.
Kara must sense Lena hesitance. “Only if you’re up for it.” She reassures her, looking at Lena softly.
Lena offers a shy smile and nods. Kara bounces and grins excitedly. She thrusts her hand towards Lena, holding her sword over her shoulder with the other.
Lena finds herself taking Kara’s hand, squeezing gently and being led over to the mingling Kryptonians. She immediately recognizes Sir James, Princess Alex, Prince Kal-El, and Princess Maggie. But there are several people she hasn’t met yet.
Kara clears her throat dramatically, gesturing Lena forward slightly. “May I introduce, Princess Lena of House Luthor.”
Lena steps forward into a curtsy, never letting go of Kara’s hand as she stands back up. “Hello.” Lena greets the entire group.
A small brunette with short curly waves steps forward, bowing to Lena with a sly smile. She is dressed in the same outfit as Kara and Alex except her shirt is black and embroidered with a family crest Lena doesn’t recognize.
“I’m Lucy Lane.” the woman proclaims proudly. Lena glances at Kara, confused by the woman’s informality.
“Dame Lucy of House Lane.” Kara clarifies “Lena enjoys formalities.”
“Dame?” Lena asks confused.
“I’m a Knight like James.” Lucy tells her, stepping back and looping her arm with James. “Only superior in every way.” Lucy teases. James smiles and rolls his eyes, nudging the woman’s shoulder.
“She is also notorious for exaggeration, Princess. Don’t believe anything she says.” Lucy shrugs her shoulders, unconcerned.
Next Kara gestures for a younger boy, no older than thirteen, to step forward.
“This is Lord Carter of House Grant.” The shy boy looks at Kara like she makes the sun shine and Lena can’t really blame him. He nervously brushes his dusty brown hair from his forehead, and bows deeply to Lena, who offers him a smile and curtsy in return.
“It’s an honor to meet you, Princess. I’ve never met any nobility from Manor.”
“I don’t imagine so.” Lena laughs “We don’t really get out much.” The little Lord nods and steps aside.
Behind him an older boy, perhaps a year or two younger than Lena, approaches rather begrudgingly. There is a clear resemblance between this boy and Carter, but this boy’s hair is neat and bronze in the sunlight. He is dressed more finely than everyone else, his brown tunic unbuttoned as if he’d rather not be wearing it.
“This is Carter’s elder brother, Lord Adam of House Grant.” Kara says somewhat stiffly, squeezing Lena’s hand in hears.
Lord Adam’s eyes glance up and down Lena, unimpressed, before darting to Kara. The two share a tense look that Lena can’t decipher. Lord Adam bows slightly to Lena but doesn’t smile.
“It’s an honor, Princess.” He says flatly.
“Likewise.” Lena replies politely.
Kara turns Lena away from Lord Carter and Adam, seemingly eager to move on.
“You already met Alex and Kal-El.” She says, gesturing to her cousin and the other Kryptonian princess.
“Yes, briefly.” Lena says a bit awkwardly.
“Hello again.” Kal-El says with a good-natured smile. “I hope you’re feeling better.”
Lena’s blushes slightly.
Despite the fact that Lena’s obliviousness the night before was no fault of her own, she still found herself embarrassed that she had been caught so off-guard in the throne room when first meeting the Kryptonian royals.
Kal-El’s comment only serves to remind Lena that Kara is entirely to blame. She find herself dropping the blonde’s hand as her anger flares again.
“Yes, much better. Thank you.” Lena response stiffly to the prince.
She can feel Kara’s eyes on her, probably hurt at the distance Lena has suddenly put between them, much manages to resist returning the princess’s gaze.
“I’m very sorry for the misunderstanding.” Kal-el is saying, a sympathetic expression on his already kind face.
Lena nods off his apology “Think nothing of it.” She assures him, sincerely “It’s all worked out for the best.”
Kal-el nods, but his brow remains furrowed.
“Congratulations on your wife’s pregnancy.” Lena says eager to change the subject. “You must be thrilled.” She manages a genuine smile. Kal-El’s face brightens immediately, and he straightens up proudly.
“Thank you, Princess. We are very pleased, and more than a little nervous, I must admit.”
Princess Alex loops her arm through Kal-El’s and nudges him affectionately.
“You are going to make an excellent father, Kal. No need to worry.” The brunette assures him. The prince pats her arm and gives her a gratefully look.
“Easier said than done.”
“I imagine this is an amazing place to raise a child.” Lena says, gesturing around them. “Did you all grow up here?” She asks glancing at Kara, who nods eagerly.
“Most of us did. Lois and Lucy grew up with their father at Fort Rozz. He’s one of our most respected military generals. And Maggie…”
Alex perks up at the sound of her wife’s name. “I found Maggie on a beach in the east. She thought it wise to challenge me to a horse race on the shore.” She explains fondly. Maggie stands up wrapping her arms around Alex’s waist.
“I won that race, if you do recall.”
Alex rolls her eyes. “I let you win.” Alex insists.
Kara groans and whispers to Lena “We’ll never know the truth.”
She and Lena share a smile and then can’t seem to stop grinning at each other as the conversation continues around them.
Kara excuses them from the arena not long after that. Her friends shout a chorus of goodbyes.
They walk quietly for a few minutes, aimless, Siobhan and Alana trailing a respectful distance behind them.
“Your friends seem lovely, Kara. You all seem very close.”
Kara smiles and kicks a stone along the path absentmindedly.
“It’s difficult not to be. We’ve all known each other for most of our lives. Alex is like a sister to me.”
“I wish I’d been close to other members of the Manor court. But the truth is we rarely gathered together. My father was prone to paranoia and didn’t relish the company of his lords.”
She chances a glance at Kara and glimpses the crinkle that forms between the other woman’s eyes.
“You didn’t consort with any of the other lords and ladies our age?”
Lena hesitates to answer her. Not only was Lena’s lack of friendships something of a sore subject for her, but much of it was due to her bastard status. It just now occurred to Lena that perhaps Lex had neglected to inform the Kryptonians that they would be purchasing damaged goods. Would Kara rescind her offer of marriage if she knew Lena was a bastard?
“I...Suffice it to say the other court members weren’t very fond of my company. I spent most of my time alone.” Lena admits quietly.
Kara frowns, but doesn’t comment further.
“May I show you something?” Kara finally asks, a timid smile on her face.
Somewhere in the back of her mind Lena remembers that she’s meant to be cross with her. Her father’s voice whispers his paranoid philosophies and Lillian urges her to always be guarded. But Lena nods her head anyway, finds herself taking the hand Kara offers, and walking arm in arm with the Kryptonian princess.
Kara leads them to a large rounded tower on the far side of the compound. She holds the door open as Lena steps inside and gasps.
A library. Books everywhere. Lena turns in a circle, amazed to find books on every wall. She looks up only to find that the shelves and shelves of books climb up into the rafters of the tower. The first floor is full of tables and desks, chairs and benches for studying. And a spiraling staircase curls along the walls up into the higher levels. A massive fireplace sits opposite the front entrance, filling the tower with the pops and hisses of the flames.
Lena loves it. She turns in circles again and again, her head tossed back looking up into the rafters high above.
“I thought you might appreciate this place.” Kara says, quietly.
Several of the men and women in robes that Lena had noticed before watch them curiously from where they crouch over their books or scrolls. Lena realizes now that they are scholars not priests.
Lena turns to see Lord Schott approach them, a welcoming smile on his face. He must have been reading at a table nearby.
“Nice to see you again, Princess Lena.”
Lena finds that she is genuinely glad to see him too and tells him as much with an uncontrollable grin.
“It’s rare that we see Kara in here anymore. She much prefers to read outside in the sun. Though I’ve told her over and over it’s not good for the parchment.”
Kara rolls her eyes at him. “A little fresh air never hurt anyone, Winn. You should try it sometime.”
Winn scoff and waves her off.
“I noticed your crate full of books and thought you might find some new material here.” Kara tells Lena shyly. “If you’d like that is.”
Lena nods eagerly.
“We have a wide collection here, Your Highness. You can pick your poison. We have fiction, poetry, plenty of history, and philosophy. I’d be happy to show you around.”
Lena beams at him. This place put her father's little library office to shame. She was enamored with the idea of all the histories and knowledge contained in these walls. She could finally learn about the world outside her father’s kingdom.
Winn seemed pleased with Lena obvious excitement. He offers her his arm.
kinda just a filler chapter, but this story is moving right along. Hopefully I can update at least one more time before I have to be back at work Wed (but don't hold me to that). Sorry again for the wait
Chapter 9: Could I Get Use To This?
Lena begins to form a routine in Argo which includes befriending Winn, fangirling over Amazons, and getting to know Kara better.
Hi, in case you didn't hear, I made an editing mistake on Chapter 8. A huge chunk of the chapter was missing in the original post. I've since fixed it. So if you haven't already, go back and check out what you missed, then come back here (sorry for the inconvenience)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena quickly fell into a routine over the next several days.
Despite the comfort of her bed, Lena instructed her handmaids to wake her just before sunrise every morning so she could have breakfast on her balcony and watch the sky change colors. Then Lena would go straight to the library, where she would spend most of her day exploring the shelves with Lord Schott and the other scholars.
Lena had already read plenty of poetry and fiction in her life. The majority of her father’s collection at been made up of tall tales and romanticism, believe it or not. Lena supposed she and Lionel had both required a means of escape. Now, Lena found herself more enthralled with the historical texts.
One of Lionel’s (and his father’s before him) biggest failings as a ruler had been the isolation and ignorance he forced on his people. Very little of Lena’s education had included historical and political lessons on their region. Over several unfortunate generations, the Luthors had managed to alienate or antagonize most of their neighboring kingdoms. This had caused something of a communication and informational drought. And so to Lena the library was like standing under a waterfall. It not only allowed her access to Kryptonian and Manorial histories, but detailed historical accounts and cultural studies of other lands, like neighboring Daxam and the island nation of Themyscira.
Lena found herself spending and enormous amount of time with Lord Schott (who had finally convinced her to call him Winn). Not only did they read and study together for most of the day, but they also competed in fierce games of chess. Lena usually won these with ease.
Chess had been one of the few ways she and Lillian could ever tolerate each other’s company. It was also the only time Lillian ever seemed to have any fun at all. Therefore, Lena was proficient, because as much as she hated to admit it now, she use to love the look of pride Lillian would give her when Lena bested her. Chess was the one thing at which Lena didn’t disappoint.
Luckily, Winn was a very good sport. In fact, the young lord seemed to find losing to be far more thrilling than winning.
“Every lose tells me how best to improve!” He had explained, eyeing the board carefully as he replayed the last few moves that had led to his defeat. “Every game is like an experiment, Luthor.”
“Well, I’d be happy to beat you as many times as you like. You know...for science.” Lena tells him, grinning. He rolls his eyes at her.
“You are a very cocky princess.” He grumbles.
“Are you talking about me?”
Lena and Winn both turn at the sound of Kara’s voice. The Kryptonian princess is scrutinizing them with mock suspicion, having caught the tail end of Winn's mumbling.
“Well, now that you’ve mentioned it…” Winn teases her, while also inclining his head respectfully.
Kara was here to escort Lena to lunch. Another part of her new routine.
Lena and Kara would eat lunch together everyday in the gardens outside Lena’s room.
The first day had been more than a little awkward. Lena had slightly resented being pulled from the library after having just discovered it, but her manners compelled her to accept Kara’s invitation. Kara was a Crown Princess after all, and Lena was here as her guest. Though Kara made it rather easy to forget about her status.
The girl was so relaxed here in her palace. Apparently, the fine tunics and riding outfits Kara had donned during their travels and their first night in Argo were a rarity for the blonde. She much prefered to strut about in loose shirts. Some unbearably sleeveless, showing off the Kryptonian’s toned arms, and all of them with the first few buttons left open, exposing her collarbone and the top of her sternum. It took all Lena’s composure to control her wandering gaze. And it was not always a battle she won. In addition to her casual clothing, Kara didn’t seem to keep any attendants of her own. At least none that Lena had seen. Alana or Siobhan would bring them lunch from the kitchen and then more often than not Kara would clear their plates herself, taking the lunch tray with her when she left.
Lena had quickly grown comfortable with Kara, and now she found that she looked forward to the reprieve of their alone time. For as much as she enjoyed the library, it was entirely too stuffy and (aside from Winn) most of the other scholars were older, grumpier people. Obviously irked by her and Winn’s often exuberant love for learning.
Kara had somehow found a way to draw Lena out of her passive conversational habits. Normally, back in Manor, Lena had tried her best to go unnoticed during family and formal meals alike. Because whatever attention she garner was usually negative and exhausting. But with Kara she found herself engaging wholeheartedly. They would laugh and shamelessly flirt across the table, hiding smirks behind wine goblets and blaming blushes on the afternoon heat.
Today, Kara had allowed Lena to stumble into a rant about her kingdom’s lackluster historical education, smiling as Lena gushed about the texts and maps Winn had showed her that morning.
“...and Themyscira! What an incredible civilization! Winn showed me some sketches from Captain Trevor’s journals., and the sheer beauty of the architecture is difficult for me to imagine. I thought Argo was magnificent when we first arrived, but compared to those depictions…” Lena trails off shaking her head and taking another bite of bread and cheese.
“Yes, it’s a very lovely place. The structures you saw in Trevor’s journals have stood there for thousands of years. Weathering storms and sieges alike.” Kara tells her.
“You’ve been there?”
Kara lips pull into a sly smile as she nods, pleased with Lena’s excitement.
“Alex and I spent a summer there a few years ago. Our mothers are good friends with the Amazonian Queen.”
“Amazing.” Lena breathes, her food completely forgotten. “I read that their relations with Krypton had, for the most part, always been amiable. I have to admit the reality of a matriarchal society is fascinating to me.” She leans forward, her elbows on the table, chin in her hands. “What was it like there?”
“Well, they are a very small nation. The island really only has one true city, the one Trevor drew. The rest is made up of small farming and mountain villages. The island itself is...it’s beautiful, Princess. A true paradise.”
Lena hums as she tried to picture the place Kara describes. But as someone who had never even seen the ocean it was a difficult image for her to conjure.
“And the people? What are they like?”
“Fierce.” Kara says firmly “It is strange...they are both some of the most peaceful people I’ve ever encountered and some of the greatest warriors. And because the nation is so small, they are a very close community. It seemed as if everyone knew everyone. They were all strong and confident and so so beautiful .”
Lena raises an eyebrow at that. “So so beautiful ...huh?” She mimics Kara playfully “It sounds like you certainly enjoyed your time there.”
Kara blushes and ducks her head in embarrassment, but doesn't deny Lena's insinuation. Rubbing the back of her neck nervously she says “Perhaps, I’ll take you there someday. You could see for yourself.”
Lena’s eyes go wide and she sits back. On the one hand, she’s thrilled by the prospect of traveling, especially to a place as beautiful and foreign to her as the home of the Amazons. But on the other hand, Kara had used the word someday. Something of a trigger word for them lately. Someday suggested the future, and mention of the future always seemed to remind them both that Lena had yet to respond to Kara's proposal. She had yet to say yes to this stunning woman who seemed to want nothing more than to give Lena the world.
And why is that again? Lena asks herself, during the awkward silence that follows. Because she lied to you that one time? Because she gave you the choice? Because you resent her for whisking you away from your emotionally vacant family and culturally oppressive kingdom? Or because you both now had the ability to choose and you were too busy trying to figure out why she had chosen you?
Kara also seems to have noticed her slip up. The blonde avoids Lena’s eyes and shifts uncomfortable in her seat.
Kara clears her throat roughly, cutting Lena off, and forcing a dismissive smile.
“Anyway, I um...Everyone is gathering in the arena soon. More sparing and shenanigans. Would you like to join us?”
It seems the younger members of court spent a great deal of their time “training” together in the arena. That’s where Kara went most days after their lunch and sometimes Lena would join her. She found she greatly enjoyed sitting in the stands as everyone watched the sparing and jested with one another. It was an atmosphere she was completely unfamiliar with, but recognized the beauty of. This is what friendship and camaraderie were suppose to look like she had quickly realized.
Though everyone had been friendly and polite to her (with the exception of Lord Adam Grant who still seemed somehow perturbed with her presence), she still found it difficult to insert herself into Kara circle of friends. Instead, she liked to sit apart, higher up in the stands than everyone else, usual with a book she pretended to read instead of staring at Kara.
“Certainly.” Lena says now with a tense smile as she rises from her seat.
They walk quietly, arm in arm, through the palace ground. The tension caused by Kara’s musings of someday slowly dissipate as they slipped into a more comfortable silence.
And reluctantly Lena wonders, Could I get use to this?
You can thank Irma for me posting two days in a row (nothing to do but read and write)
Chapter 10: You May Call Me Lena
Lena makes some new friends
They hear the sounds of the arena long before they walk through it’s archway. Alex and Maggie seemed to have teamed up against Kal-El, which even Lena has to admit looks pretty unfair.
Kal-El fends off the two princesses with a sword and shield, while Maggie wields a staff and Alex her sword.
Kara quickly detangles her arm from Lena’s and bounds over to the weapons rack. She grabs her favorite sword and jumps to Kal-El’s defense. Lena chuckles to herself at the blonde’s eagerness as she climbs into the stands.
“Princess! Princess Lena!” Lena is surprise to look up and find Princess Lois waving at her. Lois is sitting apart from the rest of the group, higher in the stands in the shade of the arena wall. She offers a smile and waves Lena over. Lena hesitates, glancing at the larger group sitting near the bottom of the stands. James, Lucy, Winn, Adam, Carter, and Marcus (James’ nephew) are all engrossed in the mock battle below, cheering and jeering. With a polite smile, Lena makes her way over to Lois and sits next to her in the shade.
“Hello, Your Highness.” Lena greets her politely, inclining her head.
Lena had not really spoken to the pregnant princess beyond a simple greeting several days earlier when Kara had reintroduced them. Lena was willing to admit that perhaps she had been avoiding Kal-El’s wife due to the awkward circumstances surrounding their first encounter. But now, Lois scoffs at Lena’s formality, seeming completely at ease.
“There’s really no need for all that is there? You can call me Lois.” Lois is leaned back on her elbows in what looks to Lena like an uncomfortable position, and she rubs absentmindedly at her swollen belly.
“Very well.” Lena clears her throat “You may call me Lena.”
“Excellent!” Lois says with an approving nod.
“Are you alright?” Lena asks tentatively “You don’t look very comfortable.”
Lois shifts back and forth a bit, wincing, but ultimately settles back into the same position.
“I’m not, not at all.” Lois complains “I can’t remember the last time I was comfortable honestly. Months ago, I’m sure.”
Lena gives her a sympathetic expression, trying not to stare at Lois’s stomach. She had never been around very many pregnant women. In Manor, pregnant nobles rarely left their estates, choosing instead to remain in a safe familiar environment in the company of family and servants until the baby was born. Lena had seen common folk and castle servants who had been with child, but never up close. Lois’s enormous belly was a strange, mysterious, and magical thing to Lena.
She had been in someone’s belly once. Someone she had never met. Someone who had fallen into a king’s bed and found themselves burdened with a child no one would want. She had been with her mother in the most intimate way for at least the duration of her pregnancy, and yet she knew absolutely nothing about the woman who gave her life. And she probably never would.
And one day, Lena would have someone growing inside her belly too. The thought sparked a small panic in Lena, she unconsciously caressed her own stomach, glad to find it wasn’t harboring a new life.
Lois was watching Lena closely, her face scrutinizing yet amused.
“Tell me, Lena, what’s it like not to feel like a complete cow? I can hardly remember.”
This seems to snap Lena out of her thoughts, she blinks a few times and drops her hand from her stomach. She smiles at Lois softly.
“You look radiant, Lois. Truly, motherhood suits you, already.” It’s an automatic response, something Lena knows she’s suppose to say, but as she says it Lena find it to be true. Despite, Lois's discomfort she does look beautiful. Beautiful but annoyed.
“That’s very kind horseshit, Lena. Thank you.” Lois says laughing and rolling her eyes.
Lena find herself grinning at Lois’s profanity. “It’s true! I’ve always heard people say such things about women who are with child, but I never really understood what they meant, until now.”
Lois is looking fondly at her own belly, rubbing broad circles.
“Hmm…” She hums, still skeptical. “Nevertheless, I’ll be quite glad when this little one is out here in the world with the rest of us. I’ll be glad to leave behind the glow of pregnancy.”
“And when will that be?”
Lois shrugs “These things are hard to be sure of. The physician thinks several more weeks. Perhaps, my child will arrive with the heat of summer.”
They are both silent as they gaze down at Lois’s belly expectantly, like perhaps, the child will spring forth any moment.
Suddenly, Princess Maggie is there, sweaty and out of breath she plops down on the other side of Lois.
“Why are you two all the way up here? It’s so many steps.” Maggie grumbles.
“The sun is harsh today.”
“The sun is glorious today.” Maggie disagrees.
Lois scoffs and rolls her eyes. “We can’t all be sun-kissed like you, Maggie.”
“Poor lily white princesses.” Maggie pouts in mock sympathy. “Hello, Princess!” She says to Lena “Nice to see you socializing today.”
Lena flushes and ducks her head. “You can call me Lena, if you’d like.”
“Oooh,” Maggie says sitting up and bumping shoulders with Lois “finally loosing up are we?”
Lois nudges Maggie back. “Don’t tease her, Maggie, you’ll scare her off.”
Maggie shrugs and raises her palms in surrender. Lena laughs nervously.
“I haven’t meant to be so...distant. I just...this is all very strange to me. Having so many people around.”
“That’s okay, Lena.” Lois assures her “I know, this group can be a bit much.”
“Speak for yourself, I am exactly the right amount.” Maggie claims with a grin, prompting another eye roll from Lois.
“I’m just teasing, Little Luthor.” Maggie says good naturedly. Lena’s eyes widen at the nickname, but she doesn’t object to it.
“How are you doing, Lena?” Lois asks, gently. “The truth now.”
Lena looks down, fidgeting with her hands.
“I’m doing well.”
Lois and Maggie share a skeptical look.
“No, honestly, these last several days have been...quite nice. Winn has been helping me navigate the library which I find endlessly fascinating. And everyone I’ve met has been very kind and welcoming. My handmaids are attentive. My bed is to die for. I love the view from my window. I...I feel safe for the first time in a long time.”
Lois smiles sympathetically, placing a comforting hand on Lena’s arm. “I’m very glad to hear that, Lena.”
“And what do you think of Kara, then?” Maggie asks, curiously. Lena’s eyes grow wide again and her cheeks turn pink.
Lois swiftly elbows Maggie and shoots her a glare. “Maggie!”
“Ow, what? Was that rude? Shit, that was rude wasn’t it?”
“No, it um, it wasn’t.” Lena stutters.
“Yes, it was.” Lois growls at Maggie.
“I’m sorry, Princess.” Maggie says sincerely. “I didn’t grow up like the rest of you. All this excessive politeness is a bit new to me.”
“It’s quite alright, Maggie.” Lena assures her, finally composing herself. “I just um...I’ve been trying to answer that question for myself since I arrived here.” She says being more honest than she planned.
Maggie and Lois both nod.
“Well, Kara is quite taken with you - oof!” Maggie is interrupted by another elbow from Lois. “Ow!”
Lena blushes again and laughs.
“Are we just not allowed to say true things?” Maggie asks, rubbing at her shoulder.
“You’re embarrassing her.” Lois scolds her.
“Sorry.” Maggie mumbles, half heartedly.
“It’s fine, really.” Lena tells her.
Lois shifts up into a proper sitting position, before bracing herself on Maggie and Lena’s shoulders in order to push herself to her feet.
“Come, Lena, walk me back to my room will you? The baby needs to rest.”
“Certainly!” Lena says, jumping to her feet and taking Lois’s arm to steady her.
“The baby doesn’t need rest.” Maggie insists “All it does is rest in there. It’s probably bored out of it’s skull.”
“Well, I need to rest then, for it sure takes a lot out of me for the little one to sit in there doing nothing.”
They all laugh, as Lena helps Lois down the steps.
When Kal-El notices them leaving he pauses his duel with Kara and James.
“Lois, are you alright?” his face is full of concern as he makes to approach them.
Lois waves him off with a smile. “I’m just fine, my love. Just heading inside.”
“Would you like me to join you?” her husband asks, all too ready to set aside his sword.
“No, Kal, Princess Lena is going to walk with me. You stay. I’ll see you for dinner.”
Kal-El looks from his wife to Lena, then nods, his concern slipping away.
“Very well. Thank you, Princess Lena.”
Lena nods to him and offers a small smile. “Of course.”
Kal-El turn around heading back toward the fight. Kara is smiling brightly at Lena. The blonde lifts her hand in a small wave which Lena returns, finding a silly smile on her own face. This does not go unnoticed by Lois who smiles knowingly at Lena.
They travel slowly and silently through the palace grounds, Lois waddling along, her arm looped with Lena’s for support. Lena still doesn’t really know her way around the palace yet. Usually, she had one of her handmaids, Winn, or Kara to guide her. So she simply follows Lois's lead.
Finally, Lois breaches their agreeable silence.
“I know, I scolded Maggie before, mostly because I enjoy scolding Maggie, mind you. But do tell, Princess, what do you think about Kara? Have you forgiven her for her omissions?”
Lena sighs “I’m honestly not sure, Lois. For the most part, yes I have forgiven her. Lying was wrong, but she’s didn’t do it to hurt me.”
“No, of course, not.”
“And it’s hard not to feel a certain amount of...gratitude towards her. She essentially rescued me from what could have been a very unpleasant fate, out of nothing but the goodness of her heart.”
“She did at that. Very romantic.” Lois teases.
Lena blushes despite herself, but forges on. “And she has been nothing but kind and respectful to me since we met. She’s charming and generous and smart and fierce! The freedom she has offered me is an incredible gift I’m not even sure she understands the value of.”
“So...why do you hesitate to accept her proposal?”
Lena bites her lip, because isn’t that the same question she keeps asking herself?
“Is it...because she’s a woman? I know, Manor doesn’t approve of such-”
“No! Definitely not. Not at all.” Lena is quick to assure her. “I’ve always liked women.” Lena admits, quietly. “Much to my mother’s disgust.”
Lois frowns, and pats the top of Lena’s hand to encourage her to continue.
“What is it then?”
Lena shakes her head.
“I don’t know, really...It’s just Kara comes to me and tells me I can go wherever I want to go and do whatever I want to do and be with whoever I’d like to be with and...to respond to that newfound freedom by immediately tying myself to someone I barely know, no matter how beautiful and kind, feels sort of wrong.”
Lois nods as she brings them to halt presumable outside her bedroom door.
“I can certainly understand that.”
Lena searches her face and finds nothing my genuine understanding. “You do?”
“Of course. Your hesitance makes complete sense, Lena, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. This is not a decision to be made lightly. This is your life, and Kara’s too. Kara knows this.”
Lena sighs, grateful for Lois’s reassurance.
“I just don’t want to...insult her or seem ungrateful.”
Lois shakes her head firmly and takes Lena’s hand.
“Kara doesn’t want your gratitude, Princess.”
“Then what does she want from me? Surely, she has more appropriate suitors lined down the streets who would love to marry her.”
Lois tries to stifle a laugh for reasons that are unclear to Lena. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. Sorry.” Lois shakes her head and wipes the smile from her face, as Lena eyes her suspiciously. Before Lena can question her further, Lois grows serious again and squeezes Lena’s hand.
“Unfortunately, Kara is not one to gossip. Like you, she prefers to be rather private. So if you’d like to know what she’s thinking, I’m afraid you’ll just have to ask her.”
“I feared you’d say that.”
Chapter 11: Mercer
Lena sits in her room reading a historical text detailing Krypton and Daxam’s political and military relations. It’s not thrilling, but quite insightful. According to this, Krypton and Daxam were once one kingdom, before a rebellion nearly 300 years ago resulted in a split. Since then tensions have had been high between the neighboring kingdoms. There had not been an all out war for nearly a century, but to this day border skirmishes were common and the two kingdoms maintained a fragile peace. According to the newest lineage record, the current Royal family of Daxam were disgraced descendants of the House of El.
Of course, Lena found all this endlessly riveting. To think that Kara was the heir to a house whose lineage could be traced back not hundreds but thousands of years in history. And that she thought Lena worthy of joining such a family. The Luthor name was nothing to scoff at. Luthors had been ruling in Manor for the last four generations and nobility for a hundred years before that. But their bloodline and prestige was miniscule compared to that of the House of El.
Lena had become engrossed in the text after her breakfast at sunrise and was surprised to look up and find that hours had pasted as she studied.
Alana and Siobhan had just entered, each with an arm full of clothing.
“Sorry to disturb your reading, Princess.” Alana says, hanging the garments in Lena’s wardrobe.
Lena closes the manuscript. “It’s no problem. What do you have there?”
Both handmaids smile excitedly.
“Tessmacher finished some of her designs and had us bring them over right away!” Siobhan squeals.
Lena smiles at the girl’s excitement, getting up and inspecting the clothing herself.
“Exciting.” Lena says in a teasing tone.
“And…” Alana says with a sly smile.
“And?” Lena raises her eyebrow at the girl, intrigued.
“Princess Kara has requested your presence at the stables in an hour!” Alana tells her, trying to stifle a smile.
Lena can’t help the smile that pulls across her face, she does however manage not to blush which is progress.
“Yes, she said she has a surprise for you.” Siobhan waggles her eyebrows at Lena, earning and elbow in the ribs from Alana.
“Well, we shouldn’t keep her waiting.” Lena says rolling her eyes. She was still dressed in her sleep gown.
“At least, now you have the perfect outfit to wear.” Alana says, holding up the outfit in question.
Lena gasps “That is actually kind of perfect.”
Alana and Siobhan share a smile. “Princess Kara will certainly think so.”
Lena is dressed in trousers for the first time in her life and she has to say it feels a bit strange. The brown breeches hug her hips and thighs, clinging to her in a way the people of Manor would find highly inappropriate. As she walks through the palace grounds accompanied by her very proud handmaids, she has an irrational fear of her mother turning the corner at any moment and scolding her harshly for being so lewd.
The breeches are accompanied by a matching jerkin, which she wears over a gorgeous emerald green blouse. Tessmacher had insisted that it was the exact same color of Lena’s eyes in the right light. And so, Lena could only hope she remained in the right light for the rest of her life.
Alana and Siobhan certainly thought she looked nice. They wouldn’t shut up about it in fact. Making Lena wonder if the girls were simply that excitable or to some degree major suck-ups. Either way their compliments and encouragement had finally convinced Lena that this indeed was the outfit to wear to meet Kara at the stables.
When they reach the stables, Kara is already there waiting. Standing next to Raza speaking to Alex and Maggie. The blonde is dressed in a more casual riding attire than Lena. A worn bright blue jerkin over a white undershirt, with black breeches. But the Kryptonian princess made everything look good, Lena had come to discover. And blue was most definitely Kara’s color.
Kara’s eyes go wide and her mouth falls open when Maggie directs her attention to Lena. Both their cheeks flush pink, as Lena timidly approaches. Alex’s eyeroll and Maggie’s pleased grin do not go unnoticed by Lena, even as she watches Kara’s reaction.
Apparently, her handmaids were right. Lena made a mental note to never doubt them again.
“Hello.” Lena finally says, into Kara’s flustered silence. She can not contain her smile as her insecurities about the outfit slip away.
“Princess…” Kara says, breathless “You look...that’s um, wow.”
“You look amazing, Lena. Tessmacher has not disappointed.” Maggie interjects on Kara’s stuttering.
“Thank you. Both of you.” Lena plucks nervously at the low neckline of her shirt. “I have to admit this isn’t what I’m use to…”
Kara has finally regained some of her composure, even as her gaze flutters down to Lena’s exposed collarbone. “I’m glad you decided to broaden your horizons.”
They stand there just smiling shyly at each other for entirely too long.
“Yes, yes, she looks lovely, Can we go now?” Alex interrupts them, looking much less pleased with Lena’s presence then everyone else.
Lena had gotten the feeling more than once that Alex didn’t like her very much. It was nothing the princess had done or said precisely, just the tilt of Alex’s chin when Lena walked into a room or the weight of her gaze when she thought Lena wasn’t looking. They hadn’t said more than two words to each other directly, so Lena couldn’t imagine what she had done to cause such offense.
Kara looked annoyed at Alex for half a second before seeming to remember something that excited her.
“Hold on, Alex! Honestly, have you forgotten about Lena’s gift?”
The question was directed at Alex, but Kara’s teasing gaze was on Lena.
“How could I?” Alex grumbles as she swings herself into the stable of her own horse. “It’s all you’ve been talking about.”
Ignoring Alex, Lena smoothly lifts an eyebrow at the Kara. “A gift?”
“Um, hmm.” Kara hums, gesturing to the stable boy, who immediately disappears into the barn.
Kara is bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet as they wait for the stable boy to return. She comes to stand next to Lena.
At last the stable boy emerges, leading a beautiful dark horse. The colt was a shimmering black in the sunlight, his coat just as dark as Lena’s own hair. The horse whinnied and danced as he was led out into the sun. He flung his head back, his long dark mane swinging freely.
“Oh.” Lena breathed.
Kara was not so patiently waiting for Lena’s reaction, her hand brought up to cover her own giddy smile.
Lena took a few steps closer to the dancing colt, gingerly allowing him to smell her hand.
“Is...He’s for me?”
“Yes!” Kara squeals, startling the horse a bit. “Sorry.” Kara mutters, rocking on the heels of her feet. Then more shyly “Do you...like him?”
Lena laughs and runs her hand over the horse’s neck, feeling his coiled muscles, all that strength and speed just waiting to be unleashed.
“He’s gorgeous.” She comments absentmindedly. The colt seems to calm a bit under Lena’s touch, he bumps her shoulder with his snout, eliciting a surprised giggle from Lena.
“He’s only three years old, but the breeder assured me he’s been well trained. I was told he can be a bit...spirited, which I hoped you might appreciate.”
Lena glances at a smirking Kara from over the horse’s back.
“I certainly do.” Lena says patting the horse appreciatively.
“And the best part,” Kara continues “they had yet to give him a proper name. That honor falls to you, Princess.” Her smile turns soft, and Lena can feel herself melt a little.
Kara had really put a great deal of thought into this. A horse of her very own, to name and tame.
Lena feels the ridiculous urge to cry. She shakes it off quickly, laughing instead.
“Kara, I don’t know what to say. This is...He’s...Thank you. Truly. I love him.” Lena says trying to cover up how emotional this simple gift has made her.
“I’m pleased to hear it.” Kara says, bowing slightly, her blonde hair falling forward off her shoulder.
Maggie approaches, patting the horse’s neck.
“Let’s get him saddled and see what he can do, shall we?”
The four princesses ride quickly out of the city and into the surrounding moorland. Spring is in full bloom and the hills are peppered with poppies and heather. The girls seem to ride with no particular destination in mind. The Kryptonians banter with each other has Lena remains quiet, admiring the landscape.
Her new horse is indeed spirited. He is young and eager to run, pulling against the reins and dancing in place when Lena held him back. Lena didn’t mind though, she is more than capable of handling his energy. He was easily soothed by the sound of her voice or a scratch behind his ear.
As they rode further from the city, Lena contemplated on what to name him. It seemed like such a massive responsibility, naming something. Lena had thought the first thing she’d ever name would be a child, when the time came. She supposed it was much safer to practice on a horse.
“Gertrude?” Lena asked, eyeing Alex’s horse. It was a lean chestnut mare, not particularly beautiful, but not quite worthy of the name Gertrude either.
“After my great grandmother.” Alex said, defensively.
Maggie leans close to Lena from her position beside her. “I voted against it, for the record.”
“It’s a fine name.” Kara assured Alex.
“Yeah, for a great grandmother!” Maggie teases, moving forward to swat playfully at her wife. “Think Gertrude is fast enough to keep up with Morpheus here?” She asked patting her own stallion’s neck.
Alex laughed wholeheartedly “Oh, please, I could out ride you on any horse, my love. No need for Gertrude to prove anything.”
Maggie feigns insult “So cocky there, Danvers!”
“Rightfully, so, as you well know, Sawyer.”
Maggie leans over dangerously, balancing herself with a hand on Gertrude’s rump to kiss Alex briefly. Lena quickly glances away from the display of affection, blushing when she catches Kara’s eye.
“Not anymore. It’s Danvers now. Or have you forgotten?” Maggie teases, pulling away and settling back into her saddle.
“Oh, yes!” Kara chimed in “That’s all the world needs is another Danvers causing trouble.”
Kara urges Raza ahead, throwing a bright teasing smile over her shoulder.
“What’d you say, Zor-El? Get back here!” Maggie says galloping to catch up with her.
As Maggie speeds by Raza, she slaps the filly firmly on the rump, startling her into a gallop. Before Lena knows what’s happened Kara and Maggie have raced far ahead, laughing as they go, leaving her alone with an amused Alex.
“Are they always like that?” Lena asks. Alex is still smiling as she watches them, her eyes dart to Lena and widen in surprise as if she had forgotten she was there.
“Yes. Much worse usually. I think, Maggie is being on her best behavior for you.”
“That’s a frightening thought.”
Alex chuckles fondly “You have no idea.”
“I like your wife.” Lena admits “Her...unbridled way of speaking has a strange way of setting things at ease.”
“Sometimes.” Alex nods “It was a bit difficult for her here at first. She had to learn when to speak more cautiously.”
“How long have you been married?”
“Nearly two years now.” Alex says happily.
Lena hesitates to ask her next question, but her curiosity gets the better of her.
“And you married her for love? Not politics or…”
“Yes.” Alex answers sharply. “For love.” Her face hardens again, just slightly as she studies Lena. “What do you think of that?”
“I think, that’s wonderful. Strange and new to me, but...wonderful.”
Alex is quiet for a moment, and Lena can feel her hard gaze on her.
“Have you ever been in love, Lena?”
Lena’s eyes widen in surprise. “I-I...well, no, I can’t say I have been.”
“Ever been close?”
Lena shakes her head furiously, growing wary of this line of questioning.
“No, I’ve never really...been close with anyone, ever. Never felt anything like that.”
Alex hums, curiously.
“Think you would know the feeling if it slapped you in the face?”
Lena’s pulls her horse to a halt in her surprise at the harshness of Ale'x tone, but Alex keeps moving, urging Gertrude into a canter.
“Come on, Luthor, let’s catch up to them.”
Lena doesn’t move for a moment as Alex pulls away and her colt dances underneath her.
At last pushing Alex’s question aside, she urged Mercer forward. That’s what she’s decide to name him. A little more mercy would do the world some good.