Kara, clad in armor, takes the hand Lena offers and brings it to her lips. The title is unnecessary now that they're alone, but Kara likes to say it. Lena is beauty and power and splendor, and she chose Kara to be hers.
“Hello, darling.” They fall into step as they walk down the castle walls and towards the Queen Tower. “I trust you had a pleasant day?”
“As always.” Kara is not thinking of the lavish food or her stimulating conversation with Nia when she answers, but rather of waking up beside Lena and watching her rise with the sun. “And you?”
“Lord Jack arrived ahead of the Mentish party and stole me off for a walk in the gardens. The plumerias are blooming beautifully.”
Kara could never hide her tension, even with most of her body hidden under armor.
“Oh, stop it,” Lena says exasperatedly. “My heart belongs only to you.”
“Mine too,” Kara says. “Jack’s as well, I reckon.”
Lena rolls her gorgeous eyes. Somehow Kara finds her most beautiful when she is haughty and indignant. “I will not entertain this conversation again. You are sillier than any man I’ve ever met.”
Kara pushes her lower lip out. In her armor, one hand always ready on her sheathed sword, she is sure she looks ridiculous, but as Lena’s wife she must be primed to protect her at all times, even while they’re bickering in between tasks.
Lena taps her once on her chestplate to show that she is only teasing, sweeping past her in an elegant flurry of fabric, the perfect waves of her black hair swaying with each step. Kara hurries to catch up and offers her hand to help Lena up the Privy Stairs.
In Kara's opinion, there is no greater way to unwind after a long day than to rest your head on your wife’s lap and feel the gentle carding of her fingers through your hair. She can only be thankful that she found Lena now, at five and twenty, when most don't find love in an entire lifetime.
She has lost a lot, but she has finally found her fortune.
“Kara,” Lena says, her voice a tender murmur that Kara is inclined to believe is saved only for her. “My Kara.”
Kara lets it wash over her, a gift to grace her ears and birth butterflies in her stomach. She lifts her cheek from its content spot on Lena’s thigh, covered only by the sheer fabric of her nightgown. It is one of many sewn for Lena after their betrothal, and definitely Kara’s favorite. She accepts Lena’s probing fingers into her mouth, letting them roam and press as they please.
Lena is Kara’s queen and foremost, that is what the law dictates, but often in the midst of their lovemaking the simple fact of it would be forgotten, and Lena would gladly allow Kara to move and kiss and touch her as she desired- as the both of them desired. Often Lena’s passionate response set Kara’s ears aflame as she considered the guards posted outside the door, hearing every eager moan and demand from her wife, and every overcome whine from herself.
Today is not one of those days. Today Lena’s eyes are as lucent as the candles littering the bedchamber, as holy as the last body of water on Krypton. Kara follows her wife’s heeds, taking her pale legs one by one into her lap.
Lena is constantly on her feet, moving from one corner of the castle to the next. Her toes are painted a shade of green, and her ankle is a delicate, precious slope in Kara’s hands as she kneads the muscles up to her calves, careful to use only a slither of her strength. Kara would never forgive herself if she hurt her wife, and she feared it everyday as her missteps began to grow more frequent. So far from Lasia, and without her sisters to constantly remind her to keep her strength in check, it is much too easy to forget.
Lena stretches out contently, her bosom arching to expose her whetted nipples. Kara privately thanks Rao and the Royal Seamstress for such a gift. A gentle touch to the back of her head leads her to where Lena’s thighs give into her cunt, and then to the sweetness that awaits her tongue.
They are both sated, Lena by Kara’s mouth and Kara with two of Lena’s fingers. They drift to separate pillows and kick the sheets down to cool off.
“What have you morrow?” Lena asks.
“My sister is joining me for supper. You will be there, won't you?”
No answer is forthcoming. Kara looks over to find her wife feigning sleep. She is nettled but she can't help giggling at Lena's rare antics. “Why do you insist on avoiding my family?”
Lena groans. “You’re making me tense. I shall have your mouth again should you continue this interrogation.”
“I wasn't aware that merely mentioning Alex was an interrogation.”
Lena is rigid beside her. Kara burrows her nose in the queen’s hair and sprawls a hand over the soft flesh of her thigh to calm them both. She finds that the simple method to avoid escalating a calm discussion is contact, a touch to let your partner know that you do not intend to argue, merely to understand.
“I’m afraid she won't like me,” Lena admits quietly, safe to be vulnerable without Kara’s eyes on her. “I’m afraid I can't be a wife and a queen.”
“Let’s worry about one thing at a time, the two of you liking each other.”
“Alex doesn't like me?”
Kara hesitates. Lena takes her by the hair and tugs. The action usually serves to arouse Kara more than to intimidate, and the wires get crossed. Kara watches Lena’s lips move through half-lidded eyes.
“Tell your queen the truth,” Lena demands.
“She thinks you don't care for me,” Kara says. “I know you do. You needn't say it.”
The strain around Lena’s brows tells her that she wishes she could. Her throat works soundlessly. She kisses her way to the dusk between Kara’s legs instead.
Kara’s peak is as euphoric as it is tinged with uncertainty. She is not sure whether to take it as a declaration of love, an apology, or acquiescence, and so when Lena barges into the Privy Chamber, interrupting her and Alex’s supper, her presence is unexpected.
“I didn’t realize you had company,” Lena says stiffly. “May I have a private word?”
Kara smothers her disappointment. Lena is paler than usual and appears to be in distress. “Yes, of course. You shall ask for nothing.”
Once the room is cleared Lena wastes not a moment. She tosses herself into Kara’s arms as if she were a damsel, a pillow attack of soft skin and expensive fabric and the aroma of plumerias braided into her hair.
Kara runs a soothing hand down her back. “What’s the matter?” she asks, and the answer is no surprise. There is only one thing that could rattle the queen so.
“There was another Kelpie sighting, here in the west,” Lena croaks, crowding impossibly closer.
Kara instinctively shields her wife from the world with her arms. “Nothing will harm you as long as I am near.”
“You have no idea what you’re speaking of. The Kelpies, they will stop at nothing. I’ve seen it myself.”
Her mother. Lena refuses to speak of it, but Kara has heard murmurs in the castle. The Kelpie will snare you in its trap so that the very air you breathe drowns you from the inside out, filling your lungs until your blood is diluted out of its color, bubbling out of every orifice in your body. Not even the most qualified of alchemists and physicians could explain it, but Kara knows it is the work of magic, the kind opposite of that used to birth Reign from the ashes.
Lena was there when it happened.
Lost for words that aren't empty reassurances, Kara gathers Lena back into her arms. She has never longed so strongly to show Lena her true self, to give her piece of mind. Nothing will touch her wife as long as she is near.
And she will be near.
Such is the state Lena is in that she agrees to stay for supper. Alex is already helping herself to wine soaked lamb, and the food affords them enough distraction to eat in silence without awkwardness.
Kara kisses her wife before she leaves, tongue daring to slip by her lips and into her warm mouth as it parts in surprise. Lena’s cheeks are wonderfully colored when they separate, and Kara knows the lack of propriety will take Lena’s mind off the Kelpies for the rest of the day.
Later she will tell Kara off for it, but Kara knows she likes it.
Alex is waiting for her at the table with a list of complaints, still nipping at the lamb. “She treats you like a servant,” she says, pinning Kara with an unimpressed gaze. “You pull chairs for her. You stand when she stands. You assemble her plate and wait for her to take the first bite.”
“I like doing those things for her. She’s my wife.”
“She doesn’t even thank you.”
“She tells me in other ways.”
“Let me guess, with a smile ?”
Kara flushes. “Other ways too!”
“Does she even return the favor? You know, in the…”
“Alex!” As affronted as Kara is, she can’t help but answer. “Yes, yes she does!”
“Is she… mechanical?”
“We are perfectly adept at our lovemaking, thank you very much. In fact, Lena is a particularly attentive lover.”
Alex gags and Kara takes it as a triumph, even as her ears flame.
“She is your queen too, don’t forget that.”
“Or what?” Alex asks. “Will she have my tongue?”
“I wouldn’t mind if she did.”
Alex wrestles her to the ground hard enough that the guards barge in to investigate the thud.
Lena takes her jewelry off in front of the mirror. Before her betrothal her ladies helped her undress, but now she enjoys her wife’s eyes on her as she reveals her skin inch by inch. Sometimes she will deign to strip Kara of her armor and it would be as if Kara truly knew of Lena’s love for her.
This sort of love wasn’t meant to be written for Lena. She was supposed to marry a man of similar status, deliver an heir, and rule until she couldn’t anymore; but, Lena wanted a different sort of life. To leave her queendom in better hands and run away to live out the rest of her life in peace and tranquility, the plan her mother planned to carry out before her death.
She could not think of any person she would rather run away with than Kara Danvers, Resident Ambassador for the South, who she would often cross paths with in the Privy Gardens after their meetings. Soon the crossing of paths became deliberate, and soon after that, Kara had stammered her way into her heart, and eventually into her bed. As Kara rose to be queen consort, her sister, Alex, took over as Ambassador.
“How did you enjoy the rest of the afternoon with your sister?” Lena asks.
“She says she likes you,” Kara answers.
“You dare lie to your queen?” Lena quirks a teasing brow, slipping into the other side of the bed. “I should have you tried for treason.”
“You wound me.” Kara clutches her chest in exaggerated jest. “My own wife.”
They’re interrupted by the chiming of bells. There’s no accelerando- it is immediate hysteria with no grace or beauty. Warning bells.
Kara promptly jumps out of bed and reaches for her shoulder guard and sword, looking out of the windows in an attempt to catch sight of the threat.
“Stay here,” she orders.
Lena stops Kara before she can leave. Her hands shake. “Don’t go,” she pleads. “I fear for you.”
Kara softens. “Do not fear for me, my love. I am as mighty with the sword as I am in the bedroom.” Lena unleashes a startled guffaw and Kara grins. “I will protect both you and myself, but first you must let me go.”
She pecks Lena’s palm a final time. On her way out, she posts half a dozen Knights of the Body to guard the door, and ushers Sir William Dey into the bedchamber. “If so much as a hair on the queen’s head is out of place--”
“She is safest with me,” William promises.
Kara catches her gaze one last time. This sort of love shouldn't be written for anyone, Lena thinks, heart sinking at the mere idea of her wife getting hurt. This sort of love could kill a soul from worry.
She throws on a bedgown to protect her modesty. Sir William takes Kara’s threat very seriously, attempting to persuade her away from the windows, but his blabbering is ignored as Lena looks for the cause of the commotion.
Except for the war bells, the outside seems to be perfectly serene, though the very air of the palace speaks of chaos. It is a sensation Lena’s felt before, a rearrangement of space to accommodate a shift in the very fabrics of matter. It takes a moment for Lena to piece together where, or rather when, she has felt this phenomena before. The fine hairs on the nape of her neck rise and she is filled with a familiar dread as her instincts scream at her to run.
Slowly, she turns around. With every miniscule movement, visions of the past flash and blur her surroundings. Her mother, full and whole and smiling. The first hint of fear and surprise in her eyes. Her slack jaw as her screams gave way to incoherent gurgles.
And then they’re not visions of the past at all. Sir William’s eyes flash. His jaw falls slack. The Kelpie wraps its tentacles around his body and his scream is caught in his throat as water fills him from the inside out.
Lena scrambles backwards. There is nowhere to run. The tower is the highest in the palace, and the window is sealed shut. The bed takes over most of the room, and the knife on the bed-stand is of no use against Kelpies. As the creature advances, the doors to the bedchamber slam open.
Through the Kelpie’s translucent skin Lena can see her wife panting as she takes a determined step forward. Suddenly, Lena fears nothing of the Kelpie’s- not its sharp teeth, or reaching tentacles, or the swirling whirlpool of its eyes. She only fears Kara watching her die and waiting her turn.
“Run,” Lena pleads as the colossal darkness of the Kelpie’s mouth widens to take a bite. “Kara, run!”
A massive wind blows, nearly carrying Lena off her feet. This is it, she thinks from behind her closed lids. This must be the first step of the Kelpie’s snare. Maybe she will see her mother again. She can only hope that Kara will manage to save herself.
“Lena, you’re okay. Open your eyes, love.”
Kara’s palms are cold on her cheeks. Lena is shaking from head to toe, but Kara is steady and strong. Snow is splattered across the walls around them like blood.
“How?” Lena whispers.
“Stay behind me,” Kara says, facing the door. “You’re okay.”
Three more Kelpies are slithering into the room. Kara blows frosty wind from her mouth, the likes of which Lena has never seen, not even from the skies, until the Kelpies are nothing but glaciers that can’t handle their own weight. She delivers a powerful punch and sends their icy remains scattering around the room. Lena clutches the back of her shirt and tries to gather her breath.
Kara toes past William’s body and runs her hand along the wall until she finds the entrance to the Dern Room. Somehow Lena had forgotten all about it when faced with the Kelpie, as if it had paralysed her mind.
“Stay here,” Kara instructs. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
She takes Lena into her arms and brings Lena’s mouth to her own. It’s the sort of kiss they’ve only shared in the bedroom, the kind you can only give while chasing your peak, away from prying eyes. Kara’s mouth is so cold it jolts Lena out of her paralysis.
Kara closes the secret entrance, leaving her in the darkness below. The room was built after her mother’s death, designed by Lena herself. Four walls of concrete and a door that can only be opened with pressure applied in the right place. There is no light, no gaps where the Kelpies can slither in.
Lena counts along to her heartbeats as she waits, but eventually even that becomes tiring. Finally, a familiar rhythm of knocks sound at the door before it is opened, a streak of light cracking through the darkness. Lena rises and calmly makes her way out.
The warning bells have ceased. William’s body has been removed from the chamber, and the ice cleaned from the walls. The Royal Physician insists that Lena has a checkover, and then, upon noticing Kara’s pallid complexion, that her wife has one too, but Kara dismisses both him and the Knights of the Body and begins escorting her to the Council Chamber.
“I can explain,” she says under her breath, cautious of any listening ears. The mere fact that she is walking freely in the walls of the palace tells Lena that no one has seen what she has.
That her wife is a witch.
“I require no explanation,” Lena says stonily, her steps unfaltering as they make their way to the Albastrine Tower. “You betrayed me.”
“Not once in my life have I betrayed you. Not in mind, not in spirit.”
“You lied to me. You told me you are something which you are not.”
“I told no lies. I only hid parts of the truth.”
“I let you in my queendom.” Lena’s voice is as cold as the wind that had frozen the Kelpies. “I let you in my bed, in my heart.”
Kara’s teeth audibly clink as she wires her jaw shut. They walk the rest of the way in tense silence.
Lena sits at the head of the table. Two members of the council, the only ones that were present in the castle at the time of the attack, follow her lead. Kara sits across from her.
“How many casualties?” Lena asks. She plays with her wedding ring as she stares at the vast table sightlessly. There must’ve been a meeting just like this one after her mother passed, only she wasn’t old enough to attend.
Lady Lillian Luthor is the first to speak. “The Kelpies cut a straight path to the Privy Chamber, just as they had two decades ago. They injured two maids of honour and the Knights posted at your door, the only casualty being Sir William Dey, strewn at the foot of your bed.”
“What happened in your chambers, your majesty?” Lord John asks.
Lena catches Kara’s eyes across the room. “Sir William anticipated the Kelpies before they revealed themselves. He ushered me into the Dern, where I stayed until Kara came back ito find me.”
Lillian studied Lena with azure eyes as she answered. Kara’s eyes are of the same color, but somehow Lillian’s remind her of the Kelpies when Kara’s only radiate warmth.
“I don’t suppose you saw anything of note, Kara?”
“Her royal highness,” Lena corrects stonily.
Lillian cuts her eyes across the room, towards the wife she had rallied most strongly against. “Your royal highness,” she grits.
“Nothing,” Kara says. “The chamber was empty when I returned.”
“And what did you plan to do had you returned before the Kelpies could take their leave, Your Highness?”
Watching her wife sweat under Lillian’s questioning, Lena wonders how she herself couldn't see plain through her lies.
“I didn’t think that far ahead,” Kara stutters.
“I want the reports of all past attacks ready for my perusal tomorrow morning,” Lena says, standing from her chair. The rest of the council followed her lead. “Perhaps we can establish a pattern.”
Lena bids them a good night, drawing her bedgown closer to her chest. It is not the first council she had to attend without her emeralds and lipstick, but the first that had rattled her so. The Kelpies had never come so close before.
Kara lets out a relieved breath once she is out of the Council Chamber and away from Lillian’s astute gaze, but stiffens with nerves anew as she follows her wife down the castle walls.
“You have every right to be angry with me,” she says, once they are in the Great Bedchamber and the door is firmly shut behind them. She spent the entire walk there preparing a speech, but Lena stops her before she can even attempt uttering a word of it.
“I am tired.” Her voice cracks on the last syllable. She clears her throat and tries again. “I am tired and I wish to sleep.”
Only that afternoon Kara had no greater desire than to bare her true identity to Lena, and now that she has, she finds herself at a loss. Even so, she doesn’t wish to take it back- Lena is safe, and that’s all that matters.
So far she has never been on the receiving end of her wife’s wrath, though she has long heard rumors of Lena’s mercilessness should she be tried. Kara never believed a word of it- her wife can be stern but she is kind hearted, and though she has always expressed concerns towards the duality of being queen and wife, the way she kept Kara’s secret in the Council Chamber despite all reason to believe she’s been betrayed speaks volumes.
“Do you wish me to leave and find someplace else to sleep?” Kara asks.
“No.” Lena settles in bed and closes her eyes. “I’d prefer to avoid gossip.”
Kara slips into the other side of the bed, watching Lena’s back rise and fall with even breaths. It’s the first night since their betrothal that they haven’t gone to sleep intertwined.
She hates it.
That, coupled with the anxiety that the Kelpies will slither back at any moment, or the Knights will barge in to declare her a witch, keeps her up all night.
She is glad of it, because Lena starts writhing and sweating not too soon after she has fallen asleep- the signs of a night terror. Those were plenty amongst her sisters from Krypton, and she has long learned that it is best to interrupt them with your words and not your touch.
“You’re having a nightmare,” Kara says, loud and clear, cutting through Lena’s muttered gibberish. She repeats it until Lena startles awake, her eyes unseeing.
“Lena, It’s me.” Kara dares to cup her shoulder. “You’re here in bed. You’re having a nightmare.”
Lena leans back into her touch, and Kara’s heart leaps with hope. She wraps Lena up in her arms and holds her securely, tears of relief rushing from her eyes unbidden.
Kara kisses Lena’s shoulder, mouth content as it presses itself to her wife’s warm skin. Lena stays in her arms until her ragged breaths even, and then she stiffens.
“Let go of me.”
Kara holds tighter, kissing her neck, her cheek, staining her skin with tears. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“Let go of me,” Lena repeats, her tongue a shard of ice. She stands and reaches for her bedgown again.
“Where are you going?”
“I will spend the night with one of my ladies.”
Kara stands, wiping her tears frantically. “I will go. You are the queen, I can have Lady Sam brought to you.”
Lena’s hands are agitated and shaky as she struggles with her bedgown. “Maybe I don’t wish to be queen. Have you ever considered that?”
“But you are.”
“I am also your wife. If you thought of me as that you wouldn't have kept your true identity a secret from me. Did you think I would send you to the Dearn Tower?”
Kara is speechless. For the first time ever, it occurs to her that there is at least one subject her wife and sister would agree on.
“If you wish to be treated as one of my subjects, then your wish is granted. You shall ask for nothing.”
The last words, Kara’s own, are spoken back to her with more than a hint of scorn. Lena leaves her bedgown behind as she storms off to Sam’s quarters, the Knight supposedly guarding the door jolting awake to run after her. Kara straps on her armor and harangues a bedragelled Nia to the training grounds, where she wrestles her to the ground until the sun is up and Nia refuses to go any longer.
Kara is still thrumming with unspent energy as she prowls to the Royal Library. Lena is bent over a map, studying what Kara assumes to be recounts of past Kelpie attacks.
“Alex heard news of the attack and is visiting,” Kara says. “I’m only telling you because I know you’d rather eat your own hand than sup with her.”
“Good. I never want to speak with her again for the rest of our wretched marriage.”
“You can be angry with me. I only care that you’re safe.”
She slams the door shut on her way out. Immediate regret swarms her insides. She wants to barge right back in, apologize if the loud thud startled her, apologize if her tone of voice had been too confrontational, apologize for not letting go of her last night, when she had so clearly asked her to. Apologize for any and every way she has hurt her.
But Lena’s words needle at her. “I only love and respect her,” she says, pacing across the room as Alex listens attentively. “Does she wish me to… I can’t even fathom how she could possibly wish for me to treat her.”
“Like an equal, perhaps,” Alex says.
“She is not my equal. We were told that our very own vows had to reflect that, that I was never to forget that she is my queen above my wife.”
“Who said that? Lillian?” Kara cuts a scathing glare in her sister’s direction, and Alex gently steers the conversation to safer waters. “You never said how Lena reacted to your powers.”
“She said that I betrayed her and refused to speak of it. From what I gleam of it she is more angry that I kept them from her rather than that I have them. I told you before, Lena is not like those prissy Inysh blockheads with their countless layers of clothing and superior notions.”
“She seems like a smart woman,” Alex says, as surprised to say it as Kara is to hear it. She leans forward, holding Kara’s gaze. “By far smarter than you are. A marriage is not a dictatorship, it is a partnership. Lena has enough people in her life that bow down to her every whim. Rao knows her head does not need to get any bigger.”
Alex can tell that the words are reaching her sister. She can only hope that what she and the queen have is strong enough to withstand this.
Kara takes a walk to clear her head. She would usually be surrounded by an entourage, protected on all sides, but she sheds her armor and sword and blends in with the crowd. There is a stand in the market with sweets that rival the Great Kitchen’s, and it is her first stop. Then, though she knows it’s futile, she heads to the Master of Posts. No letters from home.
Finally, she surrenders to the siren call. The River Limber, to Kara, sounds like a term of endearment, and visiting it is something sacred, something she only does when she is alone. She submerges her hand in the water, watching her long fingers weave through the rivulets, and thinks back on Lena’s words from last night.
Nothing would please Kara more than to have Lena here with her. Nothing would please her more than to perch Lena against the bark of a nearby tree and taste her as she hears the river flow, as Lena calls out her name, and to bare out her alienness, her truth, to her.
Her feet instinctively take her back to the castle. She picks an apple from the tree in the courtyard, eyes catching on the Dearn Tower as she takes a bite, and decides to find her wife.
She is most likely still in the library, but since the Privy Garden is closest Kara looks there first. White peacocks roam the grass, and Kara recognizes her two favorites, ones that she has secretly named. There goes Lexa the Great, always running and frolicking and showing off his tail, and there is Misery, hiding away in a corner, a certain longingness in her demeanor that stands true to her name.
There is a bench near the aviatory. She and Lena met there whenever they could before they were officially betrothed, their sweet-talking whispers concealed by the bird songs. It’s there that Kara finds her wife, the sun gleaming in her hair- but she is not there alone. The smile on her lips is fond, aimed at none other than Lord Jack, who is in turn looking at her with a longing that rivals Misery’s. Their hands are joined.
Kara swallows around the lump in her throat, breath escaping her as her lungs are seized by panic. She retreats on nimble feet.
Kara’s training session with the Knights is interrupted by a summoning to the Council Chamber. Nia collapses on the sand, relieved, as Kara is escorted back into the castle.
Kara is surprised to find only Lena and J’onn, the captain of the military, inside. “I think I found a pattern,” Lena says for a greeting, eyes lit up.
“A pattern?” Kara asks. She steps closer to examine the maps the two were pouring over in her absence. They’re littered with lines and circles and Lena’s penmanship.
“As you know our farmers diligently keep track of the weather in anticipation of droughts. I borrowed one of their journals and correlated it with past Kelpie sightings, including yesterday. There was a report of thunder, but no lightning. Same thing last summer. Same thing two decades ago.”
“Lightning is what causes the sound of thunder,” J’onn says. “It’s not possible for there to be one without the other.”
“So you think the thunder-like sound is what signals the Kelpie’s approaching.”
Lena nods, a pleased flush to her cheeks as she relishes in her own discovery.
“You’re brilliant,” Kara says, reaching to squeeze her hand before remembering herself. Remembering Jack.
Lena ducks her head, returning to the maps and reports.
“Now we know how to anticipate their attacks,” J’onn says. “We still have no means to stop them.”
“I might have a solution for that in due time,” Lena says, meeting Kara’s eyes. Kara nods imperceptibly, hand ready on her sword. She will not need it to fight the Kelpies, but it grounds her.
“Let’s keep this between the three of us for now,” J’onn says, arms crossed over his chest.
Kara studies him curiously. “Do you mistrust the other council members?”
“There is a secret within the castle, a well kept one. Until I find and reveal it, we can not trust blindly.”
Lena touches her hand before she can panic. The simple touch promises safety and calm. “Meet us here at the same time tomorrow,” she tells J’onn. “I should have something by then.”
“What are you doing?” Lena asks.
Kara is on her knees, wrists crossed at her chest. Her eyes remain closed as she answers. “It’s a Kryptonian meditation. We say an ancient mantra to strengthen the mind.”
Lena kneels beside her. “Will you teach me?”
Lena’s tongue twists around the foreign language clumsily, but with each recitation her pronunciation becomes surer and surer. True to Kara’s claims, although Lena is focusing on nothing but saying the words correctly, it sediments the decision she’s spent all day pouring over along with her maps. Whether that decision is born out of the heart or mind, though, Lena can’t be sure.
The meditation done, Kara drops her hands and crosses her legs. Lena mirrors her, their knees bumping together.
“I’ve never heard of Krypton before,” Lena says.
“That’s because it’s not on this planet.”
“On this planet,” Lena repeats.
Kara heaves a giant sigh. She breaks eye contact, tracing her own knee thoughtfully. “I fell to Earth fifteen summers ago.”
Sensing Kara’s reluctance, Lena gets up, stripping out of her clothes and jewelry and perusing her collection of nightgowns. It seems to ease Kara.
“The Kelpies do not originate from Earth,” she explains. “They began from Krypton; perhaps they arrived there after terrorizing another planet before us, who knows. We had a council, much like yours, comprised of scientists and judges and artists. Years before I was born, they had decided that the only solution to ridding our home of the Kelpies was to eliminate any large bodies of water. Oceans, rivers, seas, the works.”
“You can say it. It was foolish. But the council was desperate. We were already facing extinction, and the Kelpies were facilitating the process. Their plan worked, for a while.”
Another stretch of silence. Lena’s sheer nightgown, Kara’s favorite, slips over her head easily, falling over her naked skin in a gentle caress. Lena looks at herself in the mirror, dabbing her lipstick and eye makeup off as she considers herself.
“Couldn’t you have used your powers to fight them?”
Kara shakes her head. “My powers only cultivated upon my landing on Earth. On Krypton we orbited a red sun. Alex suspects it’s the Earth’s yellow sun that gifts me my powers.”
A red sun. Lena imagines what that must be like. Perhaps Krypton’s sky held the color of an eternal sunset. Lena always thought Kara looked handsomest at sundown.
“What happened?” she prompts.
Kara swallows audibly.
“Our forests caught fire. We had nothing to extinguish the flames.”
Lena doesn’t make her wife elaborate. She licks over her dry lips, attempting to affix all the pieces in place as she slips into bed. Kara stays seated on the floor, avoiding her eyes.
“I understand if you don't trust me,” she croaks. “I can sleep on the chair, and wake up before your ladies barge in in the morning.”
Lena stares at the ceiling. She’s never found it so hard to speak. Not in the council chamber as she disagreed with every member, not as she gave speeches in front of countless citizens and representatives from every neighbouring country.
“Last night. My night terror… It haunts me. My mother’s screams. She was choking, suffering, still her only concern was begging me to run, though it was so garbled I could barely understand it. It wasn’t a quiet death, and I could only watch, and then I ran. I left her. It haunts me. This must haunt you as well.”
Kara is instantly wracked with sobs, as if she’d been waiting for permission to cry. “I watched my home burn to the ground.”
Lena tears the cover off, kneeling in front of her wife. She touches her warm cheek. Why didn’t you tell me? she wants to ask. Why don’t you trust me?
She swallows it down.
“Come to bed,” she whispers.
Kara takes her hand. They rest on their respective sides of the bed, Lena back to staring at the ceiling, Kara crying into her pillow until it eases off to wayward sniffles, clutching Lena’s hand all the while.
“I have a confession,” Lena says. Kara stills completely beside her. “Jack told me he loves me. In the way you suspect.”
The confession hangs between them like a third body in the bed, driving them apart. “What will you do?” Kara finally asks.
Lena pulls her hand back. “Perhaps… I should make it abundantly clear that it could never happen. Perhaps that is why you never showed me your true self. I never learned how to love, and I’ve failed at it yet again.”
Lena’s greatest fear, one that she has agonized over from the moment she first met Kara, wanting to bare it to her but afraid that Kara will run because of it. How can she love if she herself has never experienced it?
Kara sits up. Her eyes are already puffy and red-rimmed yet they are lined with a fresh bout of tears just barely held at bay. Her fingers form five indents in the mattress. “You wish to divorce?” she asks in a warble.
Lena pushes her down into the bed, scrambles atop her with a desperation that feels like its own thing, an organism separate from herself. She takes Kara’s face in her hands. “I am telling you that I love you,” she says, and tears flow from her own eyes as if her ducts had been screwed shut and were finally unwound. Her heart rattles in her chest, a terrified little thing, sure that in just a moment the doors will slam open and her wife will drown, or bleed, or be taken away from her. “I have never loved before you nor do I intend to love anyone except for you. I’m sorry I ever let you think otherwise. If you can be my wife and an otherworldly witch, then I can be your wife and a queen.”
Kara laughs and cries and kisses her hands, her cheeks, her temple, her lips, her neck. Lena shakes in her arms, trembling as if saying those words had been like fighting a battle. She closes her eyes and her mother’s smile disappears with an influx of water, but Kara is solid and here and safe under her, and she holds her with relentless fingers, wanting to wrap around her like armor.
“I wrote my own vows for you, you know, but I wasn’t allowed to say them. Too scandalous for the Inysh.” Kara swipes the wild mane of Lena’s hair, only ever pristine outside of their bedroom, behind her ear. She helps her wife to the edge of the bed and kneels, the words that had resided in her chest for years- rising with the sunrise kissing Lena’s skin, setting with the onset of dawn and Lena’s fingers combing through her hair, wanting to burst out of her in the Council Chamber as her wife passionately argued for the rights of her people -finally spilling out of her lips and to their home in the curve of Lena’s ears. “I shall love you whether you are a saint or a heretic,” she pledges, touching the paler lines around Lena’s finger where their wedding band usually resides. “I shall love you whether you are a queen or a peasant. I shall be with you whether you are in the abyss or Inys.”
Lena pulls her up for a sweet kiss. They sink into the sheets, and when Lena kisses Kara someplace else, someplace sweeter and heavier and more intimate, her heart settles into the fear and embraces it. “I love you,” she whispers to her inner thighs, into the cave between her thighs, around the nub of nerves in her mouth, and all of her pores widen to breathe Kara in. She falls asleep on top of her, protecting her from the world.
The next morning is a shy rising, both of them blushing inexplicably each time their eyes meet. There is something in Lena that has been unhinged, a screw that’s been unwound, and it is as if she can not for one moment keep her love quietly contained inside. It spills out of her and fills the air between them and Kara breathes it in like oxygen.
Their days from then on become busier than usual. Lena allows Kara to make the decision, and Kara deems John trustworthy enough to keep her secret. She reveals to him her full range of powers, and the population of angry Kryptonians residing in Lasia who are salivating for revenge. Slowly, a plan is solidified, and rapidly, tripping over herself, Lena makes another, smaller plan, keeping it to herself but dying to share it with her wife, though it is hard to verbalise. She’s afraid saying it will inherently ruin their chances, just as she had been afraid that giving into her love would mean it being taken away from her. Sometimes it felt as if the very Earth was conspiring against her, and though she knew the privilege of her position, it was hard to rid herself of that notion.
Here, though, tumbling in the grass with her wife, safe and warm under the sun and Kara’s weight, The River Limber making enough music to conceal the sound of Kara’s fingers moving between her legs from the Knight standing guard some feet away, her tongue is loosened considerably, and she has to bite it to keep her words from spilling out.
Lena pushes Kara down on her back and climbs atop her, feeding her a strawberry and then her own fingers. “I told Jack I’d meet him at sundown.”
“That’s fine,” Kara says, warbled around her fingers. Lena pulls back and Kara captures her wrist, bringing it to her mouth for a wet kiss.
“You don’t mind it?”
“Do you think so little of me?”
Lena shrugs. “All my ladies in waiting have such needling men for husbands.”
“That’s because they are foolish men who think with their members.” Kara takes her by the hips, her other hand firmly pushing between her shoulders to bring her down on top of her for a kiss. “You, however, married a foolish woman who occasionally attempts to think with her mind.”
Lena smiles and pecks her lips. “You do a very fine job of it at times.”
“Why, thank you.” Kara grins, and it doubles Lena’s own smile.
“This is why I married you,” Lena says, touching her thumb to the corner of her lips. “There were many reasons but… mainly this.”
The curve of Kara’s smile remains, gentler, shy. “I never knew you to be a sweet talker.”
“I can learn,” Lena says, earnestly. “For you.”
They’re back to tumbling, and Kara’s hands are back under her dress, searching, burrowing, rubbing.
“So, back to Jack,” Kara says afterwards, and Lena takes a deep, steadying breath, thighs flexing inwards as she cuts a cautious glance towards the Knight guarding them. “What happened the last time you two talked?”
“He said he never intended to act on his feelings. I don’t know… why would he admit them in the first place then?”
“He thought there was a chance,” Kara says plainly. “A chance you’d leave me for him.”
Lena joins their fingers and lifts them above Kara’s head, leaning over her. The sun sneaks between the strands of her hair to light Kara’s features in stripes, the blonde fuzz on her cheeks glowing. “What a fool,” she murmurs, and Kara grins into their kiss.
They ride their horses back to the palace, and though Lena’s little secret plan remains unspoken, it somehow hangs in the air between them like it had been uttered. They will fight the Kelpies, they will avenge their people, and then they will live together- not as queen and consort, but as wives, and as equals.
Most importantly, not a day will pass that Kara does not feel wholly and completely loved. Lena will make sure of it.