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i am the rain, i am the sun (i am the run and i’m the runner)

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Kara Zor-El has spent the better part of a decade and a half running. 

The sea is vast and inviting. She takes and destroys with no bias, but she cares well for those that tame her. Kara rides waves like beasts and breaks every storm she sails. She learns the ways of a ship, the flows of the tides, calls out to the stars every night to guide her home, and builds a crew from nothing to help chart her path. 

She raids and plunders. The men of the Earth are nothing like the sea— their wanting is unrestrained, uncontrollable, and they take and take and take— from the poor farmers of their land, from the little treasures they cradle, from the women they claim with an unrighteous brand. And when they are finished, these men of Earth take to the sea— to travel, to trade, or to conquer. 

Captain Kara Zor-El of the Black Mercy , most feared pirate of the seven seas, skims them and their sins from the sea like fat from meat. 

She fells naval captains like cannon fodder. She takes their wealth and returns it to those who have lost everything, but never stays long enough to hear their thanks. It doesn’t matter, anyways. She doesn’t need it. The common folk speak of the humility and kindness of Captain Kara Zor-El, but what they do not know is that taking motivates just as much as giving. 

When she takes too much, becomes reckless, the navy battalions come like soldiers in a line, cannons loaded, sails full and flags flying. They wake her crew from slumber in the night with war drums and warning fire, and they descend upon the Black Mercy like vultures to a corpse. 

But the Black Mercy, even as it sits, dark and unmoving, moored to the shallow waters of some secluded beachside, is not a corpse. Kara doesn’t sleep. She listens for every break of a wave, so when the ships corner her, she is always moments away from readying her boat and crew for sail. When the war drums sound, and the first crack of a cannon echoes out in the hollowed out cliffside of their newest hideaway, the Black Mercy is ready to run. 

The ships of those men are fast, and strong, and powerful, but Kara is faster, stronger, mighty in ways they cannot comprehend. There are rumors that have traveled so far up the chain of command that they have reached the ears of the King, Alexander Luthor, himself— beware the pirate vessel the Black Mercy , for it’s cannons fire invisible ammunition, it’s sails fill even in the most tranquil of climates, and (although this rumor is largely considered nothing more than a drunkard’s tale) it’s said the ship’s captain rides the wind as though she were a bird herself.  

“You endanger yourself, Captain,” her first mate, Alex Danvers, says to her one morning, after another narrow escape from King Lex’s navy. It was only made successful by a sudden devastating wave, seemingly appearing from nowhere, accompanied only by the sound of a clap, loud as thunder.

Kara runs a finger along the split wood of the helm. “I’m not so sure.” 

“You need not be sure ,” Alex forges on, ignorant to Kara’s opposition. “It is clear as day. You grow reckless with your power.” 

Kara shakes her head. “The rumors they tell of me are lunacy. They’re inconsequential! I’m in no danger at all, Alex.” 

“Then think not of yourself,” her first mate urges, and here, Kara pauses. “Think of the crew. Think of myself. Am I not as good as a sister to you?” 

“Better, even.” 

“Then think of my wife, my Kelly. She sent me letters, last we checked into port. I told you— she has taken in a young girl. A daughter.” 

“Esme,” Kara whispers. 

Alex nods, a slight smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “Esme. She draws pictures of us. Her, myself, and Kelly. She has had to rely on Kelly’s words on me alone. I would like for her to meet me in person soon, Kara.” 

Kara lifts a hand from the helm to place it on Alex’s shoulder. She gives a reassuring squeeze. “And she will. You will see your daughter, Alex. I would never outwardly endanger you or this crew.” 

“You acted in plain sight. They saw you , Kara. Half the King’s navy-” 

“Any man or woman aboard the King’s ships who saw what I did can speak well of it to the bottom of the ocean,” Kara replies, and that’s that. 

But the King’s ships keep coming. It’s only when Kara realizes they now spend more time running from pursuers, than actually pursuing those that they know are doing harm, that she begins to understand that every win or escape from a minor skirmish means nothing in the grand scheme of the war that she and the Black Mercy have found themselves in. A war that they are losing. 

Still, they run, and Kara grows reckless and arrogant with her shows of strength, if nothing else but to protect her crew. She has men and women to bring home. So they run, and they fight, and they hide, and when it’s all done they lower their sails and gather around and tell stories of home, wherever that may be. Her crew rests for the night, and Kara sits, back against the mast, and listens for ships, silent and deadly in the darkness. When they don’t come, the crew awakens in the morning, and they start to run again. 

But the crew of the Black Mercy are too much like the ocean. Water cannot run forever. It always flows freely before it is guided, willingly or unwillingly, to the banks of some shore where it will finally rest. 

The crew grows tired. They cannot keep going like this for much longer, and Kara carries the weight of her crew’s future like an anchor at her ankle. She will sink or swim to bring them all home in one piece, and it weighs on her in a way she has never felt since she landed on this planet nearly fifteen years ago. 

One night, Kara shuts her eyes to rest. 

She only awakens to the sound of Alex screaming for her. There is a storm blowing over, there is a crack in the bow of the boat, and there is a King’s navy ship flying the royal colors. Before Kara can grab her coat and cutlass, the King himself, Alexander Luthor, is boarding her boat with soldiers and chains. 

The battle is over in the blink of an eye. Her crew is woefully unprepared to fight as they rouse fitfully from their slumber, and Lex’s soldiers make quick work of her friends. His men chain their wrists and ankles and bind them to the railing of the Black Mercy . Their weary eyes barely allow room for rage to burn. 

When Lex approaches Kara to slap the manacles on her himself, she spits in his face, moisture from her mouth washing away under the heavy beating of rain around them. Lex blinks once, twice, then scowls, never once breaking his gaze on her. 

“Filthy fucking pirate,” he growls, and then he clasps the cuffs tight around Kara’s wrists. 

Kara feels her knees suddenly give way under her, and had it not been for Lex’s men holding her in place, she surely would buckle and collapse to the ground. She lets out a wail of pain as a searing-hot burn pushes its way, bone-deep, into her wrists and up her arms.  

Her crew— Alex, Querl, J’onn, Nia, Winn and James— snap against their bindings and thrash in the roaring wind. 

Two of Lex’s men yank her back up. Lex snaps his fingers impatiently at one of the lackeys flanking him. 

“Get Captain Zor-El a chair, will you?” he asks, and the boy scurries off below deck. “You do have chairs on this death trap, I assume.” 

Kara says nothing, but her gaze never breaks from Lex. She pulls on her restraints, muscles tensing, and aches to break free, but the otherworldly strength she usually calls on in moments like these is nowhere to be found. So instead, she watches as her crew struggles against their bindings and hurls insults that get blown away in the storm, and focuses all that power behind the lids of her eyes. She feels her eyes heat up, sees the radiant glow start to form, but— 

No heat emerges, and the man before her does not burn. 

“A valiant effort, Captain!” Lex claps, condescension dripping from his voice. “Unfortunately, all of your wonderful gifts will be of no use to you anymore. You see, within those chains that now bind you, your one weakness is contained. A rock from your home.” 

As he speaks, Lex unsheathes a dagger from his belt. Even in the heavy downpour, Kara can see it clearly. In his fist he grasps the steel, leather-wrapped hilt, and as he brandishes the blade towards her, the rain bounces off of the sharpened green crystal. 

Unbidden, Kara whispers, “ Kryptonite .” 

Lex smiles. “You give it a worthy name.” 

“Where did you get that?” 

“In a small town in the center of my kingdom, over a decade ago, a strange vessel crashed into the soil on the night of a meteor shower. Sounds familiar, yes?” Lex twists the blade in his hand, admiring the edge. “The townspeople thought it to be a rock, fallen from the sky. But upon hearing that story, I knew better. I pulled it from that little vessel you came here on. It took my men ages to hunt it down, but I cared very much about finding your weakness, Captain.” 

Languidly, Lex approaches Kara and presses the blade flush against the skin of her throat. The burning sensation Kara had felt in her wrists flares up again tenfold. Through gritted teeth, she hisses out in pain. 

Absently, she recognizes the feeling of being pushed downwards, feeling something solid beneath her. She feels the chains on her wrists shift and tug, and then her arms are being bound to something behind her. All the while, Lex follows her movement, knife never leaving her neck. 

“Good,” he nods to someone she can’t see. Another chair is brought up for him, and he sits down across from her, and there they are, the Captain and the King, sitting like two old friends sharing dinner. 

“Now that we’re comfortable,” Lex starts, “We have some business to attend to, you and I. I have a deal to cut with you.” 

Kara leans forward, as far as her bindings allow, and gets so close her and Lex are practically sharing breaths. “I don’t cut deals with tyrants like you.” 

“Then I amend my statement. I will give you a choice, Captain. You have hunted my men across endless seas, you have taken the lawful earnings of my crown and given it away, reckless in your distribution, to the beggars of my country. Ah-” Kara tries to argue, but he silences her with a flourish of his blade. “I care not for your moral reasoning. This is not the time for a hope speech , Captain. You have taken what is mine, and for that, I will take what is yours.” 

A terrible silence falls across the deck. Kara freezes. Her mask of inscrutable indifference slips, for just a moment. Lex smiles. 

“Here is your choice, Kara Zor-El. In a little village called Midvale, on the western coast of my empire, there is a doctor named Kelly Olsen who has recently taken in a small girl. Esme. I believe your first mate is familiar with them?” 

Kara shoots a glance at Alex. She’s thrashing, pulling against the ropes holding her to the ship’s railing. She can see where the rough-hewn hemp is chaffing the parts of Alex’s exposed skin beneath her coat. The rain washes away the little spots of blood as they form. Her eyes are screaming don’t, don’t, don’t. 

“As we speak, my men ride to that village. At my first word, they will burn her little home to the ground, Kelly Olsen and the child with it.”

“You’re a fucking monster,” Kara groans. 

“I’m an architect . Did you think I would ever step foot on your disgusting ship without an ultimatum? This is not a guerilla war, pirate . You have been playing checkers. I have been playing chess.” 

“I won’t let you hurt anyone.” 

“Ah, and there’s the choice! It’s not too late, Captain. I can still call off my men. The woman and the girl will go unharmed. All you would have to do is come along with me.” 

“Kara, don’t! ” comes the cry of Alex’s voice, somehow free from the gag previously restraining her. “ Don’t fucking listen to him! Don’t-”

The pommel of a rapier comes down hard across Alex's forehead, and she slumps down in her spot. Kara screams, pulling once more against her chains that offer no give. She feels her eyes start to burn, a warm, familiar burn that gives no pain like the heat of the blade before her. She points her head towards Lex, and as he flinches back, just barely, Kara revels in the palpable fear in his face as her eyes begin to glow. 

Until the blade shifts, the tip pressing straight into her shoulder, slicing through her coat and wedging itself deep into the muscle there. 

Besides the first initial yelp of pain, somehow, Kara bites her tongue. Her eyes burn with barely-restrained tears. 

“Your move, Captain.” Lex says, all his pretense and posturing gone in an instant. The only thing that remains before Kara is a cold-hearted dictator, confident in his ability to destroy. “Either you come with me, or I start taking .” 

Kara looks at her crew. J’onn is scooting closer to Alex, trying to look at the now bleeding gash on her forehead. He glances over at her with pleading eyes. Nia is curled into Brainy’s shoulder, trembling as he struggles to comfort her with bound hands. 

In the end, it really makes for no choice at all. 

 

They carry her away in the same chains she was captured in. 

They bring her to the King’s flagship, a shining beacon of wealth and war, painted white with crisp sails and thirty cannons. They push her head down as they walk her below deck and shove her in a lead cage so small it’s practically a coffin. There are no windows, and the cracks in the door are covered with cloth as soon as the latches bolt shut. 

It’s pitch black, always. They do not feed her. Sometimes, the boat rocks, and she paces. Mostly, though, she sits in the corner and hopes her crew was able to patch the hole in their ship before the sea claimed them too. 

She stays that way for days. Maybe weeks. It’s impossible to tell, without the sun as an indicator of time, or even the sounds of the sea to tell her where they are. Still, she sleeps as infrequently as possible, cautious not to let her guard down for a moment. 

When Kara does sleep, she dreams of the sun, because Rao knows how long it may be until she sees it once again. 

 

Much like the box they bring her there in, Kara’s cell in King Lex’s castle is cramped and dark. There are no windows behind her solid steel bars, and the hallway they’ve placed her at the end of is lit only by sparse, dim torches that flicker with each bit of wind following movement. 

Her first night in the dungeon, Kara is greeted by a visitor. In the torch-lit darkness, she watches the man approach, flames flickering in the reflection of the polished brass buttons of his King’s Navy uniform. 

As the guard pulls the cell door aside, Kara sees steel glint along the man’s knuckles. With his offhand, he wraps a chain around his leather gloved fist— once, twice, and then he steps past the threshold and into the cell. 

“Stay back.” Kara forces out, voice firm and steady, much more steady than she would have expected after weeks without speaking. 

“Do you recognize me, Captain?” the man asks, stepping forward with intention. “Four years ago you sank my ship off the coast of Colu. It was an imperial raid, and my vessel carried precious cargo guaranteed to put me in the King’s good graces— until you and your crew of pirates put a cannonball through my ship’s bow.” 

Kara grins. “Admiral Corben. I almost didn’t recognize you without a tail between your legs.” 

The punch comes faster than Kara anticipates. She barely has enough time to throw her arms up to block before she feels the cold metal of Corben’s chained fist connect with her jaw, breaking skin almost instantly. The impact alone is enough to send her staggering back, but the pulsating pain is what makes her turn away from him, makes her press her forehead against the cold stone of the cell wall, gasping for air as she reaches a hand up to her chin and touches warm blood. 

“I’m gonna make you pay for what you did, Captain.” Corben snarls, grabbing Kara by shoulder to twist her around to face him. “But you better not go down without a fight.” 

“Never.” 

Kara darts both arms out to grab onto Corben’s pressed lapels, and, using his body for leverage, brings her forehead down directly on his nose. 

“Fuck!” Corben stumbles backwards. He brings his clean hand up to wipe away at the blood streaming from his crooked nose. With a harsh clink of metal, he raises both fists, eyes burning with malice as he steps towards Kara. 

She doesn’t sleep a minute her first night in the castle. 

 

“Let me pass, Lieutenant, or so help me, I will delegate you and your entire company to guard duty in the most dangerous prison in this kingdom.” 

“You don’t have the power to do that.” 

A low chuckle. “I have whatever power the King bestows to me.”

A pause, tense. A mile away, Kara hears the wail of another prisoner. 

“Enter, but be quick.” 

“Speak of this to no one. Remember what I have done for you, Lieutenant.” 

“Hurry, General , before I change my mind.” 

The heavy footsteps of a thick-soled boot march down the hall leading to Kara’s cell. Each torch flickers in time to the person's steps, and each step is accentuated by the clanking of metal. Clean steel, heavy armor. Kara sits, back against the wall, and trains her non-swollen eye on the bars of her cell door. 

In the low light, Kara watches them approach. Their dark gambeson, heavy coat of chain, and ornate breastplate all indicate militaristic authority, but the armor appears ill-fitted as it shifts around them. Their gait is awkward, like the weight of the steel is unfamiliar to them, but Kara cannot make out their face, the dark hood of their cloak pulled too far down and the torchlight too dim for any noticeable features to show. A gloved hand reaches forward to pull open her cell door. 

With aching legs, Kara pushes herself to her feet. 

“Do not stand on my account, Captain.” The figure says. Then, with an unexpected softness: “I have not come in vengeance like your visitor last night.” 

“So you say,” Kara calls out. “And yet you come in the armor of a King’s knight.” 

The General pauses. From the tone of her voice, Kara thinks she might be smiling. “So it appears.” 

The cell door opens. Kara readies herself for the General to lunge. Instead, she places a metal tray, covered with cloth, upon the floor. 

“They say you have not eaten,” the General remarks. “It’s beans and rice, and some hearty meat. It’s nothing special, only what the kitchen could spare.” 

As she speaks, the general kneels down and removes the covering from the tray. She takes the spoon on the plate, and scoops up a small portion of each food, and then, without hesitance, brings the spoonful into her mouth and swallows. 

“It is safe,” she says, placing the spoon back on the tray. “I recommend you eat it quickly, before it turns cold.” 

Kara stares at her. She waits, for a minute, and watches the General’s movements— watches for the imperceptible twitch of a muscle or flash of steel from a belt. They never come. 

“Shut the door.” Kara commands, and, carrying her bruised body to the middle of her cell, waits for the door to slam shut once again. 

The General obliges. She pulls the door closed and goes over to the opposite wall, taking a seat on the floor outside Kara’s cell. 

With one final glance in her visitor’s direction, Kara shifts her focus to the tray in front of her, and with a ferocity unmatched by even the most starved animals, she eats for the first time in weeks. When she finishes, she kicks the tray under the cell bars, and returns to her wall in silence. 

The General takes the tray in equal measure. She moves to leave, but pauses at the edge of Kara’s cell door. 

“I may not be able to return for many days,” she says, angling her head to Kara. There must be a torch by that wall, because she makes out a few details beneath the knight’s hood: arched eyebrows, high cheekbones, and a quick flash of green in the eyes. “You must try and survive, Captain. Last night will not be a one-time occurrence.” 

“I can take care of myself,” Kara bites back quickly. “And you should see the other guy.” 

“Many people in this castle would see you dead.” 

“And you?” Kara scoffs. “What do you care that I eat, that I last the night?” 

The General pauses before answering. 

“You are not the only one in a cage, Captain Zor-El,” the General says, voice no louder than a whisper. 

Kara chooses not to watch her leave. 

 

Four nights pass before the General returns.

Four nights, Kara thinks, because four visitors greet her with fists and knives, hours spread between them. Some of them offer a fair fight, as fair as allotted to her in her weakened state. Others do not care for such mercies. Honor to them is but an illusion, a rallying cry they do not understand. It’s easy to take advantage of her vulnerability, and take, they do. With each strike against Kara, the twisted pride in their eyes that comes from enacting revenge on one who can do nothing but endure it grows. 

When the General makes her second appearance, Kara doesn’t bother to stand this time. Her ankle is black and blue, twisted from the previous night of fighting, so she stays in her spot, back against the wall, watching the General approach with her chin resting on her knees. Clad in the same armor and cloak as before, the General leans her head forward, almost to the point of touching the metal bars of the cell, peering deep into the darkness of Kara’s prison, checking for her presence. When her eyes finally adjust to the darkness, and the shape of Kara’s form becomes known, her impeccably tight posture eases just an inch. 

“You’re still here,” she says, all in one exhale. 

“That I am,” Kara nods, dryly, and looks away. “Weren’t expecting to see me?” 

“No, no, I-” the General considers herself, for just a moment. Then says, quietly, “I’m glad.”

A beat of silence passes between them. 

Kara hears the General shuffle her feet. “Anyways, I’ve brought you something.” 

It’s the same situation. The General slides open the door to the cell and places down a metal tray. Removing the cloth reveals food much similar to the meal Kara received before, this time with even more meat and vegetables piled in heaping masses upon the plate. 

“Shall I test it for poison again?” 

Kara shakes her head. “It’s fine.” 

With excruciating effort, Kara presses her palm to the floor, and, exercising all of her strength, pushes herself upwards onto staggering feet. As she stands, she sways just slightly, letting out a sharp gasp as pain and nausea flood her body all at once. The General stutters a step forward, hands twitching like they might attempt to reach out and grab her, but when Kara turns shock-still at the movement, she lowers her hands and takes a step back. 

Kara manages to carry herself to the tray, and, lowering herself to the ground with similar effort, grabs the spoon with her off hand and clumsily begins collecting porridge onto it. The General steps away from her as she approaches, taking up her spot again by the opposite wall. 

When Kara finishes cleaning off her plate, she catches the General’s gaze pointed in her direction. 

“What happened to your right arm?” she asks, nodding at Kara’s limp arm. 

Kara brings a hand up to rub around her tender shoulder. “The admiral from last night gave me a good hard shove right into the wall. Banged me up a bit. It’s nothing.” 

It isn’t nothing. When Kara had impacted the wall, there had been a definite pop , and then more pain than she’s maybe ever felt from a single impact, and she’s taken cannonballs to the chest before.

“The joint looks strange. It may be dislocated. I can set your shoulder, so it heals properly.” 

“No,” Kara says, far too quickly to mean it. The General raises an eyebrow. 

“Please,” she says, inching closer to Kara, palms out. “Let me help.”  

Kara shuts her eyes. “Fine. Just… be quick.” 

She hears the General remove her leather gloves slowly. “I’m going to move your shirt,” she says, then slips the collar of Kara’s shirt down her shoulder. There’s a small gasp when the General sees the exposed skin in all its bruised glory for the first time. Kara is only partly certain it looks worse than it feels. 

Smooth, delicate fingertips announce their presence at the area beside Kara’s shoulder blade and below her collarbone. The pressure is euphoric to her sore muscles, for the few moments it's just pressure, at least, until the General suddenly pushes both of her hands towards each other, and Kara’s shoulder clicks back into place. 

“Oh, Rao. Rao. Jeez.” Kara furiously blinks the spots from her eyes. The pain of her shoulder re-aligning fades quickly as the General rubs the area around it. 

“There.” She says, grabbing her gloves and slipping them back on. “Much better, I assume.” 

Kara gives her shoulder a few experimental rotations. It’s still moderately sore and fairly stiff, but the return of any movement at all is an improvement from her previous situation. 

“It is,” Kara agrees. “I’m grateful.” 

The General pulls away slightly. She toys with the edges of her fingertips, overlaying them and massaging her nail beds over her gloves. Kara watches the movement with half-serious interest. The way they’re sitting now, the two of them shoulder to shoulder, fills Kara with a nervous candor. The fact that this is the closest another person has come to her in weeks without actively wanting to maim her isn’t lost to her. It spurs Kara to take advantage of the moment.

“General,” Kara wonders aloud. “Why are you doing this? This kindness from you… I don’t understand.” 

Kara's companion glances away. “My reasons are not entirely pure. The King keeps you here like a chained dog because he wants to break you like one. You are a symbol of power in a dying empire. But freeing you, earning your favor… would give me a great deal of strength, Captain. So I too have reason to need you, but unlike the King, I swear to you, Kara Zor-El, I mean you no harm. I would like to see you free of this place.”

“Free me then. If I could just stand in the sun for a moment, my powers would return-”

“No.” The General cuts her off quickly. “It’s too dangerous now. We would both be caught, and you, still in your debilitated state, would be of no good against soldiers and the King, who already possesses your weakness.” 

“You’ve thought this through before?” Kara asks.

“Of course.” The General sighs. “I wish to be an ally to you, Captain, and that means keeping you alive until you may next see the sunrise.” 

The sunrise. Kara tries to remember the sunrise on the open sea, what it felt like to feel the warmth of the sun beaming down on her as the cold wind whipped around in torrents. Seeing that orange hazy glow spread across the bow, creating shadows below the sails that would spread like pools of darkness. The way the light would reflect off the sea, catch you and burn you if you weren't careful— it lingers on her skin like an old memory. 

“If you wish to be an ally to me,” Kara considers, “Then do me one favor. Please.” 

The General nods. “If it is within my power, anything.” 

“On the Western coast there’s a small village called Midvale, where a doctor and a girl live. The doctor’s name is Kelly Olsen, and the girl is called Esme. Please-” Kara takes a shuddering breath, “-if they are alive, you must send word to them that they need to leave, immediately. The King has sent men who know where they live. It’s no longer safe.” 

“If King Lex’s truly traded your life for theirs-”

“I’ll throw stones from my ship before I take the King at his word.” Kara brings a hand up to rub anxiously at her shoulder. “Assuming my ship didn’t sink, my crew might beat you to her. She’s called the Black Mercy . They probably won't take her into port, but the people of Midvale are sweet on us, and if you say you're a friend of mine, they’ll tell you if they’ve seen her.” 

“Midvale, Olsen, Esme, Black Mercy ,” the General recounts. “Anything else?” 

“Yes.” Kara presses her lips together. “If you really want to be allies, then I need a name to call you.” 

The General deliberates on this for a minute, rolling the knuckle of her thumb between gloved fingertips. After she thinks, she finally says, in a soft tone, “Kieran. You can call me Kieran.” 

“Kieran.” Kara tests its weight on her tongue. It’s not her real name, Kara knows— she can taste a lie with her eyes closed. She doesn’t care. If Kieran can free her from this prison, she’ll call her whatever name she likes. 

 

After that night, Kieran's visits to Kara’s cell become more frequent. Sometimes she brings treats for Kara along with the food she usually brings. Small fried dumplings filled with flavorful meat and vegetables, sweet spiced pastries, more dumplings. Kara very much enjoys the dumplings. Sometimes Kieran tries to bring her some assorted vegetables to help her keep her strength and stamina. If Kara could send these back to the kitchen, she would. 

After Kara’s finished eating whatever Kieran steals away for her, the rest of their time together is either filled in companionable silence, or agreeable conversation. When they do speak, Kieran entertains her with gentle probing about life on the sea— stories from Kara’s reign as a pirate. How she acquired her boat, how she met her crew, what her favorite days on the water entailed. And Kara divulges as much as she feels comfortable sharing— whatever doesn’t endanger her crew too much, or whatever she can reminisce on without her words dying out from longing. 

Much like the way she used to gather with her crew on the deck of the Black Mercy to trade stories around a meal and a lantern, such is the same with Kieran during her visits. Often, Kara ends her nights with her back pressed to the wall, Kieran sitting at her side, wrapping a hand with fresh bandages or cleaning one of Kara’s newest scrapes. Kieran always ends their night with some droning tale of castle inelegance that never fails to prompt a smile from Kara. Whether it’s another Lord’s malfeasance that's sent Lex off the deep end, some idiot miscommunication between the Generals that ruins another battle, or just the latest castle gossip about which kitchen maids are interested in each other, Kara treasures it. It’s so infrequent that she is able to let her guard down for even a minute in the dungeon, what with her being constantly intruded upon by whichever of King Lex’s Navy decide to enact their revenge on her that week. 

So Kara treasures her moments with Kieran. She comes to trust her, as crazy as it is, in a way. Kieran is kind and heartstrong, bringing in moments of peace to the hell Kara is trapped in. Absently, Kara sometimes finds herself imagining what it would be like had they met on different terms. Had Kara not been a prisoner in Kieran’s King’s dungeon. 

In her loneliest of hours, Kara sometimes pictures herself on the bow of her boat, hailing a passing ship; a tall masted, dark-oak beauty of a brigantine, with a golden figurehead of a dark-haired siren, mouth open in song. On the bow of that ship stands another pirate, a lady with bright green eyes like calm reef water. She has a tongue as sharp as Kara’s blade and as they trade jabs with each other, Kara feels herself drawn in, and she invites the woman to join her for tea in her cabin, and maybe she joins her forever. 

Other times, Kara sees a crowded market in whatever city her crew is docking in for the night. There, as she stumbles through the busy city streets, browsing clay and bead necklaces, or embroidered cloaks and coats, someone bumps her shoulder— a hooded figure, wrapped in silk too fine for this side of the city. As she stumbles back, her eyes lock with Kara, and Kara is immediately enraptured. She apologizes in a hushed voice, and hurries off back into the crowd, but Kara is drawn in. So together, with Kara always five steps behind, they race through the market under the light of the moon, and as the night draws on the chase becomes less about fleeing and following and more about leading, and teasing, and dancing. They end up on a rooftop, both with aching legs and heaving chests, and Kieran laughs so hard and smiles so truly that Kara ignores the flash of a gold circlet beneath her hood. They sit on the edge of the rooftop together, and Kara points out the constellations above them, Kieran’s hand resting a breath away from hers. 

Some nights, though, Kara sees perhaps the most dangerous vision of all— a sinking ship, torn sails flapping with the King’s colors. Perring through her spyglass, she sees no soldiers, but spies a woman clinging to driftwood, her layers of wool and silk dragging her down like a heavy current. The Black Mercy will never reach the wreckage in time, so Kara does the unthinkable— she jumps off the bridge of the ship and flies over to the woman, faster than she’s ever flown before. When she scoops the woman up in her arms and floats them above the sinking wreck of the ship, she whispers to her you're safe now, and when she asks for her name, and when the woman gives it to her, she follows it with the press of a kiss to Kara’s cheek. 

When Kieran tells her stories of the castle, she does so with a wall between herself and the subject. In all of Kieran’s stories, she’s never present, speaking only as the narrator, injecting her quips and criticisms from the safety of her removal from the scene. Kara wonders, dangerously, if the only place Kieran ever feels present in is down here with Kara. When she revisits the stories of their time together, does she see herself too? 

These are the kind of thoughts that usually draw enough energy out of Kara to tire her out, combined with the safety of Kieran’s companionship. As Kieran rounds out the ending of another story, Kara's head drifts unconsciously to her shoulder, and, with a place to rest, she usually falls asleep without issue before the end of Kieran’s sentence. 

When Kara awakens the next morning, Kieran is always gone. 

 

Familiar bootfalls echo down the chamber hallway. Kara hears the swish, swish of a heavy cloak, trailing on the heels of leather boots and atop layers of chain and steel. The torchlight flickers like pyres in the wind, flames waving wild and dangerous on their braziers. Every step of the figure draws Kara up from her place on the ground, pulling her up to her knees as she waits, patient in anticipation for her visitor. 

“Kieran!” Kara hums, muscles slowly untensing at the prospect of seeing the familiar face as the ornate breastplate and gambeson she recognizes so well first begins to tread towards the bars of her room. “Back so soon?” 

The hacking growl that comes from the form that Kara had thought to be Keiran— that is clearly, certainly not Kieran— sends a wave of ice colder than any plunge in the deep grey sea straight down Kara’s spine. 

“They must’ve banged you up worse than he said.” The man says. “For you to be speaking to ghosts.” 

But— But— Kara tries to speak, to call out for a guard, for Kieran, for anyone, but her mouth runs dry and her throat burns. When she tries to gather the words lumping in her throat, she sees the familiar insignia on the chestplate worn by the General, something in the back of her mind clicks, and her hands begin to shake. 

“You’re General Graves,” Kara manages to choke out, recognition flooding her brain suddenly as the man takes another step closer. “I sunk two of your ships off the coast of Maaldoria.”

“How nice of you to remember,” Graves chuckles. The grim fake smile of someone who deeply, deeply despises you engulfs the lower half of his face. “Those ships were set to bring precious resources to the King.” 

“People,” Kara forces through her anger. “You were carrying people, against their will.” 

Graves shrugs. “We all end up in the same place eventually.” 

“No,” Kara barks. She pushes herself to her feet, and takes a step towards General Graves so leaden she swears she feels the stone beneath her feet shudder. “When I die, General, I will rejoin my people in the light of my god. When you die, you will go to a place so deep in hell that even I won’t be able to see you from Rao’s heaven.” 

General Graves’s grin creeps even wider. With a rough chuckle, he slips a hand from behind his back, and Kara notices for the first time the pair of brass knuckles clenched between his fingers, lit up a dull green by the familiar rock dusting each bump. 

“Regardless, Captain Zor-El,” Graves says, flexing his hand, and then raising his fists, “Whatever comes for both of us, you’ll be the first one to find out.” 

When Kara goes down that night, she fades away with the image of Kieran’s armor before her. 

 

In Kara’s dreams, she sees the Black Mercy sinking. 

Her crew is shackled to the railing of the deck, hands bound, legs kicking in agony as they are dragged beneath the waves. Sometimes Kara watches them from atop the mast, perched like a bird. Sometimes she hovers above the scene, frozen and unmoving. Sometimes she’s tied to the railing with them— but Kara could always hold her breath longer than anyone on the crew, and so she’s forced to watch the final breaths leave her crew’s lungs before she awakens, gasping for air. 

Sometimes Kieran is in the dream. Sometimes she’s tied up with the crew, and Kara must also watch her succumb to the depths of the sea. 

Sometimes Kieran is the one hovering from above, and Kara is alone, treading water in a massive current. As Kara feels herself be dragged to the bottom of the ocean, she reaches a hand up towards her and Kieran reaches back. 

Kara’s dreams never last long enough to find out if Kieran pulls her free. 

 

“Kara.”

Kara groans. 

“Kara, wake up.” 

Her eyes struggle to open. It’s swelling or exhaustion— or a combination of the two. They’re both frequent enough for her to stop keeping track. 

“Please , Kara, please wake up.” 

Kara’s eyes flutter open. In the dimly lit space outside her cell, a cloak-covered figure draws closer to the bars of her cell, lantern in hand. 

“Stop,” she croaks out, but it comes no louder than a whisper. She clears her throat. “Stop. Come no closer.” 

“Kara, it's me-” 

“I said come no closer!” Kara snaps, and this time it's harsh, nearly a yell, and her visitor takes a sudden step back. “Don’t come near me.” 

“It’s Kieran. Please, Kara, just let me come in. You’re hurt.” She presses a hand against the bars. “I will not hurt you. I swear it.” 

Kara pushes herself, painfully, up to sit. Turning her head away from Kieran, she nods once, then stares at the bruises on her knuckles instead of watching her enter. 

Kieran kneels down with a gentleness in front of Kara as though she were sitting on a bed of eggshells. With slow moving hands, she pulls at the bloodied and bruised skin of Kara’s face, studying the wounds left by General Graves the night before. 

“Who did this to you?” Kieran asks, and if Kara’s head hadn’t been knocked so hard last night, she’d swear the woman sounds furious. 

Kara turns her head so she locks eyes with Kieran. “He came in your armor last night.” 

Kieran’s hands freeze. “The King has many Generals-” 

“He came in your armor, Kieran.” 

Her hands freeze their ministrations on Kara’s face. Kieran goes silent. 

Kara pushes her hands away. “Tell me your name, or all of this is over.”

“Kara-”

“Tell me who you are, Kieran, because you are certainly not the General, or leave .” 

Kieran turns away. Kara, with a careful hand, reaches up towards the edge of the hood of Kieran’s cloak, and pulls it slowly down to her neck. 

Long, curled dark hair tumbles down from the edge of the cloak around her shoulders. The lantern light, now reaching her face without barrier, illuminates all of her face with regard.

She turns to Kara, eyes pleading for forgiveness, and says, “My name is Lena Luthor, Princess and sister of the King Alexander.” 

Kara nods. “I know.” 

Lena’s face immediately blanches. “What?” 

A small smile curls at the edge of Kara’s lip, pulling at the cut there. “I know. I saw your face, and I’ve heard you talk before, at a royal appointment. I knew you were the princess.” 

Lena stutters. “Wha- what— then why— why make me say it?” 

“Because I cannot survive here if you are not truly with me, Lena.” Kara, hesitantly, grabs Lena’s hand, and pulls it between them. “And I needed to make sure you were truthful about helping me escape. That you would be truthful about everything, even your role as the princess.” 

“I am,” Lena affirms, squeezing Kara’s hand softly. “I never meant to lie to you about who I was, but I wasn’t sure if you would trust me unless I came to you in disguise.” 

“So you stole the general's armor?” 

“Well, I-” Lena chuckles to herself. “I needed to ensure no one else saw me down here. On the nights the General took his armor in for polish, I borrowed it and returned it before morning.” 

Kara’s smile widens. “Clever,” She says, but she winces as the smile pulls at the cut on her lip. 

“Here,” Lena says, reaching into her cloak for something— a rag and a flask. “Let me help with that.” 

Dutifully, Lena wets the rag and brings it up to Kara’s face, slowly wiping away at the blood there. In silence, Lena washes the blood and sweat from Kara’s brow, cleaning her scrapes with gentle strokes. When she passes over a cut, it stings, and Kara hisses. Lena gives her an apologetic smile, squeezing Kara’s hand still in her grip. 

“I’m sorry, I'm almost done.” Using the pad of her thumb, Lena prods the cut on Kara’s lip, dragging her finger along the skin there. She brings her face close to Kara’s to inspect the deepness of gash, and suddenly, Kara is extremely aware of many things— the softness of Lena’s skin, the tenderness of her touch, the way her lip stings, but that pain has now moved to the back of Kara’s mind— the only thing she can focus on is Lena’s eyes on her lips. 

Involuntarily, Kara’s breath hitches, and Lena pulls back, whispering another sorry

It’s probably for the best Lena pulls away. 

“Were you… injured, anywhere else?” she asks Kara, suddenly hesitant to meet eyes. 

“My ribs are bruised, maybe broken.” Kara tugs at the hem of her shirt, revealing the scattered mess of bruises across her side. She reaches a hand up to feel around the bones, but before she can press down, Lena pulls her hand away and replaces it with her own. 

“Let me check,” she whispers, hand skimming the edge of the dark yellow mark forming on Kara’s skin. “This is going to hurt.” 

Kara is used to the hurt by now. She’s pretty tolerant of it, she thinks. But nothing compares to that first bit of pressure as Lena starts to feel her ribs through the swollen purpling stains on her skin. 

“Shit,” Kara hisses out, blinking away the tears starting to gather in her eyes. She stares up the ceiling of her cell, and starts to count the cracks in the stone above her. 

“What was the name of your ship again?” Lena asks, completely out of nowhere.

“The Black Mercy ,” Kara groans. “Are you trying to distract me?” 

“Yes,” Lena smiles. “Is it working?” 

After a particularly hard press against her ribs, Kara huffs: “Not yet.” 

“What does it mean?” 

Kara thinks for a moment. She isn’t quite sure how to explain it to Lena, who knows nothing of her planet or the world beyond this one. How does one explain a dream, so real that it becomes true, if only for a moment? Everything you ever longed for, to become reality in one instance in time. And then to wake up from it, and realize you left it all behind, or to stay there forever, and turn your back on the life you led before…

“It’s a dream,” Kara settles on. “A dream of paradise, that feels so real you never want to wake up. It’s so perfect, you think it’s your real life, and you… forget everything you left behind. But it’s not real. It’s just a dream, and you have to wake up, or you’ll get trapped there forever, and it kills you.” 

Lena’s hands freeze above Kara’s ribs. “That sounds… beautiful, and terrible. I’d hate to see anyone go through that.” 

Kara thinks about ever dream she’s had, every scene she's imagined where her and Lena meet on different circumstances, only for Kara to shake herself awake before the after , to never find out what comes next and reawakens in her cell, and thinks, maybe it's not such an awful way to go.  

“Regardless,” Lena continues, pulling Kara from her thoughts. “It’s a funny thing to name your ship, isn't it?” 

Kara hums. “What do you mean?” 

“I mean.” Lena pulls away from Kara’s side, sitting up so as to face her fully. “It’s a reminder. And you aren’t exactly from here , yes? So what paradise— or dream, perhaps— are you seeking? Are you trying to see your home again, or make this place your home?”

Kara cannot help the genuine smile that spreads across her face. She gathers both Lena's hands in hers, and, bringing them up to her lips, presses a gentle kiss to them, laughing. 

“What?” Lena asks, confused, but even she cannot help but smile at the happiness on Kara’s face. “What did I say? Kara?” 

“Nothing, nothing,” Kara shakes her head, still smiling even as it pains her. “I just— Lena Luthor, you really are the smartest woman I’ve ever met.”

Lena ducks her head. “Stop.” 

“No, I won't,” Kara grins. “When we get out of here, the first thing I plan to do is sing your praises from the very top of my mast, for you and all my crew to hear.” 

This earns her a gentle shove to the arm. “Enough, you buffoon.” 

“I’m serious. Come with me.” 

Lena freezes, then. She turns to Kara with wide eyes. “What?” 

“You once told me that you wished to be free of this place. Your brother is a cruel tyrant who cares for no one but himself. Come with me, Lena. Come see the world with me.” 

“You don’t know what you’re asking. Your crew— Kara, your family is waiting for you. They would never accept me.” 

“You are so kind, and intelligent and stubborn— Lena, they would love you. Even if they didn’t, I'm not asking as a member of the crew. I’m asking as the Captain. I’m offering you, as Captain, a home with me…” Kara swallows roughly. “A home on my ship.” 

Lena’s eyes search Kara intently. Kara never breaks eye contact, never loosens her grip on Lena’s hand. 

“You mean it,” Lena whispers, voice half-desperate, half-trembling.

“I mean it.” Kara squeezes her hand. “When we run from this place, come with me, Lena. Stay close to me.” 

“Okay.” Lena squeezes back. “Okay.” 

 

That night is the last time Kara sees Lena for many weeks. 

Her other visitors make many appearances. At one point, even the King Lex himself makes a brief appearance, flanked by guards, to check on her. He never steps past the bars, taunting her from his point of safety. Kara’s ears have been ringing for weeks, so she barely makes out what he says anyways. 

Still, no Lena. 

 

The second time Lex visits, Kara knows something is coming. 

The gate into her cell is slammed open by a pair of outfitted knights. Alit with flickering torchlight, face lit up and shadowed like a jack-o-lantern, Lex strolls in with two other guards hot on his heels, chains in hand. He stands before Kara, motioning for his guards to bring her to her feet. 

“Well, it’s been a pleasure having you as my guest, Captain.” Lex says, hands tucked neatly behind his back, certainly the picture of royal hospitality. “Unfortunately, your time here is done.” 

Kara lets herself be dragged up to meet Lex’s face. She’d spit in it again if she wasn’t so starved for water. Exhausted, sore, and powerless, she just slurs, “Where are you taking me?”

“Why, Captain Zor-El,” Lex grins. “Back home, of course.” 

Her hands are bound and shackled, her eyes covered with a strip of cloth-covered lead. Silently, the King and his men march Kara out of the dungeon. The Luthor manor is deathly silent as they navigate the endless corridors and hallways. Kara’s only companion through the journey is the echoing footsteps from the boots of Lex’s men.

She’s brought outside, and the cold night air immediately unfamiliar to Kara’s skin, so used to the damp air of the dungeon she had been trapped within for so long. The fresh bitter wind bites at her neck and faces as she’s pushed through the open estate. They lead her to a carriage, she thinks, roughly guided up a wooden step and into a space much smaller than the hallways of the manor. She hears a metal door slam shut beside her, and then the wagon hitches forward, jostling her around the cabin as she's carried forward on.

Kara isn’t sure how long they travel. After a few minutes, she stops keeping track. Instead, she presses her bound hands together and prays for anything; she prays for a miracle, an ambush, for her friends and family to be safe. She prays that Lena hasn’t been found out, that her betrayal to Lex was never discovered, that she isn't in a wagon behind Kara, carried on the same arrow to a similar fate. 

When the wagon stops, Kara is ushered out, and the moment her feet hit the ground she is acutely aware of where she has been taken. 

She feels the soft, trembling wood beneath her feet, hearing the rush of waves crashing on rocks. She smells the explosive scent of salt in the air, hears the rippling of heavy rain falling into water, and can feel the spray of seafoam against her face as she’s pushed forward. 

As she’s brought forth onto the dock, the procession suddenly halts. In front of her, she hears someone whisper, and then, Lex, sounding almost agitated, whispers back, “ What the hell is she doing here?” 

Despite the blindfold, Kara still strains her head to look. Could it be? 

“Lex.” A voice calls from the end of the dock, and Kara’s heart jumps like a loose sail. “How come I wasn’t invited to your little midnight soiree?” 

“Lena,” Lex drawls, voice dripping with saccharin as he greets his sister. “You shouldn’t be here, you know.” 

“Nonsense, Lex,” Lena laughs, and Kara has to stifle her own at the ridiculously false cheer in her words. “I go where I please. Besides, it’s been so long since I’ve been to a good old fashioned Luthor execution.” 

Lena gasps. “And who do we have here? This couldn’t be that darling Captain you told me about, would it, Lex?” 

Kara hears the growl that forms in Lex’s throat as he speaks his next sentence. “You would know better than any of us, wouldn’t you, dear sister?” 

Lena pauses. “I’m not sure what you mean, Lex.” 

“Of course.” Lex chuckles. “Well, come join the party, Lena! I’m sure the crew will forgive the intrusion of a woman on their boat. You are my sister, after all.” 

“How gracious.” 

Knowing that Lena is here, on the dock, and will be joining them on the ship, sends Kara’s thoughts reeling. The guards practically drag her up the ramp onto the ship’s deck as she racks her mind to consider the implications of this— is Lena here to help? Would she risk her life, now, within the company of not only her brother, but also his armed men, to save her? Has everything— her help, her friendship, every conversation shared— has it all been a lie? 

They press Kara up against the mast, wrapping her with more kryptonite chain across the chest and legs so she is bound to the pole. They remove her blindfold, and there, for the first time, she sees her. Sees Lena. 

Underneath the glow of the pale silver moon, Lena is a beacon in a storm. Draped in royal purple silks and bundled in a thick warm fur, she radiates the kind of elegance that was always hidden from Kara when they talked. Without her layers of ill-fitting armor or heavy cloaks, it's easy for Kara to understand why one might let her get away with disobeying the King’s direct orders. It's painfully clear to see— the moonlight enfolds itself around the dark colors of her gown, surrounding her in an ethereal glow, and the wind carries itself through the folds of her coat and the curls in her hair as though called upon just only for her. Lena is a goddess, and in this moment, all grief is forgotten to Kara; all she longs for is to fall to her knees in reverence. 

Lena approaches, eyes trained on Lex’s crew, who tend to the ship as they set off to sail. Leaning down gently, she whispers to Kara, “Are you alright?” 

Kara, at a loss for any other words, just asks, “Why are you here?” 

Lena smiles at Kara, head tilting to the side like she’s genuinely confused by the question. “'I'm staying close, remember?” 

Oh. 

“You never came back,” Kara huffs out, glancing away. “After that night, when I told you to come with me, you never returned. Why?” 

Lena sucks in a tense breath. She turns aside, the rain starting to pick up as they sail further out to sea, and Kara watches a single raindrop run from the crown of her temple to her jaw. 

“My brother grew suspicious,” Lena explains. Her voice trembles, and when Kara glances at her hands, she sees the way they shake as Lena holds them both in front of her. “He replaced the guard in the dungeon, asked me if I knew of any unsanctioned visitors to your cell. I didn’t want to abandon you, Kara, I was so scared—”

“It’s okay.” When Lena flinches away at that, Kara leans forward, as far as her chains allow. “It’s alright, Lena. You’re here now, and that's what matters. We’ll figure out something, we’ll—”

“Kara,” Lena cuts her off, whipping back around to look directly at Kara. “When you said we would escape together, I thought perhaps you meant you would bring me to another place— take me somewhere where my family name has no meaning. Or maybe that's what I wanted to believe you meant, because truthfully…” Lena spreads her fingers wide, between herself and Kara. “If the choice is between leaving here without you, or… or never leaving, whatever that may as well mean— well, there is no choice at all.” 

It takes a moment for the meaning of Lena’s words to fully dawn on Kara. When they do, something passes over her for the first time in a very long time. Warmth. Light. Home. 

“Lena, listen, I-”

A war horn sounds from the stern of the ship. 

Panic immediately strikes Lena’s face. She hunts down one of the crewmen, gripping onto his arm. “What warning is that?” she asks the boy, who bows his head, responding simply with,

“A call for his Majesty, highness.” 

At that moment, Lex steps out from beneath the deck. 

“We’ve arrived?” He calls out to the ship’s captain, who grunts in affirmative. 

“Wonderful!” Lex claps his hands together, motioning for his guards. “Prepare Captain Zor-El, please. Oh, and do keep a hand on my sister. These waters are rough, and I would hate to lose her to such a storm.” 

Two guards immediately flank Lena, grabbing her arms and holding her steady. When Lena tries to back away, their grip on her arms tightens, and she yelps out in pain. Kara slams against the chains, desperate to reach out for Lena, but she’s weakened and bound. 

“Lex!” Lena cries, pulling against the hands of the guards surrounding her. “Enough of this. You have no reason to hold me here!” 

Lena’s brother approaches her, leaning in close to her to speak. “Oh, is that true? Enough games, sister. Did you think a cloak and uniform might fool me?” His voice is steady, but loud enough for Kara to hear above the beating rain. “Someone was keeping the Captain cared for, and it certainly wasn't me, Lena.” 

Lena pales. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Lex, I-”

Enough.” Lex suddenly shifts away, all at once focusing his attention on Kara as she tries to break free of her chains. “Only one person is fated to die tonight. I would hate for my sister to join you at the bottom of the sea, Captain Zor-El.” 

The blood in Kara’s veins turns to ice. Her stomach drops. She thinks, perhaps, one of the waves breaking against the hull of the boat has reared up and doused her, too, for her to lock up and shake in such a way. No, no— only one thing is causing this fear in her to rile up and take control. The look on Lex’s face is deathly serious, and as all the fight leaves Kara’s body in a single breath., he nods to her, satisfied grin stretching across his face. 

Kara cranes her neck to look at Lena. She doesn’t think she can gather the voice to say it, so Kara mouths to her, I’m sorry

“No,” Lena chokes out. “No, no, Kara, don’t—”

The chains are released from Kara, and she steps, willingly, into the Kryptonite-embedded shackles. 

The guards lead her to the edge of the ship, steadying her before an open gap in the railing. They turn her around, back to the water, and she sees more than hears the pleading coming from Lena’s lips as she pushes against all force to run to Kara. The rain makes it impossible to see if Lena is crying, but Kara thinks she might be, so she hopes her eyes can say the words she can’t gather as they secure weights of lead to her chains: Please forgive me, Lena. I’m going home. 

Two guards place their hands on Kara’s shoulders. They look to Lex, who nods, and as he begins to count down from three,

A few things suddenly occur. 

At three, Lena’s face, before, a twisted portrait of grief, already mourning the Kara who rests at the bottom of the ocean, begins to shift to confusion, then concern, and then, pure, uncontrollable joy. Lex’s eyes suddenly grow wide, and he calls something out to his men that's lost to the winds of the raging storm, and it’s already too late.

At two, a booming sound shatters the air around Kara, loud enough to make her ears bleed. At first Kara thinks it might be the crack of lightning, but when the boat suddenly pitches portside, and wood cracks and creaks below the deck, Kara recognizes the sound instantly. 

Cannonfire. 

At one, Lena, using the moment of the tipping boat and confusion of the guards to her advantage, shoves both of Lex’s men off of her and races forward, rushing across the deck towards Kara. 

Lex scrambles to regain his balance in the force of the blast to his ship. Both of his men release Kara, and on shaking legs, grab onto the railing for balance, righting themselves against the ledge. Lex stumbles forward until he’s a mere few feet away from Kara, and, grabbing onto both his men for leverage, rears up a leg and places it square on Kara’s chest. 

Lena reaches into her coat for something. 

“Farewell, Captain,” Lex growls. “What a pleasure it has been.” 

Lex places his foot on Kara’s chest, and kicks

As Kara careens backwards off the side of the ship, she hears the crack of a cannon. It’s shorter, quieter, more like buckshot than ball. She won't learn it was fired from Lena’s pistol until much later. 

But then, right there, Kara watches the bleeding body of King Lex Luthor slump forward over the railing of his boat. She sees Lena, chest heaving, push her brother’s body aside and watch Kara fall into the sea. She sees one final word on Lena’s lips— Kara— screamed out like an oath. 

Then Kara takes a deep breath, and her body hits the water. 

 

For all her time on the ocean, Kara has never sunk like this before. 

Sometimes, as teenagers, her and Alex would hold their breath and see who could drift to the bottom of a lake faster, and when they both had sat there for moments, waiting for the other to break, they would kick off the gravel bottom and then race back to the top, breaking through the surface with gasping breaths. Alex’s arms would flail wildly as she tried to steady her body and tread water, fighting against the current and her own throbbing lungs. 

Kara, upon reaching the top of the water, always had a different method: she would relax all her muscles, kick out her legs, and float on her back until she collected her breaths. 

Kara knew, then, that moving her body meant using up precious air she was still recovering. You had to give yourself over to the sea to truly save yourself from it; you had it let it carry you while you caught your breath. 

So Kara doesn’t struggle as she drifts beneath the waves. She doesn't kick, maneuvering what little movement she has around her cuffed ankles, to try and fight her way back to the surface. She keeps her arms unmoving against her chest, and lets the weights chained to her carry her down, farther and farther, where the moonlight barely reaches and all Kara can hear is the deep silence of the sea. 

She has a few minutes of air, like this. A few minutes of peace before the end. 

As Kara shuts her eyes and surrenders herself to the sea, she thinks about Black Mercies and paradise before death, and thinks the closest thing she may ever have to knowing that is seeing Lena Luthor as she fell. 

 

In the darkness, Kara feels a hand grab her shoulder and pull. 

She opens her eyes, tries to let the light filter in. Blinking away the murky water and turning to see who could be grabbing her, Kara first notices dark purple fabric, floating loosely in the sea.

As she blinks, allowing her eyes to adjust as she's pulled up, slowly, slowly, she sees tendrils of black hair, as black as the darkness below, and green eyes— green like the waves of a soft flowing beach. 

Lena is kicking impossibly fast, carrying a Kara that weighs twice her usual mass, seemingly determined to carry her back to the surface or face the darkness too. Suddenly Kara’s filled with the beginnings of an old familiar strength. Despite the chains and weights that aim to carry her to the bottom, Kara kicks with all her might—once, twice— and propels her and Lena forward, closer, closer to the surface. 

As the two of them struggle together, inching slowly higher, Lena suddenly looks down at Kara, and Kara immediately knows something is wrong. 

Lena’s face is drained of color. Her eyes are rimmed with red, her head shaking no. She goes to open her mouth, and to Kara’s horror, she watches as Lena exhales, bubbles releasing from her lips, and begins to drown. 

Kara struggles against her chains, using her bound hands to grab onto the fabric of Lena’s dress to drag her downwards, level with Kara. Kicking her feet wildly, pushing against the weight of the load chained to her, she brings Lena against her, and pulls her in for a kiss. 

Lena’s eyes go wide as Kara’s lips press against hers, fingertips reaching up, scratching at her jaw for permission, for an invitation, to enter. As Lena’s mouth drops open and Kara seals her lips around Lena’s once more, she takes all the air still reserved in her lungs, and breathes it out for Lena. 

In the long run, this isn’t the kiss that matters, really, for them. But it’s the one that saves them there, that promises them the second chance at a real first kiss, when they’re both warm and dry and free. 

Kara kisses Lena, and Lena breathes in, and as Kara’s vision fades to black, she watches a rope ladder drop into the water near them, and Lena, arms gripping Kara tight, hitches them both to the line and carries her out of the sea.

 

Afterwards, Kara thinks of home. 

She thinks of Krypton, her first of many homes, the one she’ll always long for and never see again. She thinks of a family she struggles to remember sometimes; a family of warriors and inventors. 

She thinks of Midvale, with its modest shacks by the sea; she thinks of climbing up the highest hills, peering over the cliffside, watching the ships coming into port and leaving, thinking if Eliza won’t let me fly, then I’ll learn to sail. Then I’ll really fly. 

She thinks of a beat up cedar and oak carrack, a home on the sea. A ship filled to the brim with family and trust. 

Today, she thinks about a white sand beach, sun-warmed beneath her toes. The waves wash languid in and out, and Kara, reclining on her black volcanic rock throne, watches the sunset with equal amounts of appreciation and cherishment. The crew of the Black Mercy laughs and cheers somewhere on the beach behind her, drunk on peace and reveling. The King is dead, his subjects freed, and for the first time in years, Kara breathes with no fear. This is home, Kara thinks; only it’s missing one thing. 

“Kara!” Lena shouts out, walking along the beach where the ocean meets the sand. Where she treads, the imprints of her feet leave steps in the sand, only to be taken away with the tide with each fresh wave. “Alex and Kelly are calling for you. They want you to make a toast.” 

Kara sits up, brushing the gravel and dust from her shirt. “I’ll join them in a moment.” She scoots over, patting the spot on the rock beside her. “Hey. Come sit with me for a minute.” 

Lena smiles teasingly. “Well, I actually just promised Brainy I would—”

“No come on,” Kara laughs, reaching out for the waist of Lena’s dress, tugging her forward until she collapses on the stone next to Kara, giggling. Lena throws an arm around her, and they laugh into each other’s shoulders as the orange-pink sun sets before them. 

When they’ve both gotten all the laughter out, Lena pulls away, smiling at Kara, eyes crinkling up at the corners. “Hey,” she breathes, placing a hand on Kara’s forearm, thumb rubbing circles across her wrist. 

“Hey,” Kara whispers back. She leans forward, pressing her forehead to Lena’s. “Thank you for staying close.” 

“Always,” Lena murmurs, eyes lifting up to greet Kara’s, then fluttering closed. “I killed my brother for you, you know. You aren't getting rid of me so quickly.” 

Kara pulls back to let out a laugh. She nudges Lena’s shoulder gently. “Of course I know. You’ve reminded me five times, along with how you saved my life back there. Actually, while were here, we really need to talk about how you keep telling all our friends that you seduced me in a dungeon , because that’s really not what—” 

Lena’s lips press against Kara’s and suddenly they’re kissing, a real, above water kiss this time, and no one is drowning— it’s just Kara and Lena, the sun warming their faces, tasting the salt on Lena’s lips and the future on her tongue.