Summary: Kara was ten when she was attacked by a werewolf and survived. At fifteen she rejected a mating bond to the Marrok. At eighteen, she's ready to attend the renewed annual Fae-Werewolf conference. (She hopes.) Her life has consisted of being thrown into the deep end, but this time she's going to jump.
A/N: thanks to my sister for her beta-reading services. all remaining mistakes remain my own silly fault.
Kara Comes Into Her Own
Kara contemplated her phone. It was her super secret phone that she was pretty sure everyone (ie, Bran and Asil) knew about. But it was secret because it was the one that Leah had given her.
It had arrived a few years back, while Kara was still hiding out at Asil's house to avoid the mating bond she had with Bran. Leah's number had already been programmed in, and a single unread text:
_ _ _ From Leah: Do you need to be rescued?
She'd texted back:
_ _ _ To Leah: No.
Within minutes, she'd gotten a reply:
_ _ _ From Leah: Let me know if that changes.
_ _ _ From Leah: I am sorry for the harm I have done you.
Kara hadn't responded at the time and that had been it. No call, no further texts. She'd used the phone to call a few of her friends from back home mostly to see if she could.
A couple of weeks later, after the mating bond had finally broken, she'd been the one to text first.
_ _ _ To Leah: mate bond broke
_ _ _ From Leah: Are you okay?
_ _ _ To Leah: yeah
_ _ _ From Leah: I'm glad to hear that.
And then that had really been that. Except that she'd kept the phone and it kept working. If there was a data limit on it, she hadn't run into it yet, and Leah must be paying the bill because Kara certainly never saw one. Instead she watched a lot of movies streaming on her phone and did a lot of her research on it too. It was a good phone.
Her friend Sarah had certainly been right when she'd told Kara that non-custodial divorced parents could give some expensive gifts. But it wasn't like Bran and Leah were her parents. She had her own parents. Bran was just like the head of the boarding school or something. And Leah had been the bitchy vice principal who was actually pretty smart under all the misery.
But she hadn't really given Leah much thought over the last few years. She used the phone, the phone kept working, and that was that.
Now that the whole Marrok pack was talking about the upcoming Fae-Werewolf conference, everyone was either talking about Leah or avoiding talking about her. She'd always been the hostess of those events, as the Marrok's mate, for as long as the event had been held. The Fae had apparently decided that was a tradition to continue and hired her to put together the conference again at the convention center she now worked at.
It was pretty clear to everyone that the Fae were trying to make trouble with Bran, but it was also pretty clear that Bran didn't have any good alternatives. He still hadn't mated with anyone else, and both of his sons' wives had clearly declined the honor of being his official hostess. Kara was tempted to jump on it and volunteer to do it herself, except that her biggest experience was helping to plan her high school prom and she didn't want anyone to think she was trying to regain a mate bond with Bran.
Also, everyone agreed that Leah would actually do an excellent job of it. Even the people who hated Leah agreed that there was no way she'd sabotage her own event.
Kara wouldn't have a first clue how to run the conference, but she really wanted to attend it and so far Bran had given her a flat no regarding that.
But she had this phone.
So, she texted.
_ _ _ To Leah: I want to attend the conference.
And then she angsted about sending that text for the next five minutes, because what the hell was she doing?
_ _ _ From Leah: Excellent. You're young for an attendee, but that might work in your favor.
_ _ _ From Leah: With your permission, I'll provide a dress for you.
_ _ _ From Leah: And an escort. I have just the person.
_ _ _ From Leah: I look forward to seeing you again.
That was not the response she was expecting. She wasn't sure what she was expecting, but that wasn't it.
She was halfway through typing "Bran said I can't go" when she realized that this was going to be even more awkward as a series of text messages than it would be to just call. So she called Leah.
And was kind of surprised that the phone was picked up after just one ring.
"Hello, Kara. This is Leah." She just sounded pleasant. Which was kind of weird, because of course she sounded pleasant. It was just that Kara hadn't spoken with her in years, and in those years pretty much everyone had told her how awfully Leah had treated her. It was weird to speak with her as a real person again, and a person that she kind of liked and who had been pretty good to her, despite the one major exception.
"Um, hi, Leah."
"What can I do for you?" It was an offer by a busy woman, who was clearly not going to let any awkwardness get in either of their ways. Kara appreciated it.
"Bran said that I wasn't going."
"But you want to go?"
"Then ask Bran who is going. Because he really should attend with at least one dominant female werewolf in his entourage."
"I think there are at least five other female werewolves going with him."
"Are any of them single or the more dominant wolf in the couple?"
"I don't think so."
"Then from a political statement perspective, they don't count. He's already approved of Clementine Johnson as an alpha of her own pack, but people will doubt him if all of his own entourage are men and their wives."
"I don't think this pack has any dominant women who aren't mated to someone more dominant." Kara tried to think through as many of the pack as she could even remember. And it was disturbing how much time she spent with guys because they were the ones training to be alphas or seconds of packs. She really needed to get more girl friends.
"They have you, unless you've formed a mate bond in the last few years."
"No! I'm still single!" She'd dated some but nothing serious.
"Excellent. Then Bran should bring you because it's an important statement to make. I'll guarantee your safety while there. Do you want to have that conversation with him or shall I?"
Kara had to think about it because she was tempted to offload that conversation onto Leah, who was even volunteering to have it for her. But she knew from everything she'd learned about being an alpha of a pack that there were some conversations that could be delegated and others that could not. If she wanted this, she had to get it herself.
"No, I'll do it. But I'll tell him you approve?"
"Of course. Tell him I'll ask Alexander Sandburg to be your escort. That should help."
"If he agrees, I'll introduce you. He's a very smart lawyer, and it would be to all of our benefit if he knew more about werewolf–fae relations, but he's human, and thus would never get an invite to this conference. As your plus one, he's got the invite and can help you navigate the situation."
"Perfect! Thank you, Leah!"
"It's my pleasure. Is there anything else?"
"Nope, that's it. Thank you! I'll text you once I've gotten Bran's approval." Because thinking positively was half the battle.
"You're very welcome. Good luck."
Kara hung up and took a few minutes to just breath, because that had happened.
She wasn't sure what she was doing with her future and still had college applications to write, but she was one step closer to being an alpha werewolf! Now she just had to tell the alpha of all the alphas that she had made arrangements and it was to his benefit to go along with them.
She could do this!
Also, she had to admit to him that she had a direct line of communication to his ex-wife. Which would be interesting. Because, sure, he almost certainly knew about her phone, but she bet he didn't know who it was from.
It still weirded her out that apparently no one else had seen that divorce coming.
People had spent months telling Kara that Leah was dangerous and selfish and terrible in all sorts of ways, like the evil witch in a Desperate Housewives of Montana show or something. And yet they were completely shocked when Leah acted really shitty. Like, what the hell? It's not betrayal when it's really obviously coming.
At least Leah had apologized afterwards, which is more than Bran had done. Bran had explained things to her. Explained that he hadn't meant to form a mating bond with her. Explained that he would never intentionally harm her. Explained that the bond was going away again. And yeah, sure, it all was super logical and all that, but he never once said, "I'm sorry for putting you through this."
He was all, "I'm sorry you had to go through this" instead.
Leah, was like, yup, I did it, it was shitty, sorry about that, but not sorry enough that I wouldn't do it again if I had to.
Leah had been one ball of bitter unhappiness the whole time Kara had known her, despite her attempts to cover it up. And Bran had seriously thought that telling his enraged wife that she was being irrational for not wanting a teenager barging into their house all the time? Even as the teenager in question, Kara had known better than that. Like, who actually does that? Without intending to cause a blow-up?
But despite all evidence to the contrary, Bran was a pretty cool guy. Not as cool as Asil, but still really helpful and nice, to Kara at least.
He kept to that, too, when Kara showed up at his house the following weekend to say that she'd gone around him to get an invite to the convention. "Because what you need in an alpha is someone who doesn't back down, even from you, when you make a bad call."
Bran was annoyed, but he listened to her make her argument again, telling him about Leah guaranteeing her safety and arranging for a guy named Alexander Sandburg to be her escort. And he eventually nodded his agreement.
Possibly helped by Asil's constipated face, as he struggled to agree with Kara without actually agreeing with Leah.
"We'll still need to discuss how you go about disagreeing with your alpha, because you're going to get yourself killed if you push the wrong person too hard."
"But I didn't push the wrong person too hard." And she refused to back down on this. If he wanted her to be scared of him, then maybe he shouldn't have worked so hard to make sure she wasn't scared of him.
He nodded again at that. "No, you didn't."
And that was how she got a place on the plane to fly out to the conference center to meet with the nation's highest-ranking (acknowledged) werewolves and fae.
By the time they were actually departing to go, however, she was second guessing herself. Because what was she even going to be doing there? And seriously, the travel itself was a mess.
A bunch of dominant werewolves all crammed into a tiny plane was just asking for trouble. She tried to keep herself to herself.
She'd been assured that roadtripping it would have been worse. At least on a plane, it was all over in a couple of hours. She wasn't sure she believed it (how could anything be worse?), but she also wasn't sure she disbelieved it enough risk experiencing anything worse than that flight.
But she was tired and grumpy and smelly by the time they all reached the actual convention center and so were all the other werewolves she was with.
Then they entered the convention center and it was amazing.
There were huge fans set on low that were keeping the air moving in a wonderful breezy manner, and live plants everywhere that gave the indoors an almost forest-like perfume.
There were a variety of people of all sorts—werewolves, fae, and humans—standing around or walking through the entranceway but they didn't matter, because there was even a massive waterfall running along one wall! A stack of hand towels sat next to it, indicating that people could stick their hands and even faces in it. Okay, maybe not intended for faces. But it was still unbelievably refreshing and Kara didn't regretting sticking her whole face in it for even a second.
"I think the fountain might need to become a permanent fixture. So far it's been a success with fae, werewolf, and human guests alike."
"You absolutely should!" Kara agreed, somewhat muffled by the towel, which must have gone through some fancy laundering to smell this fresh.
When she finally looked up at Leah, she realized why she hadn't noticed her at first. Leah didn't look anything like the pinched and straight-laced woman she'd been before. She looked elegant and welcoming and young. Like, not a teenager like Kara, but not the middle-aged woman Kara had remembered her as.
"You look good!" she blurted.
"Thank you, Kara." Leah seemed genuine. And then she turned to the rest of the group and she seemed just as genuine when she greeted them all. "Welcome to the center. Since I know you've had a long trip, I thought you'd like to head directly to your rooms to settle in, rather than deal with check in."
"Thank you, Leah." Bran said. "You do look good." Kara wanted to roll her eyes as the awkwardness of it all. Although admittedly since she was taken aback by how much Leah had changed, she'd bet it was even weirder for Bran. And the rest of the group was even quieter.
Leah, on the other hand, didn't even seem to notice the awkwardness. Instead, she was moving among them easily and passing out keycards, and she wasn't even wearing any perfume so everyone could smell that she was just happily doing her thing.
"Here are your room keycards. You're all on the fifth floor east wing of the hotel, while the fae are all on the west wing. The two wings do not have a direct connection between them. We're actually having three difference conferences here this week, so there will also be a number of other people around, although I've tried to minimize it on your floors. I'll take you to your rooms. You'll have a couple of hours to rest before the opening banquet." And she just effortlessly herded them all to the stairwell, with its door held open and welcoming, completely bypassing the elevators, because of course none of them wanted to get into another cramped space and five floors of stairs were nothing. But the stairwell had clearly been designed as a fire requirement but then decorated for more welcoming use.
They came to their rooms and quickly shed people into their own individual rooms, although Bran stayed in the hallway to see where everyone was, until it was just Kara and Bran and Leah.
"And here is your room, Bran, with Kara next door and Alexander in the door on the other side. Bran, if you want to speak with him, the next hour or so would probably be best. Kara, I suggest you take the opportunity to freshen up and I'll be by at 5, to help with dressing and introduce you."
"Thank you," Kara was so relieved that she'd have a chance to shower and nap.
Bran merely nodded, but didn't say anything, but smelling kind of sad. That hint of sorrow was what cued Kara in to the fact that for all of Leah's cheerful welcome, she hadn't looked directly at any of the werewolves. She'd been keeping her sightlines strictly averted.
"You're very welcome. I'll see you in a couple of hours. Kara, Bran." And then she was striding away.
They both watched her go.
"Well, okay! I'm going to go 'freshen up' as it were," meaning shower off all the grossness of travel, "unless you need something?"
"No, go rest. This evening will be tiring." Bran was still looking down the hallway where Leah had gone.
Kara hesitated a moment longer, but there was nothing more to say really. "Okay."
So she went into her room and unpacked her bag, hung up her old prom dress that she'd brought just in case, and showered, washed her hair, and settled in for a couple of hours of sleep.
She felt a lot better by the time Leah arrived again with two dress bags and a large make-up kit.
Leah was now dressed in a ballgown with a sequin top and a floor-length gauze skirt and a lot more make-up. She looked stunning, and Kara was still in her pajamas. But Leah gave her a quick once-over and nodded approvingly. "You look better. Travel is always rough, especially with a group of werewolves."
"Oh yeah," Kara agreed whole-heartedly. And then, because she had no patience, "so what's the dress?"
Leah grinned. "I brought two dresses. One that I think you should wear. Another as a backup in case you don't like it."
Kara tried not to think about her prom dress hanging in the closet, as Leah hung the two dress bags from the two closet doors and unzipped them.
The first dress caught her eye and it was amazing.
It was… just… amazing. It was… lacy and frilly, and her inner five-year-old was jumping up and down, and her current self wasn't far behind. It was in-your-face feminine, vintage with a modern flare. Like what an anime girl would wear, one of the ones who was super girly-girly until you pissed her off and then she stabbed you through the heart.
Given that it was Leah who had arranged these for her, and she'd seen the video of Leah stabbing someone through the heart, that just made it all the more badass in its frilly glory.
The second dress was really nice, too. It was something an a-list actress could be worn on a red carpet: sleek and elegant and adult. But it wasn't badass.
"If you wear this dress," Leah laid a hand on the second dress, "you'll fit right in. If you wear that dress," she referred to the one that Kara was now fondling lovingly, "you'll stand out."
"Oh, I am absolutely wearing this one." She pulled the frilly dress to her.
Leah smiled at her, her wolf smile, the one that was sharp as teeth even without turning.
Kara had missed her after she'd left Aspen Creek. Anyone could've seen that Leah and Bran were on the cusp of divorce and it never stopped surprising her how surprised everyone else in the pack had been when Leah finally walked out. Like really? Was it not super obvious?
Even though Leah had generally done the thing the mom of one of her elementary school friends had done, where she tried to keep problems out of sight of the kids. She and Sarah had both been surprised when Sarah's mom and dad split. But they'd been nine at the time.
But she'd liked Leah, even when she was being mean. It was Leah who had warned her that the boys would tease her about pack ranking being dependent on who she married. It was Leah who explained that no one knew how werewolfism effected female puberty, because Kara was the only prepubescent girl to have survived the change in modern records. It was Leah who arranged for her to see a female doctor and attended the first visit where it was Leah who asked the doctor all the embarrassing questions that Kara wasn't willing to ask herself, but desperately needed to know the answers to.
And it was Leah who had never once tried to turn Kara against any of the other women in the pack, even as they had warned her about how dangerous and untrustworthy Leah was.
Kara wanted to be herself when she grew up, but she wouldn't mind modeling at least part of herself off of who Leah was. Because Leah had a grin that was sharp and a fashion sense that was threatening.
"This is perfect."
"Excellent. Well, get it on and then we'll work on your hair."
Kara grimaced. Her hair was not her best feature. "if you can do anything with it."
Leah looked unperturbed. "Your hair is actually a great weight for up-dos. It will hold shapes in ways that sleeker hair would fall right out of." It was said factually, not like a complement, just commentary. It was comforting.
And by the time Leah was done, it was gorgeous. And outrageous, too, because there were bejeweled hair combs involved in it.
"Keep in mind that none of these hair combs are actually intended to be weapons but they're all sharp and could be used that way at need. Keep an eye out for who else is wearing something similar in their hair. There's a good chance that at least half of the hair decorations worn tonight will be concealed weapons."
"Oh." Kara wasn't sure what to say to that.
"But then again, with this guest list, pretty much anything can be a weapon and the best weapon will always be knowledge. So, let me introduce you to Alexander."
"Oh," Kara said again.
Leah unlocked and opened a door in the hotel room that wasn't the external or bathroom door. There was another closed door on the other side and Leah knocked on it. Kara realized it separated her room from someone else's room.
Leah looked back at her a moment. "You are not expected to have sex with him. You are not expected to even have him in your room. He will invite us into his room. I did however, want to make sure you had discrete access to him."
"Coming," said the voice on the other side. When the door opened, the man on the other side was wearing a tuxedo with a cut that complemented her own dress, but was otherwise not anything like she had expected. He smiled and stepped back in invitation. "Please, come in."
"Uh," Kara said. The man looked amused. "Uh," Kara said again, before finally shrugging mentally, and turning to Leah, "he's old." It's not like the guy didn't know his own age, and it had to be over sixty.
"Not quite four times your age," Leah agreed. "My ex-husband was at least thirty times my age when we married and likely still more than five times my age even now."
Kara could feel her eyes bug out a bit at that math. Most werewolves didn't talk about age like that. "But he doesn't look old."
"No, although appearances mean both a great deal and very little, when dealing with individuals who are largely immortal." Leah spoke practically. "Please meet Mr. Alexander Sandburg. Alexander, this is Miss Kara Black."
"It's a pleasure, Miss Black."
"Um, please call me Kara, Mr. Sandburg."
"Then you must call me Alexander."
"Um," Kara said. She was not sure she could call a man old enough to be her grandfather by his first name.
She was saved by Leah. "You'll find that Alexander's appearance of age is to your benefit. Most supernatural beings will assume that, in a mixed race couple of one human partner and one supernatural, that the supernatural partner is the elder. By yourself, you look like a tasty treat for any fae predator; with him on your arm, you look like a baited trap waiting to snap them up."
"Huh." Leah had guaranteed her safety to Bran, but it was only now that Kara wondered what a guarantee like that even meant. How much danger was she really going to be in?
"Give it a few years, and they'll be right." And there was that wolf smile again.
"Oh." Kara felt a pleased blush warm her face but refused to duck her head. Despite the worry of only a few seconds ago, she was fairly sure she wasn't in any more danger than she could handle. And wasn't that what a proper mentor did? Allow you just the right amount of danger?
"Anyway, physical appearance is not his only benefit."
"Not just a pretty face, eh?" The man interjected.
Leah turned to look at the man with mock consideration. Kara found it somewhat disturbing to realize that while Leah had casually avoided looking her in the face this whole time, she was perfectly comfortable looking this human in the face. "Hmm," Leah said. "One can only hope."
"I'm also an excellent ballroom dancer?"
Leah nodded. "That was an important factor to take into consideration." It was said so teasingly that Kara couldn't even tell if Leah was being truthful or not.
But then abruptly practical again, Leah turned back to Kara, "Alexander is a lawyer who specializes in international and cross-cultural negotiations. You will not find a better advisor for your first formal gathering. Trust your instincts and your own opinions, but pay attention to his perspective and advice."
"A lot of people think I shouldn't trust you. That I should hate you." Kara blurted out. Because just, so many people thought she should hate Leah, even though Leah was kind of terrifying and awesome at the same time, and Jesus, she wished she hadn't said that right in front of this stranger.
Her appalled expression must have been really obvious because Alexander said, "For the duration of this weekend, you are legally my client. All communication is privileged. I won't tell anyone what you say."
"Don't you?" Leah asked.
"No. Jesus. Did you think I did?"
Leah shrugged. "I wasn't sure. I certainly left you in a bad situation."
Kara grimaced right back. "You aren't my mom." And really that was kind of the crux of it, now that she'd thought of it. All the other pack members expected Leah to be on their side and protect them and be the pack mom even when it was really obvious that marriage was falling apart and Bran would get the pack in the divorce. Like, really super obvious.
And this was just too deep, so change the topic: "Who's your date?"
"I am working. I don't have a date."
"But aren't I supposed to be working too?"
"You're supposed to pretend to not be working. Part of your job is to make it not look like a job."
"That's stupid." Why couldn't people just be rational? Also, thank god for this change in conversation.
Leah smiled with more humor than Kara had ever seen on her face before. "So much of society is."
"Why aren't you unhappy with it?"
"It's not stupid, it's just how society is, and I like society. It's like a dance. There are certain moves to it and you can learn those moves. There are correct and incorrect answers and they can all be learned. It's something that can be mastered, and it's something that I am very, very good at."
"Oh. But if you're so good at it, why can't you make it so that you have a date too?"
"Because I'm good at it, I know that I shouldn't try to have a date here, and to be honest, I don't want one either." She shrugged. "Anyway, I am being paid for a service here. All sides acknowledge that I am working because they are literally paying me to do the job."
"Also," Alexander added, "anyone she dates will be a target of both scorn and physical threats, as a vicarious insult to Bran. Her date would create conflict beyond her ability to control it. In contrast, being single and having the potential to favor any given individual courting puts a lot of control directly into her hands. It will be interesting to see who attempts to curry her favor here, and who she deflects and who she doesn't. Bran and the Grey Lords will certainly be paying attention to that."
Kara shot increasingly nervous looks at Leah during this speech, but Leah seemed unconcerned. "He is your advisor for the weekend, if you're confused by something ask him."
"Oh." Kara wondered if there was any way to ask her current question and then decided there really wasn't.
"In case you are wondering," Leah added rather dryly, "I am not in a romantic relationship with him."
"Oh thank god." Kara had really not wanted to ask and really not wanted to know the answer if the answer was 'yes', but dear god, the answer being 'no' was reassuring because her relationship with Leah was already crazy without being 'escorted' by her new boyfriend. "But you can date, right? Like you don't have to be single forever? Join a nunnery like the old days?"
Leah actually huffed out a laugh. "Be careful with referencing 'the old days' like that. But no, I can and do date. It is merely easier if I keep my relationships circumspect."
"Maintaining the option to go public but withholding it, can be a power move as well. Having a semi-known secret can also be a means of entrapping potential blackmailers," Alexander pointed out. "Social and political maneuvering on this level can get complex."
"You're being thrown into the deep end here, but that can be the best way to learn," Leah said. "And it's time to go."
Leah opened the external door. Alexander offered his arm to Kara and together they exited to the hallway.
"Do or do not, there is no try," Kara agreed, feeling more than a bit overwhelmed.
"Hmm," Leah said, somewhat judgmentally. And Kara honestly couldn't tell if that meant that Leah did or did not catch the reference. Either way, she ignored it. "Your goal here is to see and be seen. To meet people and decide if you like them or not, and if you can work with them or not."
There were other werewolves in the hallway, all dressed to the nines, but Leah had been right: Kara stood out. She met a few eyes and exchanged smiles (and a few subtle thumbs ups) but kept her attention on Leah as they walked to the elevator.
"Yeah. I'm networking."
"It's a new word for an old practice. We used to call it simply making the right connections. But you're not looking for anything in particular here."
Kara was definitely looking for something particular here: Bran had asked her to see who her equivalents were among the fae, if any. Who were the younger fae who were still learning, and who would be kept back from interacting with Bran himself or even his sons and close compatriots until they'd had more years to gain power.
Kara didn't mention that particular assignment.
"The people here, they're not going to be the nicest people, but they're going to be the most interesting, most fascinating, and most influential people you may ever meet. This isn't just an opportunity to make connections, it's an opportunity to have amazing conversations."
"You really love this don't you?"
"I really do."
They were the only people in the elevator down and Kara jumped on the opportunity to get some last minute advice. "So, what's the best way to start up a conversation with a fae I've never met before?"
It was a question she'd asked many people in the last few months and had gotten an equally large number of replies ranging from: don't, to: use your networks to get an introduction that includes a basic biography of who's being introduced, to: just do what you'd do when meeting a human except more carefully.
"Ask people what brought them here. Or be blunt and ask what they'd most like to brag to you about. Nearly everyone has something they'd like to brag about. Or ask them what they're most curious about you." Leah shrugged as if keeping up social chit-chat were easy and nothing to be concerned about. Kara only wished she could be as blasé about it. "Go out and have an amazing time, because this is your coming out experience."
"My what?" Kara might have squeaked that question a bit.
Leah raised her eyebrows, but didn't otherwise comment. "Your debutant ball. You are coming out to society. So go out there."
"Okay, yeah, society, being part of it, yeah. I can do that."
"You are the future and they had better watch out."
"Yeah, yeah, fake it till I make it." That was some school advice that was still good and Kara had been doing that for years, when it came to knowing what she was dong as a werewolf.
Leah shook her head. "There is no making it. You'll never ever be done. Just keep doing what needs to be done and you'll find life gets easier even as the tasks get harder. But you will never be at a point where you have 'made it'. Not even Bran has 'made it'."
Bran was the Marrok and the head of all the werewolf packs in North America. He was pretty much the definition of having 'made it'. But, Kara realized, he was still working to get the werewolves and the fae to have some sort of working relationship. And at a thousand plus years old, he was still more single than Kara was, who at least had an escort, rather than an entourage. Kara was pretty sure she'd had more dates in the last few years than Bran had. And Kara was the one who was getting ready and getting advice from his ex-wife, while he was by himself in his own room.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked Leah. And even though she'd just blurted out the question again, and it was such a vague question, she could see Alexander's eyes sharpen just a bit. He was just as curious about that as she was.
Leah stood tall, with her chin raised and her eyes still resting on something too high to be Kara's face, and said. "Because I want to."
The elevator had reached their floor, but Leah casually pressed the button to freeze it with doors shut.
"Because I can do whatever I want. As long as I accept the consequences. I can pick who I support and who I help and how I help them. I can do whatever I want." She paused, then added, "The real question here is, why are you doing all of this?"
And maybe that was the real question, because Leah looked perfectly at home dressed to the nines, while Kara still felt like a rural teenager playing dress up, with her lace and ribbons and hair all bound up as a weight on her head.
She shifted her stance a bit, to make the weight of her hair more balanced, and lowered her shoulders and raised her chin, because this might be her first real ball, but she knew enough about how to look good to carry it off.
"I'm here because I want to be here."
"Good. Then it's time for you and Alexander to head down. It's become of a bit of habit of mine, to throw you into the deep end, hasn't it? But you're prepared for this. And you'll do wonderfully."
"I will." Kara agreed.
The elevator doors opened.
Kara walked tall across the marble floor into the waiting ballroom, Alexander by her side. Leah veered off, likely to check in with the other hotel administration to ensure everything was going smoothly. This was her coming out ball, Kara reminded herself. She was the future and she was here.
Time to do this thing.