Kamala couldn’t decide which was worse, waking up to her ammi yelling at her (which at least only happened on the week days, she would be getting breakfast, and her mother wasn’t actually mad at her) or the far too loud vibration of her cell phone. Either way, she was up far more early than was necessary for a Sunday morning.
“Ugh,” she mumbled. Her mouth was dry from the night before; there should have been a warning that came with becoming a superhero about dehydration. Her limbs were still sore in a way that no healing factor could fix and her eyes were heavy. No matter how much she rubbed them, she couldn’t seem to get the sleepy feeling out of them.
Her cell phone vibrated a second time, even louder than before as it clacked against her dresser. Kamala sighed before picking it up and turning it on.
I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU, KAMALA!
Kamala raised an eyrbrow. The only other tweet that Nakia had sent her was DID YOU REALLY EXPECT TO GET THIS PAST ME?
Oh no, Kamala thought. No, no, no, no.
How could it have happened? Had Bruno let it slip past on accident? No, he would never do that. Could Kamala herself have left behind some clue to her other identity? Or could Nakia have simply put two and two together? She was smart enough to be able to do a thing like that.
Kamala bit her lip. For a moment, her finger hung over the send button on her phone but she never reached down and clicked it.
It took great courage to press her thumb down. Even after the text, Kamala spent what felt like hours staring down at the message that she had sent.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN, NAKIA?
LIKE YOU DON’T KNOW. HOW COME YOU NEVER TOLD ME ABOUT THIS?
Great, Kamala thought. Not only has my cover been blown but now I don’t even get to explain myself to Nakia face to face.
But if Nakia had been able to figure out Ms. Marvel’s secret identity, then who else could have?
PERHAPS I SHOULDN’T BE SURPRISED. THIS IS YOUR TYPE OF THING TO DO.
Kamala raised an eyebrow. She had always been a superhero lover, but it had taken that trippy dream sequence and weird fog to make her into Ms. Marvel. It wasn’t as if she had the money to make her own super suit like Iron Man or had become a superhero for the military like Captain America.
Her phone again vibrated in her hands, a new message popping up on her screen.
SO I’VE FINALLY DISCOVERED YOUR DIRTY LITTLE SECRET. SELF INSERT FANFICTION, REALLY?
Kamala dropped the phone from her hands and squealed.
“So,” abbu said, looking up from the newspaper that he had been reading. “What are you planning on doing today?”
“Oh, you know,” Kamala said, “the usual stuff. Study a bit, go hang out with my friends, hit the library. Nothing too exciting.”
“But nothing bad either,” ammi said. Her long hair was pulled back into a tight bun. “Your father and I were actually planning on going out together today. There’s going to be a nice production at the local theater today.”
Kamala nodded. “What play are you seeing?”
“I can’t remember the title,” she replied. “You know how Americans are, putting a thousand words into something that probably doesn’t even need three.”
“So what were you squealing about earlier?” her father asked, placing his newspaper down before picking up his fork.
“Yeah, were you trying to wake up the whole neighborhood?” Jamir asked.
Kamala shook her head. “No, Nakia and I just have some personal stuff that we need to discuss. Sorry about that.”
She chewed her lunch slower than usual. Knowing Nakia, there would be a lot that she would need to explain.
“Well, well, well,” Nakia said, “look who finally decided to show up.”
Of course she had to be the one to answer the door. She held the door open.
“Come inside,” she said.
Not like I have much else to do, Kamala thought, turning her head towards the ground.
Usually, Nakia’s home was as familiar as her own, with the scent of warm spices and fresh flowers in the air. Her mother made sure to always keep the place neat, and it had a warm, vibrant feeling even in the middle of the coldest winter.
“So, how did you figure it out?”
Nakia smirked, gesturing towards the door to her room. “It wasn’t as hard as you would originally think.”
Kamala’s cheeks were hot. Just the night before she had been planning to work a bit on the next chapter of her story. The only thing that had stopped her were those robbers, who couldn’t seem to take a hint. To think, she had actually spent over an hour and a half chasing them down.
“For one thing,” Nakia said, closing the door to her room behind her, “you have a very distinct writing style. Even under a different pet name, and ILuvCarolDanvers of all things, it was still easy to figure out who you were.”
“Hey, I’m proud of that username!” Kamala plopped down onto the edge of Nakia’s bed.
“On the one hand, I’m surprised, but on the other hand…” Nakia laughed, a smile breaking out across her face. “Well, on the other hand it really isn’t that surprising. Remember what you used to do with your old Barbies and action figures?”
Kamala nodded. “Hey, Barbie was always glad to have someone to rescue her!”
“I’m sure that she was,” she said. “I just didn’t know that you would later on write out those fantasies and post them on the internet. But hey, at least you’re not Barbie this time.”
“It’s not really a self insert. We share a somewhat similar heritage but we aren’t the same.” It was fan rule number one, after all, to not make a self insert character.
“Yeah, I know. Your character’s family is from India, not Pakistan, and she isn’t as big of a nerd as you are. Still a self insert.”
“She is not!”
“Oh yes she is.” Nakia’s smirk widened. “You and I both know it. You just made it to where most other people wouldn’t know.” Okay, technically the rule wasn’t to make the self insert obvious.
She picked up two stuffed animals-an old teddy bear and bright orange cat-from her bed and waved them in the air. “‘Oh, Carol,'” the cat said, “come rescue me!”
“I do not write Shailaja like that!”
Nakia raised an eyebrow. “Have you even read those first chapters?”
“No, I wrote them!” Kamala’s tightened her fists. “Besides, in the later chapters Shailaja does more than just wait around to be rescued; over time, her character develops as she learns more about what a superhero means from Captain Marvel.”
“Oh, I haven’t gotten that far yet.” She raised the bear up. “‘Oh, come save me! Take what you have learned and save me!'”
Kamala chuckled. “Okay, maybe you aren’t too far on some of the characterization in the later chapters. But hey, sometimes things get exagerrated in fiction.”
“I can only imagine what,” Nakia replied.
It was a good thing Kamala’s blush never showed. “Ewww, my fic isn’t like that! We just kiss and hold hands and save the world!”
“That came out wrong!”
Nakia started to laugh again. “Hey, I’m not mad at you for making them, even though I do wish you hadn’t kept it a secret. But in your defense, I’ve written some pretty corny stuff myself.”
“Then why did you call me over?”
“Because there is something I need to discuss with you about that fic. Make all the self insert, kiss me Carol Danvers fic you want, but please don’t do it with terrible writing. I actually compared what you wrote to some of your Avengers fic.”
“Well that was one of the first stories I ever posted – of course it’s bad. I just never bothered abandoning it.” Kamala raised an eyebrow. “What, do you wanna be my beta reader for it?”
Nakia’s eyes sparkled. “As long as it comes with a new original character, the kind based on someone you know.”
“Great idea!” Kamala smirked. “I’m sure that Bruno will love it when he finds out that he gets to be a side character!”
“Hey,” Kamala said, giving a light shrug, “you never did specify who I would be basing someone on.”
“Carol turned towards her, her sharp eyes locking directly onto her. Shailaja felt her heart speed up, and not just because of the rush of adrenaline.” Kamala paused, stopping her whispering. She had never gone back and read her past work aloud before, whether in a whisper or not, and she had to wonder if it might be a good idea in the future. “There was a pause, a quick smile crossing Carol’s lips. Though Shailaja had only seen Carol before on TV, at that very moment there was something inside of her chest, something more than her racing heart and heating skin, that made her realize that she knew more about this woman than she ever could have imagined.”