"Wait," Kara says, chewing teeth marks in her pen cap as she stares at her notes sheet. "So, look, I know you're all too blind to see that diplomacy is the best option, but—"
"We should just kill her," Andrea jumps in. "We set her on fire, grab Lena, then we book it off the planet before the news gets back to the Elder Guardians."
"Actually, I don't know," Kelly says, pulling her head up from her notebook. "I hate to say it, but Kara has a point. If we kill the Spider Queen while Lena's still trapped in the cave, her subordinates could retaliate."
Lena sighs and picks at a loose thread on her sweater sleeve. All things considered, she's having fun at game night – eating good food and laughing at all the bad jokes, and it's a nice time, but she's still just fidgeting at the table because she rolled a crit fail and got herself captured by, of all things, spider minions. And it's not that no one else has messed up or gotten themselves in a predicament, but she's caused an entire hour of back–and–forth, and they still can't agree on how to get her back.
"Retaliate!" Kara frowns at Alex and spits her pen cap on the table. "You would, wouldn't you? I bet if we failed, you'd like, have spider eggs implanted in her belly or something. Or worse," she gasps, "like an actual, live spider."
"Gross," Nia says, muffled through a bite of cheesy bread. "It'd be like Alien where we bring her back to the ship and she infects us all. Maybe a negotiation is better."
"The Spider Queen doesn't negotiate," Sam says, picking raisins out of her trail mix. "It's what the rocks said, remember? When they warned us ages ago it was dumb to take the shortcut."
"God, why did we take the shortcut," Nia groans.
Lena sighs again, then she pulls her phone out under the table and texts Kara – sorry i'm ruining game night ): i understand if you don't want me back next week. you can just let me die. it's been so long.
She watches Kara's brow crinkle as she reads it, but instead of responding, Kara just clicks her phone screen off.
"Yeah, so like I was saying," Kara says loud, looking up again and squinting at Andrea. "I think this situation requires a more delicate touch. The Spider Queen is just a lady, and maybe I'm just a rogue, but I'm stacked on charisma and I'm sure she has certain needs." Sam scrunches up her face in disgust, and Nia does too, but Kara rolls her eyes and goes on. "Anyway, I'm rolling for it, so everyone step back and holster your weapons."
"What exactly are you rolling for?" Alex asks, pen hovering above her notebook.
"I'm sacrificing myself to get Lena," Kara says, flicking her fringe out of her eyes as she licks her lips. She pushes up her sleeves and sucks a deep breath, then, "I saunter over to the Spider Queen," she starts, and Nia immediately drops her head in her hands. "I press against one of her sturdy eight legs, run my fingers through the rough, prickly texture of her hairs, and then I lean in close as I whisper, hey there beautiful, inching my way up her patella, I just wanted you to know that this itsy–bitsy spider can climb up my water spout any day and time she wants."
Andrea snorts. Alex just blinks. Nia looks confused. And everyone freezes when Kara rolls a natural 20.
"Holy poop," Kelly gasps.
"Excuse me, what?" Nia mumbles.
"You've got to be kidding me," Sam sighs.
"Oh," Lena says, perking up a bit and clicking off her own phone screen. She's not supposed to talk since she's trapped inside the cave, but she can't help it. "I, uh – thank you."
"I'd never let them hurt you," Kara tells her. "Even if it means I have to get shaggy with a spider."
Lena laughs, and she's probably blushing but she chooses not to think about that. "I'll split my mission gold with you if we make it out of this. Honestly, you can have it all if we live."
"No, you can keep it," Kara says, pinching her lip as she smiles. "But I'll take an extra drink at the bar, or like, maybe an extra eight – one for each leg I have to please."
Nia gags, but Lena laughs again, watching Kara bat her lashes.
"Okay," Alex says slowly, grabbing their attention again. "I think we're all a little in shock, and I absolutely am not excited for this, but—" she sighs, scribbles something in her notebook, and then, defeatedly, she mumbles in her Game Master voice, "The Spider Queen is amused. She normally hates the shrill of earthly voices, but she finds yours quite pleasing. You may continue speaking, Kara, but only you."
Kara claps her hands together. "Alright, my exquisite, extraordinary, long–legged queen, I believe one of your subordinates recently captured my friend. And while I admire your mission of galaxy domination, I would positively love it if you'd consider letting her go. I know requests don't come cheap, though. So, in exchange – and I lower my voice when I say this, trailing slow kisses up her leg, one for each and every one of her twelve mesmerizing eyes – perhaps an arrangement could be made. I heard you like it when—"
"Kara," Andrea groans. Kara stops talking, shakes her die in her hand, then rolls it.
And Lena's not saying she falls in love, but she definitely comes close when she sees another 20.
After the session is over, Lena's walking toward the sidewalk with Andrea when Kara runs over out of breath, cheeks red. "Hey, wait up," she says, looking at Andrea. "Sam was just telling me she has to tell you something, and she needs to do it, um. Privately. So, do you think it'd be cool if she walks with you and I can walk with Lena?"
Andrea blinks at her for a long second, then she huffs and spends a minute looking over Kara's shoulder at Sam. Lena isn't the best at reading people, but even she can tell Sam's lying when she says, "Um, yeah."
Andrea pauses for a moment, but she goes along with it, too. "Fine, but if I have to listen to another hour of soccer team drama you can at least buy me dinner."
Sam laughs and holds her hand over her heart. "Of course, I'm not a Neanderthal."
"Debatable," Kara says, then she hugs Sam goodbye, watches Lena hug Andrea, and waits patiently next to Lena as they watch them walk away. "Is this okay?" she asks, turning towards Lena once they're alone. "Walking home with me."
"Yeah, it's fine, I was about to text you, anyway," Lena says, tucking her hair behind her ear.
Kara smiles. "Oh yeah, what about?"
"I just—" Lena says, struggling to find her words. "I'm really happy, I guess. That you invited us over. And I know you had to modify a lot of rules to make it easier, so I appreciate it."
"It's no problem," Kara says, and Lena can tell she means it. It's dark out, just the glow of the moon and the streetlamps, but Kara's still beautiful enough to make Lena do the nervous thing where she talks too much.
"That's probably true," she agrees. "But it feels really nice to me. I pretty much only hang out with Andrea, and all of her friends are from the sorority, so. I don't know. It's fun going to frat parties, but I prefer stuff like this."
"You think D&D: Arachnids in Space is more fun than getting drunk on Saturday nights?" Kara quirks a brow and Lena ducks her head, and... this time she knows she's blushing. "And I was worried you'd stand us up."
"Okay, so I'm a nerd. Is that bad?"
"Not at all," Kara says, leaning in closer. "I have a hollow metal dice set I keep on display next to my computer monitor."
Lena squints at her. "Was that supposed to make you seem less cool?"
Kara laughs, lets her head tilt back so Lena gets lost looking at her throat. "I guess not next to you, but in some circles, I might be called a nerd, too."
Lena giggles, then she nibbles her lip and studies Kara's face long enough she can see her getting fidgety. She's had a crush on Kara since they had a study group together freshman year, and maybe it's time Lena just. Took A Chance. Put herself out there. It couldn't hurt, could it? Not as much as drooling after Kara already stings.
It's worth a try. She clears her throat, folds her arms, tries to make her voice firm. "Look, so like, I don't want to be awkward, but did you invite us to your game night because you're secretly really into me?"
It's a long shot, but she at least said it in a way that can be played off as a joke.
"No, that's not—" Kara starts to say, but then she stops, smiles to herself, and says, "Yeah, pretty much."
Lena swallows, heat inching up her neck because she didn't exactly expect a yes. It's what she wanted, of course, even wore her best sweater and bought a set of dice last minute from Target, but it's different actually hearing it from Kara's mouth. She has to play it cool, though. Stay calm.
"Good," she says, happy her voice doesn't waver. "That's what me and my nice perfume thought, too."
Kara goes red. Lena likes this development. "You wore perfume just for me?"
"Yeah, of course," Lena says. "This one time you told me I smell nice, and—" it's too late to back out of how embarrassing this is, so she just keeps going, "—I think about that sometimes."
Kara's cheeks go from a nice rosy to something even brighter. "You're still into me, though? Even if I made out with spider legs, and, ugh." She looks away. "I'm so embarrassed now."
Lena thinks about saying well, I'd prefer you made out with me, but even she can't fake that much confidence, so instead she smiles, lets her mouth hang for a second, soft and open, and prays to god Kara understands that she wants to be kissed – yes, still – even if Kara spent half the night making spider leg jokes. "It's alright. I can appreciate a heroic gesture when I see one. If Andrea had her way, we'd all be dead."
Kara's eyes go wide like she's just been waiting to hear that. "Yeah, right? She didn't even tell me thank you, and then she yelled at me about the fight in the flower forest, but all I wanted was to touch the tiny birds! Who knew the shrubs would be sentient?" Kara exclaims, and Lena feels a warmth in her chest just listening to her talk. "But, in all honesty, I'm really glad you two enjoyed it," she smiles, relaxing a little, "hopefully enough to come back next week?"
"Yeah, of course," Lena says, licking over her bottom lip. "I was even thinking I might go down to Valhalla tomorrow. They have this really nice prism glass dice set I saw on the internet, and I'd love to get my hands on it. Next time I roll a crit fail, at least it'll be—" pretty is the word she starts to say, but it sort of gets swallowed by the fact that Kara kisses her – five seconds of impossible warmth and soft lips, and Lena's head spinning fast enough she feels dizzy. It's the sort of first kiss she can sink into, one that makes her feel heavy and pleased, shivery and weak–kneed. It's over faster than it starts, but it's still better and different than whatever Lena expected.
"Um," she says, when Kara pulls away, stunned but trying to collect herself. "If you'd like to go with me, I think I'd like that."
"I think I'd love that," Kara smiles, then she grabs Lena's hand, and they walk the long way home.