She’s tackled hostile business men – perhaps not literally (that’s her new girlfriend’s job), but effectively – and she’s survived her mother (enough said).
But this? This overly-casual invite from Kara?
“You don’t have to, you know, I know how busy you are, but if you wanted to, I’d love you to get to know everyone, but you know, you don’t have to – “
“Don’t be ridiculous, Kara, of course I’d love to spend more time with your friends.”
This sends her into a spiral that has her digging into her purse for her anti-anxiety medication, because she wasn’t lying when she told Kara that she was her only friend in National City.
But she was exaggerating slightly; because Kara was her only friend… anywhere.
So this idea? This idea of taking off her CEO blazer and fuck-me pumps to sit on a throw blanket with Kara and her sister and her sister’s girlfriend and their best friends – their family – and play board games and Mario Kart like she’s not horrific? Like she’s not vile?
Like she’s not a Luthor?
This idea is at once the nicest, kindest, sweetest thing anyone has ever proposed to her; and also the most terrifying.
Maggie knows, and Maggie talks her way past Jess: it’s not that hard, she just mentions Pam from HR and their outing the other night when Jess had that late meeting, and when it becomes clear that Maggie had no love for arresting Lena earlier; when it becomes clear that she’s concerned about her girlfriend’s kid sister’s girlfriend (”queer girl geography, right?” she jokes), Jess lets her through.
“Here to escort me out of my own building in handcuffs again, Detective Sawyer?” Lena glances up, holding in the amount hostility she’d normally show for Kara’s sake.
“Here to escort you to your girlfriend’s place for game night, actually.” Lena looks up from her paperwork with a slightly furrowed brow, and Maggie puts left hand under her lip briefly.
“Look, I… I didn’t have much by way of family. Before National City. Before Alex. And now… it’s scary. It’s scary, having people who just… accept you without an agenda, and want you to come eat potstickers and play crappy 90s board games in your socks on their living room floor, especially when they’re all already…”
“Family,” Lena supplies, skepticism still in her voice but shocked warmth growing in her eyes.
“Yeah. But Kara… Kara’s wild about you, Lena, and I… Here’s the thing. I understand what it’s like to feel like you don’t deserve a Danvers girl. But instead of beating myself up about it, I just try to earn it – earn her, earn Alex – every day. And I know you do the same for Kara. And she wants you there tonight, Lena. No one’s going to test you, no one’s going to ask you to prove yourself.”
Lena tries to swallow the tears stinging her eyes – she’s deeply unfamiliar with this feeling – and she bites her bottom lip slightly, at a loss for words.
“Unless you try to verse Winn in Mario Kart. He will try to crush you.”
Lena laughs, softly but irrepressibly, and Maggie grins. “Yes, he would be competitive about that sort of thing, wouldn’t he?”
Maggie nods and shoves her hands deep in her pockets. “I know Kara was gonna pick you up to take you over to her place, but I just… I don’t know. I could have used a pep talk from someone that wasn’t my girlfriend before my first game night with the squad, so… consider yourself pep talked.”
If Lena is expecting Maggie to ask anything in return – to hold anything over her for her kindness – she’s mistaken, because by the time she and Kara slip into an already full apartment about an hour later, Maggie greets her warmly from the floor, from Alex’s arms, but doesn’t give any indication that they’d just talked. Doesn’t give any indication that she’d just reached out to try to be Lena’s… friend.
“James Olsen,” James shakes her hand near the door with a small smile, and Lena gulps almost imperceptibly.
“A Pulitzer Prize winner, I daresay I know who you are, Mr. Olsen.” Also Kara’s ex. The pit in her stomach grows wider, but James smiles broadly.
“It’s just James,” he assures her, and pulls Kara into a hug.
“I’m happy for you,” he whispers, and she kisses his cheek while still holding Lena’s hand. Or, more accurately, while Lena keeps her hand in a vice-like grip.
She’s already met Alex, Winn, and Maggie, so none of them bother getting up, all engrossed in some sort of card game that has Winn screaming something about cheating and index fingers and unfairness in between waving enthusiastically at Lena.
She perches on the couch in front of them all as Kara sinks back in the pillows.
“It’s okay, Lena, you can relax. I promise,” she whispers, and Lena melts and leans back into her.
Alex glances up and grins.
“I hope your thumbs are ready for war,” she says, and Lena blanches slightly. Maggie leans her head back into Alex’s shoulder so she can meet Lena’s eyes.
“She means Mario Kart.”
“Winn takes it very seriously.”
“Hey, so does Kara, it’s not just me!”
“Oh please, Schott, you almost gave Maggie a bloody nose with your flailing last week!”
“The key word is almost, Danvers!”
“Yeah Alex, no need to take out my tech man with some index finger trick just because your girl’s face got in the way of his maneuvering – sorry Maggie – “
“Not at all, Olsen, I’ll just make sure to toss some turtle shells at you – “
“You wouldn’t – “
Kara laughs along with the banter, and Lena just tries to follow it all. Kara watches her carefully, a soft smile on her face. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she kisses her cheek, and James smiles affectionately and nudges Winn.
“We’re outnumbered, man.”
Winn laughs happily and tosses aside his cards – he would never admit it to Alex, but he was losing anyway – to set up Mario Kart as Alex takes the opportunity of Kara’ diverted attention to kiss Maggie senseless.
Between Winn’s excited yelling and wild gesturing, James’s cheering a squinting, focused Kara on, and Maggie’s cheering a pursed-lips, focused Alex on, none of them notice immediately.
None of them notice immediately that Lena is silent but Lena is determined. That Lena’s expression is set, is fire, is blazing with the shock of being surrounded by people who love having her there, who toss their arms around her to grab more popcorn easily, who make sure she’s getting enough to eat, to drink.
Who only ignore her when they’re focusing on driving their Mario Kart characters forward.
Who notice her – who care – at every moment except exactly when she wants to be stealthy. When she wants to sneak up behind all of them, perfectly calculated to pull ahead with a burst of speed just on the last lap, with a brilliantly timed maneuver that puts her strategically-chosen Toad kart ahead of everyone else’s for a first-place win.
Kara beams and bounces on her seat and squeals because if she can’t win, then her girlfriend definitely should; Alex tosses down her controller and exchanges a slack-jawed expression of begrudging admiration with Winn; and James and Maggie try their very hardest not to giggle, not to tease Kara, Alex, and Winn over the ultimate Mario Kart upset.
Lena smiles nervously into the silence and shrugs. “It’s all about strategy, isn’t it?”
She gulps and she fights down panic and she fights down agony because maybe she shouldn’t have won. Maybe they accepted her only before she stole their spotlight, their rush.
But then Alex is leaning in and Alex is grinning and Alex is more than the hardcore, take-no-prisoners agent that unflinchingly and single-handedly blew up Lena’s mother’s most updated facility, because Alex is congratulating her and Alex is, “Okay, you’re definitely coming to this every week. Anyone who can make Winn lose like that? Definitely a keeper.”
She squeezes her sister’s knee and Kara beams and practically tackles Alex with a hug and Maggie nudges Lena softly while James and Winn egg on the tickle fight that ensues.
“Our Danvers girls, huh?”
Lena fights down tears again, worn out Play Station controller still in her hands. But this time, the tears aren’t anxiety or disbelief or distrust.
No matter how into board gaming you are, I’m sure you’re familiar with Risk. In fact, you probably have it in your attic right now. To catch you up to speed, it’s a world domination game in which you fight against a handful of other people to take over the Earth via brute force. (There’s no diplomacy or trading. You make the biggest army you can and try to make your buddies cry.) A lot of the game is based on rolling dice and building up territory, so later in the game, it can get a little slow and tedious rolling dice 47 times to take over Australia.
In 2012, Hasbro figured that the 50-year-old game was getting a little stale and released Risk Legacy. This isn’t just a re-skin. It’s a completely different game, and it was the first of its kind. This is a game that you play over and over with the same people across multiple sessions until a predetermined amount of games have been finished, changing the game as you go. But here’s the kicker: You can never play it again after that, because the game changes become permanent. This board game has actual spoilers.