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yearning to breathe free

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Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo : resolutely in action, gently in manner

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rockefellerdate

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Her ankles are sore from skating.

The doorman to her building is the only person Maggie encounters as she slowly makes her way up to her room, craving rest. Alex took the stairs as soon as they arrived, after jumping out of the car without so much as a goodbye, but Maggie let it go—she knows Alex has to be more sore, and in more places than her, not to mention still spooked after the past hour. Plus, she was too tired to do anything else.

She hasn’t had a chance to skate since last Christmas—she’s just been too busy to go any other time during the year with wrapping up season one, promoting her movie, and then beginning filming for season two. She knows she’ll feel sore come tomorrow morning. She’s already starting to.

Maggie gets in the elevator. As much as her ankles ache from the skating, her mind buzzes as she thinks about the previous hour. About the kiss—or what was supposed to have been a kiss. The stage was set, Anthony’s instructions were fresh in the back of her mind, and they’d both known what was happening that night. It would’ve been a big step in their public relationship. But they didn’t take it.

She arrives at her floor, and sluggishly opens her door. She deposits her keys and wallet on the kitchen counter and debates showering for a second before deciding she just doesn’t have the energy for it. The car ride hadn’t been long enough for her to sleep—it hadn’t even been comfortable.

The half hour trip back had descended into a fraught silence. Alex had slid into the seat farthest from Maggie, which wasn’t that far in the backseat of the black SUV. Though the physical distance between them hadn’t been large, she’d felt them drifting apart yet again, and after things had been going so well.

Alex had stared out the window the whole time—the passing night lights flashing across her face like some sort of moving projection clothed as an abstract art performance piece.

Maggie had always loved going to museums. In high school, she’d gone on a class trip to the MoCA, and it’d fascinated her, although she frankly hadn’t comprehend most of what her professor was saying at the front of the group. At the first chance she’d gotten, she’d broken off from the group to explore on her own. She wandered into some exhibit and had stood rooted in front of a painting that’d caught her eye. She can’t remember either of the names now, but she still remembers what had been going through her mind then. The image is fuzzy, but she knows the painting was a large scale portrait of a woman staring off in the distance, her body turned inward from the audience’s gaze. Her expression is what had intrigued Maggie; it was a mixture of contrasting emotions, one overpowering the other depending on what angle she was viewed at. Maggie could take a step back and see she was a heartbroken, or move closer and think she was happy, but nostalgic. She’d spent what felt like hours glued in front of the portrait trying to understand what the woman was thinking.

She’d felt the same way with Alex in the car.

She could confidently guess she’d been uncomfortable, but as to why...she had her ideas of course, but when she glanced over at Alex’s face again, she hadn’t been sure.

She’s always prided herself as someone who can read people easily, and that talent usually extended to Alex as well, but there were some moments she just couldn’t get a handle on her. It bothers her more than she likes to admit. Knowing who you’re dealing with is power in this business, and she despises feeling powerless.

So it eats away at her, Alex’s attitude regarding their scheduled kiss. Alex had been too nervous tonight, too flighty, looking too much at Maggie like she was a lion about to pounce and not her co-worker, her...friend.

It unsettled Maggie. There was no way in hell she could have kissed her.

She flexes her hand, and she can feel echoes of the memory of Alex gripping it progressively tighter as they made their way from the rink to the stairs. She had tried catching Alex’s gaze to gauge her mood and offer her some reassurance, but her eyes had been lost—unfocused—looking anywhere but at Maggie. And that, combined with way she’d been trailing after her had made her feel like a soldier leading a prisoner to the guillotine, except she wasn’t just the soldier—she was also the executioner, hand holding the rope attached to the suspended weighted blade.

When they’d reached the spot that would set them perfectly against the lights and offer the best possible angles for the paparazzi they knew were waiting—the spot might as well have been marked by a big x like on sets—Alex had looked paler than a ghost, and her hand squeezing Maggie’s had grown sweaty. She’d been breathing deeply too—well, attempting to, with little success. She hadn’t even paid attention to Maggie standing mere inches away, too caught up in her nerves and what looked like fear.

Maggie remembers feeling her forehead resting against Alex’s, holding her hands in her own. Alex was warm against her skin, and her short puffs of breath had lightly hit her face. She’d opened her eyes when she felt Maggie, finally looking at her. And Maggie had slowed her own breathing, her gaze steadfast, and smiled, trying to will Alex into a state of comfort. It had worked, marginally. Then Alex had closed her eyes again, bottom lip trembling slightly, and Maggie knew she wasn’t going to kiss her that night, screw what Anthony wanted. Alex had clearly been on edge.

Of course she had to do something, or one of the paparazzi would’ve been liable to come out there himself and smoosh their faces together (per Anthony’s orders most likely) so she’d guessed a cheek kiss was safe. And if her lips landed a little too close to Alex’s lips, well, so much the better for the contract.

Maggie’s kissed a considerable amount of people in her short 24 years of existence. She’s had the bad, decent, mind-blowingly amazing, sloppy, heated, choreographed—she’s fairly confident she’s experienced the entire spectrum of kisses. Her kiss with Alex hardly registered compared to those—it was only on the cheek. The kiss itself only lasted long enough for the long lense to catch it, and then she’d led them back to their car. Alex was still skittish as they’d walked through the parking lot, but Maggie wasn’t surprised at her behavior. They’d left her previous nerves behind a while ago, but PDA in front of the cameras was a whole other step. Of course she’d freaked out. Maggie doesn’t exactly...blame her for her nerves.

Apart from her words, when they first learned of the contract, and her general uncomfortableness around Maggie scattered throughout the first few weeks...she hasn't seen much evidence that Alex is a raging homophobe. She thinks she might just be one of those straight people, the kind to loudly support LGBT rights and say it's time for a lesbian Disney princess, but still look away when a same sex couple kisses. It’s not her fault, necessarily. She was raised in a heteronormative society—they all were—and she’s pretty sure she’s Alex’s first gay friend. Though she knows she can’t be the first gay person she’s been around. It is Hollywood after all, but she’s most likely the first one she’s spent an extended time with and in a more intimate manner.

She’s not trying to make excuses for her, and part of her still thinks that lying about her sexuality is inexcusable, but she understands her nervous behavior. It’s the other part she doesn’t quite get. In the car, Alex hadn’t look disgusted, as Maggie would have expected from a woman who couldn’t bring herself to kiss another woman. If she had, Maggie would have given her a piece of her mind, and she certainly wouldn’t be understanding of her actions—she had no right to be disgusted at the thought of kissing her when she’d agreed to this contract in the first place. But she hadn’t. She’d look...confused, almost, and somewhat scared, and that’s what threw Maggie for a loop. She doesn’t know what was going on in her head, but she’s made the executive decision not to hold it against her because whatever her reasons—after so many weeks on set with her, all the time they’ve spent together shooting and between takes, and everything they’ve done for the contract already—Alex getting freaked out over their first kiss for the cameras isn’t a hill she’s going to die on.

She just hopes Anthony won’t kill her for it.

 

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Maggie is late to set.

Alex knows this because she’s always there before Alex herself, and because she’s been standing outside her trailer door for 10 minutes—definitely not in a creepy way, she’s quick to reassure herself when she sees any passersby doing a double take upon seeing her—shivering in the freezing December air.

If she was a girl in a movie, she’d say she needed the cold air to think, but she’s not a fucking masochist, and she did all her thinking at home, late into the night.

Maggie had made the decision not to kiss her last night, surely spurred by Alex’s behavior—she’d been nervous and nearly frozen—and though Alex understands why she doesn’t understand…why.

She gets why Maggie wouldn’t go forward with what they’d been told to do—Alex was a mess, and that was on her, and Maggie surely wouldn’t want to work with her in those conditions, but she doesn’t understand why she’d go against King’s orders and risk breaching their contract. Did Maggie think she was so nervous she would’ve ruined it? Because it was just a kiss. Even if she didn’t want to go through with it in that moment, she would’ve been forced to suck it up, and she would’ve done it.

It’s not that Alex wanted to kiss her—she had to kiss her, and it throws Alex when things don’t go as planned, even more when she isn’t sure why. She isn’t sure how she’s going to ask her that just yet, but she knows she needs to. It’s just as she decides to sit down on her trailer steps that the inhabitant of the trailer walks up.

“Alex,” Maggie exclaims, surprised. “Hey.”

Alex jumps up to let Maggie unlock the door and quickly follows after her, shutting the door behind them. She needs to get this out before she loses her nerve, and it felt too private to ask over the phone. Maggie raises an eyebrow at her intrusion into her space, but she leans against her couch armrest, allowing Alex to speak.

“We were...we were supposed to kiss,” she states. “Why didn't we? Why didn't...you?”

Maggie gives her a look, but if she’s surprised by the question she doesn’t show it.

“I distinctly remember my lips touching your face, so I’d say I kissed you, Danvers,” Maggie tells her, but Alex recognizes the deflection in the joke. Maggie walks around her trailer, leaving her jacket draped over the back of the couch, and connecting her phone to a charger—why she doesn’t have it charged already is a mystery to Alex—but Alex doesn’t move from her spot. She’s not done.

“I’m serious.”

Maggie stops and crosses her arms, looking down. “You were nervous,” she tells Alex simply, meeting her eyes again. “Really nervous, and I couldn't kiss you like that, not even for a minute so they could take the damn pictures. It would have felt…” she winces slightly and casts her gaze at a point just past Alex’s face, “wrong, you know?”

It takes the wind out of Alex’s upset sails. She hadn’t seen it like that. Not even for a second had she stopped to consider maybe Maggie was stopping in deference to her, that she was trying not to make Alex uncomfortable.

A small part of her almost wants to blame Maggie for treating her with kid gloves, but it disappears as soon as it flares up.  It’s just -not even her junior prom date bailed on kissing her when she was too nervous, so why would Maggie?

“So you were looking out for me?” she asks. “Is that it?”

“And for me.” Maggie shrugs with a smile, and her eyes slide over to Alex’s. “I don’t do bad kisses, even when they're fake.”

Alex sputters, caught off guard by Maggie once more.

“See you on set, Danvers.” Maggie winks at her, winks —Alex didn’t think people seriously did that except on camera—and suddenly has her full swagger back. Her hips sway as she saunters over to the couch, which Alex only notices because no one’s hips move like that naturally, and she sits and props up her leg on the coffee table.

That’s probably her cue to leave.

 

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Maggie spends more time thinking about Alex’s incredulous expression than is healthy.

She’d thought it was obvious that she didn’t kiss Alex because she was looking out for her, and it would be fucking terrible if Maggie didn’t care about how the girl she was kissing felt, but Alex’s expression makes her think about what kind of assholes she’s dated in the past.

Maggie only read a little about that part of her life when they first cast her, and most of it about Maxwell Lord, boyband member turned actor and Alex’s former boyfriend, and she knows she has no place prying into her personal life, but -

Her cellphone rings.

Maggie blesses whoever is taking her out of her spiraling, before she notices the caller ID, and cringes.

“Hi?” she asks, more a question than a statement since she doesn’t know which Anthony she’s dealing with this morning.

“How did you wake up this morning?” He asks in turn, his voice is artificially bright. So it’s asshole Anthony. Maggie sighs. “Well?”

“Good,” she replies, wary. She hasn’t had to deal with asshole Anthony a lot, she’s always been the studio’s sweetheart, but the man has a temper at times, and she’s sure she’s about to be on the receiving end of it.

“Awesome!” he exclaims. “Wanna know how I woke up? I woke up sure I’d have a dozen reporters wanting a statement from me because your relationship with Alex had been confirmed!”

Maggie cringes.

He bulldozes on, building up steam, but his voice still sounds freakishly cheerful. She’d rather he yell honestly.

“But instead, I have an idiot paparazzi texting me, saying that from every angle possible it looked like you were kissing Danvers on the cheek, and asking me why I told him to get down there for a hen peck when I promised him a real scoop. So. What happened?”

“I-huh.” She’s seldom left without words, but she hadn’t planned on Anthony being genuinely upset. She hadn’t planned beyond trying to assuage Alex’s discomfort. “We got nervous,” she says finally, sharing the blame with Alex. It would be wrong to blame it on her when Maggie is the one who chose not to kiss her based on what she saw.

“You got nerv- You signed a contract! And you’re actresses, for God’s sake! This should be routine!” Maggie winces at his tone of voice. She hears him take a deep breath on the other side of the line, and when he speaks again, his voice is wildly different. “This messes up my entire timeline, you do realize that, right, Maggie?” He sounds...sweet. And it makes Maggie feel like a scolded child. “But you know what? That’s what I’m here for, to fix things. Good luck on set today, Maggie. Expect my email.”

She blinks. The call is closed on his end.

She’d heard about his mood changes, of course, but she’d never been on the other side of his anger. She’d gotten used to being the leading lady who could no wrong, and it’s a bucket of cold water that perhaps she needed.

She hates the way he just went about it, but he’s not...entirely off base.

They did sign a contract. She signed a legal, binding document, even when she didn’t fully agree with the enterprise in the first place. Being uncomfortable with the idea of dating someone for publicity is wildly different from being uncomfortable kissing a woman who doesn’t seem on board with it, though, and Maggie wonders just how much more the contract she signed will ask of her, and of her moral code.

After the year is up, will she be able to look in the mirror and like who she sees staring back?

And if she doesn’t, will this career she’s been building be worth that price? She never thought she’d end up here, but maybe it’s the inevitable price everyone in the industry ends up paying, at one point or another. She’s only now acknowledging it could be a reality for her.

For the first time, she can feel the full weight of what she agreed to do like an anchor around her neck, dragging her down. Anthony is going to control her and Alex’s every action for the following year, and she won’t be able to refuse again, not if she doesn’t want to breach the contract. This was strike one. But she knows in her heart that if given the choice to redo that moment, she wouldn’t do anything different.

She’ll be damned if she lets this business change who she is at her core.

 

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Alex sighs as she opens the door to her apartment.

She’s too tired to even flick her light on, and she rubs her bleary eyes as she finds her way through the dark toward her bathroom. It’s 1 AM, and her Saturday has just ended. Weekend shoots are the worst. Thankfully they’re not shooting tomorrow—well, technically today since it is Sunday now.

She goes through the motions of getting ready for bed, and after she’s ready—makeup washed off and comfortable yoga pants on—she slowly drags her feet to the kitchen for a drink of water before she succumbs to sleep. Two steps away from the fridge, she hits her hip bone painfully against the corner of her counter, and as she grasps around to reposition herself her hand lands on a cold metal object, which definitely wasn’t there this morning when she left for work.

She frowns, and turns the lights on to get a better look at it.

It’s...a can. The shine of the overhead lamps reveal a small can of coffee. Amor Perfecto, the name reads. It’s a Colombian brand of coffee, she learns as she turns the can over. Her Spanish is a bit rusty, but she can parse out the basics of the coffee while scanning the ingredients. There’s a small sticky note stuck to the front of the can, ‘ No cat shit this time Danvers, enjoy.’

Alex can’t help the smile overtaking her face and the pleasant tingle traveling up her body. She pulls the sticky note off and reads the rest of Maggie’s compact—just like the woman—handwriting. ‘I stopped by during lunch to drop this off. Told the landlord I was your girlfriend to get in. Hope you don’t mind. (Btw, he likes the show.) Let me know if you like it! I can have more shipped for you.’

Maggie’s note is nice, but Alex’s words only register one word: girlfriend. That is what they’re trying to get the public to believe. She still shies away from word, but she brushes it off right now. She’s too tired to even think properly, because for a millisecond it felt nice and warm and comfortable, to think she actually had someone who cared about her that much, that she had a girlfriend. She’s fucking ridiculous when she’s almost asleep.

She leaves the gift on the counter for the following morning and heads to bed, water glass forgotten.

She dreams of beaches and coffee beans.

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Sunlight illuminates the open space of her apartment as Alex sits at her table, inhaling the scent of coffee. She takes a careful sip of Amor Perfecto. The taste is...different to any coffee she’s had before. She usually likes her coffee bitter and strong, and the cup she’s brewed is...but it also tastes like oranges. Or is that lemon? There’s a hint of sweetness to the after taste even with the minimal sugar Alex has added, and a prominent sort of fruity taste that makes her take a longer sip and try to figure it out as she holds it briefly in her mouth. It’s good. It’s really good coffee.

And now she has to think up a return gift for Maggie.

She refuses to lose their burgeoning gift off. She doesn’t know what to get her, though. It’s hard to think of a gift for a woman who has everything. It’s her yearly plight with her mother and Kara. She usually spends money on vacations and experiences, going sky diving or taking them to a new spa. She can’t just do that for Maggie? It’s too...intimate.

A light goes on in her head as she remembers the bonsais scattered throughout Maggie’s apartment when she was there two months ago. A small potted plant...she’d love that. It’s perfect.

She pulls out her phone to look up plant stores in the area. One of the first that pops up is Greenery NYC based in Brooklyn, which isn’t that far. She doesn’t have to be on set until 5. Destination chosen, she dresses quickly and pours some of the coffee into a to-go cup as she gets an Uber.

She’s too competitive for her own good.

 

 

 

Alex has an extreme of sense of deja vu, brought on by her own actions.

She is, again, standing in front of Maggie’s trailer waiting for her, but this time Maggie’s not late, Alex just got there earlier to ensure she could surprise her with the gift before they both get carted off to hair and makeup. She’s not sure why she’s put so much effort into a stupid plant—those 45 minutes she spent suffering through the store employee talking to her about every plant in their vast inventory is time she’ll never get back—but Maggie did take the effort to surprise her so it's only fair she do the same. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction...she loved that principle in school. Though her action isn’t technically opposite since gift buying is the same action but -

“So is this gonna be a regular thing, Danvers?” Maggie asks, suddenly appearing beside her and cocking her head. “You running a greeting service?” The dimples appear. Maggie climbs her steps and stops just before entering, choosing to lean against the closed door.

Alex has half a mind to ask whether she chose that particular location to stand so she could look down on Alex for once, not the other way around, but things have been...weird between them, since the night of the kiss. Or maybe she’s the only one feeling like the air between them is...different, somehow. Either way, she is on a mission, and she doesn’t have time to tease her.

She rolls her eyes. “You wish.” Maggie laughs at that, the sound of it tinkling through the air, and tilts her head. “No uh, I really liked the coffee, and I thought I’d return the favor.”

“You just couldn’t let me get in the last gift in this gift war, huh? Figures.” Maggie’s face settles into a smile, and her eyes seem to twinkle in the cold morning’s sun rays.

“I don’t give up that easily, Sawyer,” she replies, a matching grin on her face. She carefully pulls out the gift from behind her back and presents it to Maggie.  “I saw it and it re-” reminded me of you. It’s what she wants to say, what she was going to say, but she realizes now it sounds...wrong. That’s not something people say. “And I thought you might like it”

Maggie’s smile grows even wider, cutting across her face from practically ear to ear, and she quickly steps down the stairs to take the small potted cactus from Alex’s hands—looking over it the way Alex has seen Kara looking at puppies.

“It’s beautiful, Danvers. Thank you.” She finishes her inspection, the plant apparently up to snuff, and looks up at her, the now familiar mischievous glint in her eye. “Were you going to say it reminded you of me?” Maggie asks, and something lurches in Alex’s body, a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Is this how you see me?” Maggie continues, smiling. “Prickly?”

“No, it’s cute.” Her tone was joking, but Alex was still quick to correct her—too quick, because she clearly doesn’t think through what she says.

“You think I’m cute, Danvers?” Her right eyebrow arches upward.

Alex sputters. “No!” She stops. “Wait, uh, I don’t think you’re ugly or anything, but I didn’t mean it...that way,” she finishes, hating how stupid she feels.

“Mhm.” Maggie has a contemplative expression on her face as she turns to walk back up her stairs and opens the trailer door. She abruptly does a quick 180 turn to face Alex. “Guess I better work on that then.”

An inexplicable rush of heat flushes through Alex’s entire body, one she can only vaguely remember feeling in college.

 

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Anthony’s email notification pops up while Maggie is scrolling through the news.

The preview lets her know this is the email she’s been expecting with a quiet undercurrent of dread, wary of what he’ll think up for them to do. Her thumb hovers over the mail icon, but she can’t put off the inevitable, so she clicks on it quickly. Better to look at it now so she has more time to prepare for whatever he’s chosen.

It’s a brief message. Straight to the point.

He wants them to turn the rumors about their relationship up to 11 by getting seen at a club together and having a short video taken by someone he’s paid off. Less of a mess, he says, if someone who frequents the club posts it on their Instagram stories. They just have to dance. According to Anthony, the resulting fan frenzy will take care of the rest. She’s not much of a party person, she’s tried to avoid that scene since her modeling days.

Back then, it’d been because she knew she was too young for it, and Gabriella would have killed her for it. But as she grew older and could legally enter clubs, she still rarely went. She was always too busy, and when she did have free time she spent it with Gabriella. She wonders, briefly, if she missed out on some experience most people her age have, some rite of passage or another. Then again, her adolescence was far from normal, there’s plenty of things she’s missed out on, and she doesn’t regret it.

The few times she did go to clubs it didn’t turn out well for her—one incident in particular jumps out at her. It actually could’ve sidetracked her whole career, if the news had leaked. Maggie has proven she doesn’t make the best decisions, drunk and lonely, in a dark club with pounding music. It’s not her scene.

Of course, now she does want the news to leak of this club visit, and it’s a simple enough request, but she can’t help resenting him a little for pushing this onto them; Maggie knows it’s her fault for choosing to be a gentlewoman with Alex though. She brought this on them. She gets another email just as she’s done reading the current one, also from Anthony—his private email this time, and not the King Productions one. She clicks on it, and reads his...specifications. It’s not just dancing, and Maggie swallows. What will Alex think?

Maggie’s done scenes with women before. She’s not new to it. A sex scene, even, in The Informant , and her co-star had been a stand up actress about it. They’d discussed the logistics of the scene and what they were comfortable with before it happened, and it went off without a hitch—as much as that was possible. Kissing on the job was always awkward, no matter how you spun it, and Maggie found her best kissing scene with a man and her worst with a woman about matched up.

Acting was acting, and intimate scenes always held a degree of discomfort, but at least she knew women. She’d been with women before. Her first kissing scene with a man in Rosewood Street had been nerve wracking if only because Maggie had let it build up in her head. At the end of the day, it hadn't been any different apart from the uncomfortable scratch of his beard, but she’d always wanted to play a gay woman like herself, if only to see if it would be less awkward.

She got her answer during Nightingale’s first season, and it wasn't.

It was still tiring, repetitive and uncomfortable—until it wasn't solely because after so many takes she’d grown used to it. But she felt in control and self assured in a way she hadn’t before, small and trapped beneath a man twice her size. (Their fans had loved their “height difference”. While Maggie had slightly resented the fact that she’d have said height difference with most of the population.)

It’s always weird to kiss someone for the camera, even if it’s a normal part of the job, and it can be even more stressful if the person you're kissing isn't the way you swing, so she feels for Alex. She’s been there. Their contract is another layer to it all, and although these days she doesn't give much thought to the other woman’s reasoning to...portray her sexuality as more colorful than it actually is, so to speak—though it's always at the back of her head—she doesn't want to make an uncomfortable situation any worse. And she certainly doesn't want to punish Alex. Maggie could never think that this is what Alex signed up for and so she should suck it up. It’s not who she is. Fake or not, she could never touch a woman if it isn't wanted.

They don't have to kiss tomorrow at the club.

Anthony is adamant about it, actually, but his vague descriptions of giving the tabloids something to write about, something unmistakably romantic—steamy is his word of choice—for the front page. Well, it’s bound to be problematic.

Especially when they couldn't even get through one kiss.

 

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The low buzz of La Nuvola Bianca surrounds Alex, and she closes her eyes briefly as she soaks in the noises and smells.

She’s become a creature of habit the past few months and she knows it. She’d usually go out headfirst, and confront whatever came her way, but J’onn asked her to keep a low profile—to keep her head down—and so she’s stuck to a few good places, none of them clubs.

So when at 10 AM, J’onn had shown up at her door unannounced and insisted she get out of her apartment and enjoy the city for once—on her own time and not for the contract—she’d agreed. If it had been any other person she probably would’ve closed the door in his face, but with J’onn, she’d just thought of bringing him to La Nuvola Bianca.

“So what’s good to eat here, Alex?” J’onn tilts the menu down to look across the table at her.

She picks up the menu too and hums quietly.

“Well as someone who’s tasted the owner’s cooking multiple times now, I’d say anything on the menu will be great. Maggie’s aunt has a real talent with food.”

The waiter stops by take their order, and then J’onn’s full attention is on her, those kind eyes staring at her with kindness, as they always seem to do.

“How are things going? Personally?” he specifies. “I know on the business front it’s been remarkably good. Fans love Claire, and you and Maggie together.”

She shifts uncomfortably in her seat and bites her lip.

“It’s actually that last part that’s been...giving me some trouble. I haven’t gotten the chance to tell you yet, but -”

He cuts her off with a hand on her arm.

“Rockefeller.” It’s a statement, not a question. “What happened?” He stares at her carefully, his dark eyes understanding. Alex shakes her head.

“During the date you mean,” she states, buying herself some time as J’onn nods, and never stops looking at her.

Alex sighs.

“I got...nervous. Maggie must have noticed. We didn’t...you know.” She can't even say kiss out loud, how will she be able to actually do it?

“I know,” J’onn affirms. “And so does King.”

Alex looks up at that. “Did he say something? Did he call you?”

J’onn shakes his head. “I actually wanted to talk to you directly about it. I didn’t just want us to go out for the fun of it.” She feels briefly betrayed, before dread takes over. “He contacted you, actually,” J’onn continues speaking. “Sent an email this morning.”

“What does it say?”

“He said you and Maggie complicated the timeline he had planned.” J’onn very uncharacteristically rolls his eyes. “So he came up with another...event, for you to attend. To speed things up.”

A tingle of fear tickles the base of her neck. “What do you mean event ?”

J’onn nods toward her iPhone resting on the table. Right. It’s in her inbox. She slowly picks up the phone as if it’s a bomb, and she hands it to him, nonverbally asking him to do the honors.

He pushes the phone back into her hand. “Maybe it’ll be easier if I just explain.” He shifts his upper body closer and drops his voice, ensuring the natural volume of the restaurant masks their conversation—although they had been put in a more secluded area of it anyways. “It’s a club, Lavo. He wants you two to go and...spice things up. He’s not asking for any kissing though, just dancing together, like couples do.”

“Like couples do?” She raises her eyebrows.

“...Suggestively,” J’onn’s face looks pained by having to say that, and Alex isn’t faring much better. “That’s the exact word he used.”

She’s been to clubs before, far too many. She knows what game Anthony is playing, and she knows exactly what he wants. She isn’t 12 anymore. Memories flash through her mind of a sea of undulating bodies pressed together under colorful lights. She’s been there enough times herself, whatever man he’d picked for the night behind her, holding onto her hips. The thought of her and Maggie in that sea of bodies, partaking in the same activity stops her breath.

“What should I do?” Her voice comes out more pleading than she likes, but that is essentially what she’s doing right now.

“Do you want to talk about it?” J’onn offers, and Alex freezes at that. J’onn...J’onn knows , and that gives Alex come comfort, but she’s not ready to talk to herself about it, let alone J’onn.

“No.”

“You should talk to Maggie then.” J’onn says. Alex looks up, alarmed. “About the club,” J’onn clarifies. “It can be just like shooting a...love scene,” J’onn says, and Alex cringes the same way she did when she was little and her mom explained the birds and the bees. This isn’t a conversation she wants to be having with J’onn—or with anyone, for that matter.  “You can come up with choreography and execute it.”

Alex nods. It makes sense, but talking to Maggie about how they’re going to fucking grind at a club sounds like a solid nightmare.

“I hate to say it,” J’onn tells her. “And I don't want to pressure you, but I don't know if King will be as understanding if you don't follow his script a second time.”

 

 

 

It takes her a day to work up the courage to talk to Maggie.

She goes through her shooting for the day with a sort of nervous energy fueling her every move, and when she’s done for the day she hurries back to the trailers, hoping to catch Maggie in hers before she leaves for the day. This time, she doesn’t have a cactus to hand in. But her skin does feel like it’s being pricked by a million of those.

Maggie opens her door at the first knock with a knowing look on her face. She wordlessly lets Alex in. She sits on the couch and gestures for Alex to join her, but Alex thinks it’s probably best she keep her distance for now. She chooses to stand across from her—the coffee table separating them—hands dangling by her side until she stuffs them in her back pockets.

Maggie’s acknowledges her decision with a small raised brow, but otherwise her face is neutral.

“You read Anthony’s email and want to talk about it I presume?”

She’s glad Maggie said it and knew what she wanted to discuss, that makes it slightly easier for her.

“Yes,” Alex is proud her tone comes out strong, resolute, and not wavering like she is on the inside. Maggie adjusts her position for a moment, quiet, and then looks up at her.

“I called M’gann, apparently he can make us do that.”

Alex frowns. “You didn’t think he could.”

Maggie shrugs.

“I think there’s a difference between getting photographed simply kissing at a skating rink and giving people a show at a club,” she says. Alex swallows at her choice of words. A show . Maggie looks up at her, and her face softens. Alex wonders if she sees right through her. “We’ll do whatever you're comfortable with.”

Alex is taken aback for a moment.

“What about what you’re comfortable with?” Alex isn’t the only one in this PR relationship, and Maggie has been deferring to what she’s comfortable with since the beginning. Hell, that’s how they got into this position now.

Maggie shrugs. “I’m comfortable with anything.”

Alex’s eyebrows shoot upwards. She’s not sure that’s information she needed to know, or maybe she’s reading too much into her words.

Maggie’s own eyes grow wider as she sees Alex’s expression and realizes the potential implications behind her words.

“I mean —I know this is...new for you.” She raises both hands in front of her as a placating gesture. “And I don't want to overstep. So you can lead the march, Danvers.”

“I’m comfortable with whatever you're comfortable with,” Alex shoots back, not wanting to be treated with kid gloves, again. She’s a grown woman, she can and will handle this. It’s nothing she hasn’t done before, she tells herself. It’ll just be...with Maggie.

“That’s great, then,” Maggie says, tone conciliatory.

“Great.” She crosses her arms. There’s still more to talk about, though it’s thankfully less dangerous territory. “Um...what should I wear? King said he wanted us to match.”

Now Maggie looks amused, that small smirk curling the corner of her mouth upwards.

“I’ll wear black, Danvers. You can wear whatever you want. We’ll match.” She stands up from the couch and makes her way to the bathroom. “Give me a second,” she calls back. “I just have to return Blake’s clothes before I can go. We can keep talking outside.”

Alex remains standing in the middle of the room.

She takes a deep breath, the worst of it over. She’d like them to have a choreography to execute, like J’onn said, and she tries to mentally prepare herself for that conversation. Maggie is taking a while in the bathroom—it must take her some time to peel herself out of the jeans they put her in. Alex sighs, and starts looking around the trailer for lack of a better way to pass time. Maggie has one—no, two—bonsais here too. And her cactus, too, in the middle of her coffee table. Alex smiles. She has a few pictures up, most of them with Gabriella and a couple with James and the rest of the cast. Alex briefly wonders if she’ll be up there some time.

She wanders over towards the table by the mirror on the far left side of the room. There’s a few papers scattered on it, and she really shouldn’t be snooping—but she can’t help it when her eyes wander over them. She’s always been slightly curious of how much her co-star gets paid, it’s something not even J’onn knows. She sees numbers, and after a quick look to the bathroom door—still closed—she picks the page up. It’s...not what she expected. As she gets a closer look, she realizes the numbers are just tuition costs, it’s an invoice from a private school. Alex frowns. She knows of Maggie’s reputation as a player, but she wasn’t expecting something like this. She shouldn’t even be dating anyone because of their contract—Alex shakes off the ridiculous flash of irritation and what feels like jealousy—but just how old is her girlfriend?

It’s...fine though, she’s not here to judge anybody. She was almost guilty of the same thing once, even if in this case Maggie is the...benefactor, and not the other way around. It wasn’t rare. Pius X School , the invoice reads, and the first thing she thinks about looking at those words is her own private school, and being 16 and on the set of one of her father’s projects.

She only had a bit role in it, but she hung around on set long after it was over because she’d loved spending time with her dad. Her mom had been busy with a PhD at the time, and Alex had wanted her father’s company. And well, Martin’s. He’d played the son of the lead in the film, and he filmed a lot, but not so much that he didn't have time to talk to Alex. He was smart, really smart. He was only 21, and he’d graduated high school early so he could pursue acting. Alex was confident she could have done the same, but when her mother had suggested not skipping grades in high school so she could keep Kara company—Kara, who had skipped two—Alex had agreed. She'd skipped third grade already anyways. She could’ve graduated already, too, and Martin knew that.

Alex had always liked the way he talked about her and her intelligence. He asked her out, a few weeks before filming was over, and Alex said yes.

And then her parents lost it. They didn't approve of her dating someone older, and although Alex tried to remind them that she was mature for her age, as they always said, they still wouldn't allow her to go out with him. Kara, at 12, had a boyfriend of sorts at the time. The son of the cleaning lady next door, a quiet 11 year old that only ever talked to Kara. Kara’s English wasn’t that good, and his English wasn’t better, but they understood each other just fine in bits of English, Kara’s native French, and his Spanish. He made her laugh. Kara had even asked for her help to make him a Valentine’s Day card. Their parents had proclaimed their ridiculous puppy love ‘adorable’.

So why wasn’t she granted the same reaction?

She’d told Martin, who’d immediately told her that she was old enough to move out, that she didn't need them. Alex reminded him she was still in school, and that she was sure the minute she left they’d cut off her credit cards. She hadn't wanted to leave, not really...living away from her parents, living with a man, a boyfriend...it didn't sit right with her, and she’d never leave school. But he’d offered to pay for her schooling, said all his friends did that for their girls. He said he’d take care of her. That it wasn't rare in Hollywood.

What are you doing ?”

She drops the piece of paper by reflex, embarrassed at being caught snooping.

“Sorry. I was just -”

Maggie hastily grabs the paper and shoves it away inside a folder.

Alex tries to shrug it off. She can be cool about it. Plus—if she brings up their no dating rule, it’ll only remind Maggie of their first real fight, back at King’s house. Neither of them need that.

“You know, I had a boyfriend when I was 16 that offered to do the same thing,” she says. Maggie looks up. “Pay for my school, you know, since I was with him. I know how it is.”

Maggie’s expression is dark by the time she finishes her words. “This is nothing like that. I pay for my cousin’s education.”

“Oh.” She feels foolish, suddenly. And she fears she may have just truly pissed off Maggie, but how was she supposed to know? Maggie doesn’t talk about her family. But Alex has read enough about her many girlfriends. “Sorry. It’s just...you never talk about the rest of your family, apart from Gabriella. I don’t think I’ve read about them in the papers, either. I didn’t even think -”

“Obviously.” Maggie’s tone is still terse, but her expression is back to its neutral state. She sighs and looks up at the ceiling. “I’m not close with my family.” She turns back to Alex with a small, tight smile. “So for the club, I was gonna show you what I’m thinking of wearing. Let me just drop this off at Wardrobe and you can ride with me back to the apartment.”

Alex can spot the disjointed conversation change a mile away, and she doesn’t like it. She wants to know more about Maggie. She’s...so closed off, which one wouldn’t expect with a surface glance. She seems to talk to everyone, but Alex can’t think of a single conversation where she’s learned more about her—save for her brief mention of spending Thanksgiving alone.

“You’re not close but you pay for their education?” She asks. She moves her weight to her left leg and crosses her arms. “You must have a heart of gold, Sawyer.” She smiles teasingly, hoping to draw her out of her armor.

The smile falls off Maggie’s face, her eyes hard.

“I said drop it.”

She leaves her trailer, and Alex gets a feeling she isn’t coming back, so she rides back to her place in the car waiting on her. They never end up talking about the club.

 

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school-invoice

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The sunshine slants across Maggie’s bed, illuminating the various outfit choices laid out for tonight.

On her pillow is the classic little black dress, while a white blouse and black high waisted skirt lay at the foot of her bed, a blue dress she likes is thrown over the back of a chair, but she already told Alex she was wearing black. Maggie sighs. She’s not particularly in love with any of the options. She walks back towards her expansive walk-in closet, googling the night club Anthony’s sending them to as she goes. It’s an upscale establishment that ironically enough also serves as an Italian restaurant.

She rummages through her racks of clothes looking for something suitable and finally lands upon a pair of black leather pants. She looks back towards the bed, and the strappy white blouses matches well enough. She drops to her knees to look for shoes to match the outfit. She’s crawling towards the back of her closet when she hears Gabriella’s voice rising up from below.

“Oh Maggie,” she sings out, “I’m ready to judge your wardrobe choices and maybe your life choices too.”

Maggie yells over her shoulder, “Come on up, I’m in the closet.”

Her aunt’s footsteps enter her bedroom.

“I thought you left at fourteen, why the step backwards?” Gabriella laughs at her own joke, and Maggie suppresses a smile. “What will you tell your ardent gay fans who want you to and I quote, ‘shove your entire leg up their ass,’ which by the way I did not need to see.”

“It’s your fault for snooping over my shoulder on Twitter,” she says, muffled by the clothes hanging above her. “Got it,” she says triumphantly, her fingers closing around a pair of sandals that she bought specifically for her last trip to Disney World with Gabriella. They’re comfortable, and if there’s one thing Maggie remembers from the days where she forced herself to attend clubs for the networking—heels were terrible to dance with.

“What did you get?” Gabriella asks as she comes out, hair disheveled.

“My shoes,” she answers, throwing the leather pants on the bed and grabbing the blouse. She puts it on top, and drops the sandals to the floor at the foot of the bed. “So, what do you think?”

“Comfy chic,” Gabriella mentions. “I love it -” Her cellphone rings, and she takes a quick look at the screen.

“Who is it?” she asks, wondering if maybe she should go for some boots. She’s short enough as it is.

“Work,” Gabriella says quickly. “Give me a second, sweetie. And that blouse looks amazing by the way, two thumbs up from me.”

She gets up and walks out of the room, which leaves Maggie wondering since when does her aunt need to answer work related calls away from her. It doesn't sit right with her, and it’s the second time this month that she’s been left in doubt as to who Gabriella is talking to, but she shakes her head, and files it away for later.

She has enough on her plate for tonight.

 

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The car stops right outside the venue.

The street outside the club, Lavo, is dimly lit by the panel of bright yellow lights above the blue awning. She read the place is also a restaurant, and she fleetingly wishes they were out for dinner instead.

She and Maggie get out quickly, mindful of the busy street and the honking drivers behind their car. Alex shivers the second the chilly December air hits her bare legs, and she starts walking towards the entrance, hoping the movement will warm her up. Maggie follows right beside her.

Alex eyes the long line outside of the club, full of girls waiting in dresses shorter than hers and strappy heels in the freezing cold. It’s the dress code of a place like this, Alex knows that, and she feels a moment of sympathy for everyone who has to wait. Alex knows Maggie is the only one getting through the door wearing pants.

This is a familiar scene for her, one she knows as well as the periodic table, and the memories aren’t welcome.

Until recently her life was nothing but dimly lit, sweaty clubs, short dresses, and dancing the night away to the soundtrack of excessively loud pounding bass, all of that  interspersed with set days before she was fired. After that, her days consisted of booze, shorter dresses, and bad sex if she was in a particularly self destructive mood. They keep walking towards the entrance, the winter cold slicing through her clothes.

Alex gives the line one last look. The only reason Alex hadn’t been one of those girls currently shooting them dirty look as they approach the bouncer had been because of her last name. If she wasn’t a Danvers, she would’ve had to wait in the cold, too.

They must know it, because Alex hears people’s whispers grow in number the closer they get to the entrance.

“Wait, oh my God, that’s Maggie Sawyer ,” comes one hushed tone towards her right.

“Informant...No, not the Netflix show, that spy movie ,” another higher voice jumps in.

Oh, the gay girl? Go ask for a picture !”

It’s Maggie Sawyer.

The girl with her is from that show too, the cop one.

Oh my God, ask for a picture!

But nobody does, and soon enough they’re at the door, closed off with the red velvet rope she’s used to getting hushed through.

The bouncer towers over them, especially over Maggie who barely reaches chest level.

He flicks his eyes over to Alex for a moment, before returning his gaze back to scrutinizing Maggie. He looks her up and down with a sneer. Alex has the sudden odd urge to step in front of her, as if to shield her from the giant before them. She brushes off the thought immediately after it pops into her mind.

“You’re not getting in just yet,” he tells Maggie, before jerking his thumb toward the long line, “back of the line like everyone else, compadre.

Alex frowns, not understanding where the fuck that attitude is coming from.

“Hey, I don’t know -“

She’s stopped by a hand at the small of her back. Maggie looks up at her with a quick warning glance as she pulls them both back from the bouncer—probably so she isn’t craning her neck too much to address him Alex thinks—and smiles brightly at him.

“The reservations were made last minute, but my name should be on there.” She pauses. “Maggie Sawyer.”

The bouncer looks amused at them, and Alex can recognize a guy on a power trip when she sees one. She suddenly feels the urge to get him fired—if she was younger and had more time on her hands, she would. The bouncer calls over a guy with a clipboard, and the man must clearly recognize them, because he goes white, and immediately talks to the bouncer in a hushed tone.

When the bouncer turns back, his expression is absolutely different.

“I’m sorry about the misunderstanding, Miss,” he tells Maggie quietly, and opens the barrier.

They’re led inside.

The place is crowded, and smells like air conditioning with a hint of sweat and the sickeningly sweet, dank smell of a certain strain of weed. God, it’s like she’s back in college.

They’re led to a table near the back, where there’s thankfully less people, and a waiter immediately serves them a bottle of champagne. They sit down, aware that they’re still early. King wanted them at a specific corner by 2 AM sharp, and it’s just barely 1.

“What was his problem?” Alex wonders out loud, thinking of the asshole at the door. She gets it’s his job to turn away people, that they can’t let everybody wanting to take a peek at celebrities in, but he didn’t need to act like that.

Maggie gives her a look. “He must have thought I was Mexican.”

“...So?”

“So, he’s a racist asshole, Danvers.”

Alex frowns. “But you’re not...not that it’d be okay if you were but you’re-”

“Yeah, it was misdirected, but it’s not about what I am or not with people like him, it’s about what I look like. He took one look at me and decided I was someone who didn’t belong in here.”

Alex frowns, her brow knotted.

“I’m…” she doesn’t know what to say. Sorry? Of course she’d noticed Maggie’s genes gave her beautiful tanned skin—she was actually jealous of it. She’d never given any thought to how that could be a problem for some people. But Alex knows most people aren’t like the bouncer—and especially not here, they’re in New York City for God’s sake. People generally don’t have problems with immigrants, be them Mexican or Italian. That’s not...that’s not a thing anymore, she’s almost sure of it.

“Forget about it,” Maggie tells her, taking a sip of the champagne flute in front of them. “This blows,” she mutters. “Want to order something else?”

Alex nods, easily shaking off the weirdness of the beginning of their night. It’s not something worth thinking about it.

She calls the waiter over and asks for a Black Russian cocktail, and Maggie corrects her, and asks for two. They kill time like that, and Alex is proud to have something where she knows more than Maggie. She smiles when she finds a drink Maggie likes, and she laughs when she finds a drink Maggie really doesn’t. Her entire mouth twists, and Alex finishes it for her. She won’t blame Maggie. She’s seen the woman can hold her alcohol, but absinthe is an acquired taste.

“It’s not even that strong!” Alex tells her. Maggie licks her lips.

“That tastes like the devil’s mouthwash,” Maggie tells her, and Alex laughs so hard she doubles over. She’d finish it for her, but she doesn’t think she can get it down without it coming out of her nose. “I’m glad you’re having fun, Danvers,” she states, before taking a look at the silver watch on her wrist. She sombers up. “It’s almost time,” she tells Alex.

All signs of laughter leave her body.

Maggie moves to stand up, but Alex holds her back with a hand to her arm.

“Just one more drink,” she tells her, and calls over the waiter. “Can we get two glasses of your best scotch?”

The man nods. Maggie gives her an amused look.

“Liquid courage?” Maggie asks. Alex smiles and nods.

“The best kind.”

The dance floor is crowded.

Sweaty bodies move up and down to the sound of the music, some Pop 100 tune she’s heard on the radio a thousand times on her way to work, when she didn’t tell the driver to turn it off. Maggie gives her a smile and a shrug, and begins bouncing up and down to the beat of the music.

“Might as well have fun!” She yells over the noise, and Alex lets herself be led by the hand to the middle of the throng of people. Surprisingly, she finds she’s more comfortable here than she was back at the ice skating rink. Maggie lets go of her hand, and Alex throws hers above her head as she begins to move to the sound of the music. She’s always loved the anonymity a crowd at a club offers, the way people just move as one without knowing each other or asking questions.

She’s pleasantly buzzed from their drinks, nowhere near where she got on her own, but it’s...enjoyable.

A different song comes on, a hip-hop one, and Maggie seems to perk up as she moves her shoulders to the beat. Alex laughs looking at her. Who would’ve thought. Maggie must notice her stare, because she looks up, and suddenly changes her movements. She looks at her with a glint in her eye as she starts doing the most ridiculous dance move Alex has even seen. She doesn’t even know what to call it, she does some sort of pop and lock with her arms like she’s clapping, but the actual clap never happens.

Alex laughs even harder, head thrown back, and Maggie smiles at her, tongue between her teeth. As she stops and returns to dancing like a normal human being, Alex realizes maybe making her laugh had been the entire point.

They dance face to face, and if Alex forgot about the contract entirely, it would really be like all those nights she used to go out before starting Nightingale, going out with her so called friends, except she’s actually having fun now. It takes her by surprise, but it's true. She knows Maggie, they’re actual friends, nothing like the women she’d met once or twice and who only ever showed up at night, so Alex could get them into clubs and they could get drunk on expensive liquor while there.

Her fun is cut short when Maggie calls her down—Alex hadn’t noticed, but Maggie is shorter than usual. Alex is wearing the heels that better matched her dress, and although they’re not too high, she has almost a head of height on her. Alex notices Maggie isn’t wearing heels at all, but...sandals. Was that allowed?

“We should probably, huh, move to the corner,” Maggie tells her, her breath hot on her ear, and Alex nods even as she shudders. Maggie shows her her watch after she pulls way. “We have ten minutes still, but I don’t want to be late!” she yells. “This place is crowded!”

Alex nods, again, and holds Maggie’s hand so they don’t get separated as they navigate their way to the designated corner, on the opposite side of the DJ. The crowd is packed less tightly there, and Alex actually has room to move freely, which is all the more nerve wracking.

The song changes before they get there, and it’s a song Alex actually likes, though she wouldn’t easily admit it. Sia, she recognizes. She’s met the woman, and she felt weird greeting her through her wig, but she makes good music.

Alex didn’t even know you could dance to music like this with a partner. It’s the kind of song Kara would blast through the house first thing in the morning, and she —she really shouldn’t be thinking about her sister right now, as she tries to dance with Maggie in a way that’s appealing, that looks like they’re more than friends. They’re dancing the same way as before, only closer.

Maggie stares up at her as she gathers her hair away from her neck, the strands sticking there with sweat, and Alex realizes once more how small she is. She feels half a dozen jokes bubble up in her throat.

“What’s funny?” Maggie asks, and Alex shakes her head. Someone pushes her from the side, and she ends up even closer to Maggie, but she’s grown used to the distance between them by now—or the lack thereof.

She tries to shake off the weirdness of dancing so closely with a woman, and tries to enjoy the song, even as she steps closer to Maggie. Maggie follows her lead, like she promised she would. She feels the tips of Maggie’s fingers pressing into her waist, but Maggie doesn’t pull her in closer. They’re just...closely orbiting each other as they dance. Alex closes her eyes and moves her hips the way she would if it was 5 months ago, and she’d found herself at some club trying to forget the last car ride she took with her dad. She lets her body move freely, and she doesn’t jump when it touches Maggie’s.

She opens her eyes when the song changes, and a second later Maggie nods towards her watch, even as she doesn’t stop dancing.

Alex swallows. She wonders briefly if King had them change the music just for them; it’s something his micromanaging ass would do. The song is slower than the one before, and Alex feels the loud bass in her chest, feels her heart beating along with it.

Maggie steps closer all of a sudden, to speak in her ear.

“I see the guy with the cellphone,” she tells Alex, her lips just brushing her skin as she speaks. Alex shivers. Maggie pulls away, but she’s still closer than before. It’s showtime. Alex feels nerves bubble up inside like an effervescent drink, but she’s distracted by Maggie, who grabs her hair in her hands and...sings along.

“You, huh, you like this song,” she mentions, or asks, she’s not entirely sure. Maggie nods a little, but she doesn’t smile, seemingly having slipped into a deeper level of focus. Alex wants to follow her. It’s not hard. Maggie’s body rises and falls to the beat of the music as she mouths the words. Alex doesn’t stop moving, letting her hips sway to the slower beat.

“....don't wanna be alone…” Alex stares at Maggie’s lips as she sings to herself. She’s enticing as she looks up at her, her eyes half closed and dark like ink underneath the club’s lights. Alex steps closer, until they're pressed together, her right leg between Maggie’s. She’s shocked at the heat for a moment, before Maggie’s warmth seeps into her and Alex only feels it like an extension of her own. Maggie nods.

Whatever you’re comfortable with, she’d said. But right now Alex feels doesn’t feel uncomfortable in the least.

Their bodies pulse together to the rhythm of the song, their hips almost slatted together. Maggie’s hand lands on her stomach, burning her. Alex feels like she’s breathing in smoke, or being intoxicated somehow.

“You can touch me,” Maggie tells her, her voice emanating from deep in her throat, and Alex does. She lets herself touch Maggie’s body and it grounds her. Her fingertips fall down her shoulder blades, her shirt sticking to her skin with sweat. She presses her palms against her back, the movement bringing them even closer so Maggie’s chest is pressed against her own. God, Alex can feel her breathe. Her rib cage expands against her body and hands and Alex feels like she’s living inside of her.

“You can, too,” she manages to get out through the thickness in her mouth.

“You can put your hands on me,” Maggie repeats, and just barely touches Alex’s arms, pushing them lower. Alex is surprised for a second, but she never stops to consider it, never thinks anything but — yes . Her hands slip down to cover Maggie’s backside, taut in the leather pants she’s wearing. She can feel her hips moving against her thigh to the beat of the music, and it’s even easier to match her rhythm.

She leans forward, her hair falling around her face, until she’s surrounded by Maggie. Her face ends up so close to her neck Alex can feel her hot breath bouncing off her skin. She jumps when she feels Maggie’s lips brush just below her jawline, as it sends a sharp jolt of something down her body.

The music rises to a crescendo, and in a spur of the moment decision she grabs Maggie’s hand and turns her around.

Her hands gravitate to Maggie’s sharp hip bones as she pulls her body towards her own, their bodies moving as one, her chest pressed to Maggie’s back. Maggie’s hair smells like spices and she’s so warm in front of her, her hands covering her own—Alex has never felt like this.

“How are you liking Lavo tonight?!” The DJ screams as the song comes to an end, and Alex gets shocked back into her body. She lets go of Maggie. She looks around, finally noticing the other people, and especially the man putting his cellphone away as he nods to the both of them, a slimy smile on his lips.

Alex breathes in, and pointedly ignores Maggie’s eyes.

The video has been taken, they’re done for the night.

 

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Stupid. That’s the only thought racing through Maggie’s mind as she strips off her clothes, leaving a trail leading up to her closet.

She grabs a pair of old red boxers and a white shirt, which she roughly pulls over her slightly pounding head. She grimaces preemptively at the headache she knows is coming tomorrow morning. Besides the aftereffects of the alcohol though, the night was a resounding success. Anthony will be pleased, the jackass. Maggie frowns as she feels her stomach swim, the alcohol sloshing around. She should’ve tried to make Alex comfortable with less enthusiasm, or at least had more dinner. But she’d been nervous, just like Alex—at the beginning, at least.

She shivers standing in her closet, feeling the ghost of Alex’s hands on her.

They...definitely fulfilled the requirements. Perhaps more than needed, but it never...hurt to be thorough. Alex in particular, with the way she started dancing with her towards the end of the song. She didn’t think she had it in her, but she’s learning not to underestimate Alex Danvers. She was very convincing tonight. Maybe too convincing, if her body’s reaction is anything to go by.

Maggie walks back to her bed as she thinks of her own actions tonight. She hadn’t meant to press her lips to Alex’s neck, that hadn’t been part of the plan, but they were so close it just felt natural—and it would’ve been, if she was dancing with a woman she liked and not her co-worker. It was a slip up. A mistake that she’s glad Alex didn’t call her out on.

And Alex herself...She can still feel her body moving against hers from behind, to the beat of the music. Maggie hasn't been with anyone in ages, and she can feel it. And Alex is..she’s a woman, an attractive woman. Maggie would have to be dead not to feel...something, so near her, and with her hands on her ass...God. Stupid.

But it’s done, and they won’t be doing anything like it again, so it’s pointless to think about it.

She takes two aspirins before she falls asleep.

 

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She almost takes a cold shower, but she decides against it when she thinks about the implications of it. She just needs to wash off the grime from the club.

The smell of the sweet, tangy perfume Maggie was wearing somehow wafts through her nostrils. Some of it must have gotten on her skin while they were dancing together—she has to wash that off too. 

She grabs her loofa and pours a generous amount of body wash on it, and then starts vigorously rubbing her skin. She doesn’t want to smell like a bar tomorrow morning. It takes her a moment to realize it’s the weekend and she doesn't have to film the following morning, but she doesn’t stop until her skin is pink, figuring it can’t hurt to be clean.

She washes the soap off with her hands, finally feeling more like herself. The warm water rains down on her as she runs her fingers through her hair and down her neck, feeling strange as she remembers Maggie’s lips on the skin there. That was an accident. She cleans the night from her body, and resolutely ignores the wetness she encounters between her legs as she washes it away immediately.

She doesn't want to think about it , but it's feeling more and more like she doesn't have a choice.

 

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DawsonDailytwitterlayout

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Maggie catches herself thinking about that night at Lavo as the week starts again.

Things have been weird between them the few times they’ve seen each other at work, and though she always thought it might be weird for a couple of days after things like this...she can’t help but place most of the blame on herself. She got embarrassingly caught up in the moment—she felt Alex jump when she kissed her neck, and afterwards she’d turned her around, as if wanting to keep Maggie away from her—and now she’s messed their relationship up. It’s like a constant cycle of two steps forward and three steps backwards with them.

This time she feels like the sole reason things have regressed again. Alex’s feelings towards gay women aside, she can imagine any person in Alex’s shoes would feel weird after the way she acted in that club.

She hopes it fixes itself soon. In the meantime, she has yet more things to worry about.

Time doesn’t wait for anybody, and the Golden Globes nominations are coming up soon. M’gann has told her based off the chatter her chances of being nominated for The Informant are good, but Maggie is never sure of anything. It’is a primarily action driven film, and she knows the Academy doesn’t always bother to consider action films over the indie hits. But M’gann has been successful in building the narrative around her as the next big star, and she’s seen this happen time and time again with other actresses.

They get their big break, the public falls in love, and then the awards follow. M’gann has taken her from point A to point B, and she trusts her in this. She wants to get there. Of course, what also ends up inevitably happening after ‘there’ is the fall from grace, as the public moves onto the next star and proceeds to shred the old favorite for even the smallest mistakes.

She won’t think of that now though.

 

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The Danvers late Thanksgiving meal ends up taking place in mid-December.

A week after the club, Alex welcomes her mom and sister to her apartment, for a dinner that she’d been excited for in its moment, but now could only dread. Things had changed since November, shifted, somehow. And with her relationship with Maggie everywhere online and in the papers after the stunt at the club, she just didn’t want to face her mother.

There wasn’t much she could do, however, and tonight she found herself sitting under the careful gaze of the eldest Danvers, her wine glass empty in her hand.

“So...I’ve been seeing a lot about you and Maggie on the news.”

“Don’t mention it,” she pleads, and uncharacteristically doesn’t care that it sounds like she’s pleading. The thought of her mother watching that video—a video that she can’t bring herself to watch—is mortifying.

“I’m just—that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” her mom asks. “J’onn is happy?”

“Yes, J’onn thinks it’s good. But I don’t want to talk about it,” she states. “And I mean -Kara! How’s the Captain Marvel stuff going? That’s more important.” It’s the first time in her life she’d rather the focus be all on her sister. She’ll be happy to be ignored if all she brings to the table is a fake relationship she’s not too proud of.

Kara helps her out, turning the conversation away from her.

“Oh my God, Alex, they showed me the concept art for the suit and it’s- it’s unbelievable.”

Alex can believe it.

They spend the rest of dinner talking about it, and the topic naturally bleeds into Kara’s role in Humans , playing a sentient robot—and wasn’t that a paradox? They’d given her blue contacts that Kara had begged to take home. Her sister looks like a kid during Christmas as she promises Alex to show her how she looks with them on after dinner. Alex smiles and nods, but thinks to herself that Kara already has bright blue eyes. What was the point?

Dessert passes by in a blur of ice cream and brownies, and since tomorrow they’re all taking a walk through Central Park, her mom heads to bed earlier.

It’s only then, when she and Kara are putting the dishes in the dishwasher, that her sister brings it up again. Or rather, Alex does, because her little sister’s poker face is crap.

“Fine, mom is gone,” she tells her. “You can talk about it.” Kara tries to look innocent, but that expression started failing her when she hit 14.

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” she says. Alex rolls her eyes.

“Please, you're dying to mention it. I can smell it.”

Kara gives her a look before finally giving in.

“Nothing. It just -it looked real.”

Alex gulps. And the same knot of uncertainty she’s learned to live with during the past week threatens to choke her.

“Well, I am an actress.”

 

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The Golden Globe nominations land on a Tuesday.

Maggie hates it, because that means she has to work, and she can’t stay glued to the TV screen like she’d prefer. M’gann had promised to let her know first thing if she heard her name come out of the mouth of one of the hosts, but Maggie has still been a jittery mess since she arrived on set. She curses the time difference between NYC and LA.

The nominations begin at 7 AM Pacific Time, which is 10 AM her time, and she still has an hour to go ‘till then. Her nerves and anticipations are almost so bad they derail her acting; it takes her a little longer than normal to film some scenes she’d regularly nail. Her mind is a thousand miles away in Los Angeles.

Finally, 45 minutes past 10, the PA tell her she got the phone call she’s been expecting. She’s thankfully finished her scene with Alex, who’s still acting somewhat cold towards her, and grabs the call, walking a short distance away from the set.

Her hand is shaking, and she tries to stop it with her other hand, but that one is trembling too.

“M’gann?” Her voice is breathless. She feels like she’s walking a tightrope above a 100 foot drop, and whether she makes it to the platform and safety depends on whatever words will come out of M’gann’s mouth.

“Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama.” Her voice is diffused with warmth and pride. “Maggie. You did it.”

“No,” Maggie’s voice breaks embarrassingly, but she doesn’t care at this point, it’s the fucking Golden Globes. “We did it.” And it’s true.

M’gann has been such a huge part of her success. From the start on Rosewood Street to Crush and now here. Maggie lets out a deep breath, and she can feel tears pricking the corner of her eyes. She feels like she just ran a marathon in the span of a minute, but it was worth it because she finished first, victorious and exuberant.

Thank you is what she tries to say, but the words get stuck in her throat. She closes her eyes, trying to regain her focus.

“Maggie? You still there?” M’gann’s question comes through the phone.

“Yeah, uh- sorry I just -”

“I get it, this is a big moment. I’m so proud of you, Maggie. You deserve this, and come January you’re gonna be walking up on that stage collecting that award.”

Maggie chuckles wetly. “If that happens, you’ll be the first person I thank, well, second after Gabriella.”

M’gann laughs too.

“I’m okay with that. You gonna call her up after this?”

“She’d kill me if I didn’t, and then how would I accept my award?”

“Call her,” M’gann tells her. “We’ll talk later, okay?”

Maggie nods vigorously, even though M’gann can’t see her. Words once again fail her.

“I will. M’gann I-” she doesn’t even know what to say, how she can put all of her gratitude into words. The human language can be so limiting sometimes. “Thank you for everything, I, uh, couldn’t have done this without you.”

“There’s no need to thank me, Maggie, you know that. My job is easy with a talent like yours.”

M’gann tells her she’ll be down to visit soon, and the call ends. She’s already trying not to cry, but she knows talking to her aunt will do her in.

Her hands are steadier as she dials her aunt’s number from memory.

As she’s waiting for her to pick up, she realizes her face hurts, and it’s because she’s been smiling since M’gann told her the news. The phone dial continues, and Maggie taps her foot impatiently. One of the few times Gabriella isn’t answering her phone right away and it’s only the most important day of Maggie’s career thus far. She hopes she didn’t let her phone die again while working, it’d be so like her. The phonecall goes to voice message, ‘Hello! I’m not available for some reason, probably related to cooking. Please leave me a message!

She sighs, her aunt probably did forget to charge her phone, or she’s busy. She scrolls through her contact list to the Ls and calls the restaurant line, careful to press on the NYC one.

“Hello, this is Maggie, I’m trying to call Gabriella and she isn’t picking up, could you tell her I’m trying to reach her?”

There’s a brief pause on the other end.

“...Maggie? Her niece?” It’s silent again, before the voice comes back in, this time much quieter. “Miss Sawyer, I’m so sorry. Your aunt she -she had a bad fall and was taken to the hospital. It just happened, that’s probably why the hospital hasn’t had the chance to call you.”

Maggie feels the world slow to a standstill. The sounds of the set vanish, and the cold biting air of winter is gone. Everything is replaced by the overpowering fear that consumes her. Gabriella.

“What hospital?” she asks the man on the phone breathlessly, snapping into autopilot mode.

“Mount Sinai,” he says. And Maggie is moving.

“My aunt’s in the hospital I’m leaving,” she tells the director as she jogs by him, headed for the parking lot. She stops a taxi outside and gives him the address, and then she’s on her way. It’ll be faster this way by minutes, but she resents not being able to do anything but worry as the taxi driver does his job.

Her mind flies with a hundred terrible possibilities.

 

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Alex is free Tuesday night.

Everyone on set is, thanks to Maggie. All she knows is that Gabriella had a bad fall, because she didn’t even see Maggie leave set when it happened. She took a phonecall after they finished and then didn’t come back. Alex got the news from the baffled director of the episode, but even so, she felt her hands were tied.

She felt terrible for Gabriella—she liked the woman, and she’d be genuinely kind to Alex the few times they have met, but she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know in what hospital or clinic she was, or even if Maggie would want her to be there. Things have been strange between them lately, especially from her side as she can’t even look at Maggie in the eyes without remembering the way they’d danced together—but even if that wasn’t the case, Maggie might want only family. Or her other, older friends. In the grand scheme of things Alex is still a stranger.

That doesn’t keep her from being worried though.

And later that afternoon, when she overhears Louise saying Gabriella is at Mount Sinai, Alex makes the decision to visit her. Whatever...nerves she might be feeling following their night at the club, whatever she might want to avoid facing...none of that matters in the face of Maggie’s aunt getting hurt. She can’t avoid Maggie. She wants to be there. And so she goes.

Getting to Gabriella’s hospital room is more complicated that she thought. Alex had believed, from movies, that if you just gave someone’s name you’d be given a room number and that would be it. It isn’t. She’s just lucky that the nurse at the front desk watches Nightingale and believes her when she says she knows Maggie, because she calls to Gabriella’s room. After they give the okay, Alex is allowed to go up—not without the nurse mentioning to her that most of the surgeries she performed in Body of Medicine were impossible.

Alex gets in the elevator.

She briefly thinks of what to say to Maggie, especially after a week as weird as this one, that felt even worse because they’d be getting along so well. Gone were the days of their gift-offs, and Alex considers for a moment not going up at all, but falters as Maggie already knows she came.

If she left -that’s not who she is. She’s never been a coward with people before, and she isn’t about to start now.

The door is closed when she gets there, and she doesn’t want to knock so she softly opens it.

Gabriella is asleep.

It’s the first thing she notices as she slips quietly inside the sterile while room. The second is Maggie, sitting by her aunt’s bed, her back to the door. Alex clears her throat, and Maggie looks up. Her eyes are red and swollen, and it hurts Alex to see her like this.

“Danvers, hey,” she says with a rough voice.

“Is she going to be okay?” she asks, alarmed, nodding towards the bed.

Maggie chuckles.

“Yes, she’s going to be perfectly fine. It’s just a concussion and they’re keeping her overnight for observation. I’m just-” she chuckles again as she wipes her eyes with her fingertips. “I’m just being a wuss.”

“Maggie, no, she’s your aunt.” Alex is walking toward her before she realize what she’s doing, and then she’s enveloping Maggie in a gentle hug. Maggie returns it, tightly, and Alex wonders if anyone else has been with her today.

Alex pulls away, her hands soft on Maggie’s shoulders.

“You okay?”

Maggie nods. “Yeah. Sorry, I-”

“No, I get it. You love your aunt.”

Maggie sighs.

“She feels like more than that you know? She...she basically raised me, in all the ways that matter.” Maggie’s voice goes quiet, and Alex doesn’t take her hand away. Instead, she lets her thumb rub Maggie’s shoulder. Maggie steps away, not before giving her a thankful smile. She stands at the foot of Gabriella’s bed. “Do you, huh, do you remember before, when you asked if it had been hard to move and I said no?”

Alex nods. She’d thought then what she thinks now —that Maggie was brave. Strong.

“I lied,” Maggie tells her. “It was. It really was. But I had Gabriella,” Maggie says, and Alex recognizes the same tone with which she speaks about Kara when J’onn asks. Despite everything, Kara is her closest family in the world, and she loves her more than anyone. “My second month in LA I got pneumonia,” Maggie keeps talking. “I’d...I’d been stupid, walking through the rain without an umbrella. And Gabriella stayed at the hospital with me even when they threatened to fire her at work.”

Maggie looks up at her and shrugs sadly, and for the first time Alex wonders about Maggie’s life before she started being successful. The way she speaks about it, about her aunt being threatened with losing her job...it sounds tough. Her dad worked for himself, and her mom had her pick of hospital to choose from. Alex never had to worry about something like that.

“What about your parents?” Alex asks. “Didn't they support you after you moved?” Maggie doesn't say anything, and her silence is enough. “So they don't support your career?” Alex infers.

Maggie smiles grimly.

“You could say that,” she tells her, but Alex doesn’t get the joke. “Gabriella is the only one who’s always been in my corner,” Maggie looks down. “And I know this wasn't serious but...it just scared me, that’s all.”

Alex nods.

“I get it. And I...I wanted to see how you were.”

“I appreciate it. I know things have been-”

“It’s been weird on set-”

Alex chuckles. “Go ahead,” she tells Maggie.

“Things have been weird after the club. We both feel it,” she says. Alex doesn't deny it.

“I know, I’m sorry-”

“Don't apologize. You haven't done anything wrong.” Maggie is quick to say.

“I don't know about that. I mean -we agreed to this contract, we knew what we were getting into.”

“I know. But-”

“We should be able to be friends through it all, shouldn't we?”

Maggie nods. “So we grind at the club and we go to work together the next day, maybe get a friendly coffee?” Maggie mentions flippantly, and Alex, shocked, thinks she was right in her assessment of Maggie, that Thanksgiving night a month ago. She is brave.

“I like the sound of that -the coffee, I mean.”

“Sure you did, Danvers,” Maggie jokes. And some semblance of normal slips back.

 

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Maggie walks into the bathroom, intent on washing her face for any traces of tears.

Gabriella should be waking up soon to eat dinner; her aunt would never waste a chance to try new food and recommend improvements, even if it was hospital food, and Maggie doesn’t want her to know she’s been crying.

Alex’s unexpected visit and their conversation had her tearing up again, and she needs to wash that off her face. God, she’s such a dumbass. Once she loses her cool it’s like a dam has been opened, and all her emotions stray close to the surface for hours afterwards. She won’t blame herself for it today, not after she got the biggest scare of her life.

She’d desperately given Gabriella’s name at the front desk, only to be sent to wait outside the ER. She hadn’t, instead asking about her through the entire room to anyone wearing white coats. Thankfully, the nurses had guided her to where Gabriella was getting checked out by the doctor instead of kicking her out of the hospital.

Her aunt had been fine, for all intents and purposes, awake and speaking with the doctor, and Maggie had hugged her for a long moment, the sheer relief bringing tears out of her eyes. Gabriella insisted she was fine, even through the double vision and the confusion. The doctor had ruled she had a grade 2 concussion, and they were keeping her overnight in observation.

Maggie had readily agreed when Gabriella couldn’t fully explain how she’d fallen, because she didn’t remember. Brief memory loss was normal in those cases, the doctor had explained, but that hadn’t sounded the least bit normal to Maggie.

Contrary to what Maggie had believed her whole life, the doctor actually recommended Gabriella sleep and get as much rest as possible, so Maggie had forced her to try and sleep the entire afternoon. She’d been asleep for a while when Alex had arrived, and Maggie hadn’t dared wake her.

She splashes water on her face, and then takes a piece of toilet paper to rub away the eyeliner stains beneath her eyes. No wonder Gabriella was worried about her crying when it looked like that.

She’s almost done when she hears someone else’s voice in the room outside, and she throws the paper away, wondering if Gabriella’s dinner is here or if its the nurse coming to check on her. They said they’d do that through the night.

But as she opens the bathroom door to see a man she’s never seen before leaning over her aunt, and calling her Ella as she hugs him back—she’s shocked.

She’s even more shocked when they share a kiss on the lips.

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, hey, sorry we haven’t met yet...I’m Christopher.”

Maggie smiles, even as her entire stomach churns, putting her acting skills to good use.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Maggie. Gabriella’s niece.” Who the fuck are you? she wants to add, but she has a good idea already and she doesn’t like it.

Gabriella who’s been watching their interaction quietly until then, suddenly interrupts.

“Chris...do you mind getting me some coffee from the cafeteria downstairs?” she asks, and he frowns, before getting an Eureka expression and winking at Gabriella as he leaves. Not very bright then.

“Before you say anything, I know he really can’t lie, okay?”

Maggie ignores her aunt.

The fucking nerve to joke...Gabriella sits up, trying to meet her eyes, but Maggie pointedly looks away.

“Yeah, seems to me the only liar here is you.”

She can’t help but feel like a teenager again, feeling the bitter, biting anger that rarely overcome her as a teen take over in full now. She’s hurt, but she doesn’t want to feel that pain so she’d rather be angry.

“Maggie,” Gabriella sighs, and motions for her to come over to her bedside. Maggie walks over, crossing her arms and looking expectantly at her aunt.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” she says, and Maggie bites her lip. Gabriella is just confirming what she already guessed, that she was dating someone behind her back, and Maggie hates the tears that prickle her eyes. They never lied to each other. Never. “It’s just, it’s still new, and I wasn’t sure how long it would last, and you had so much to deal with, the contract, the new season, promoting your movie. I didn’t want to add anything that could stress you out. I know you always like to feel in control.”

“New?” That’s the word Maggie chooses to latch onto. “How long have you been seeing each other?” The memory of Gabriella on the phone at Thanksgiving pops into her mind, it must have been him then. And when she was getting ready for that night at the club.

“Three months or so, but it’s not that serious.”

Maggie is quiet. She turns her back towards Gabriella, and walks a few steps to the large window. She thinks it’s fitting the only view she has is of the oppressive black sky and the too bright street lights of the hospital parking lot. The moon is hidden behind clouds tonight.

She can hear the faint sounds of ambulance sirens in the distance, and a crying infant down the hall. She hates hospitals.

Her eyes are glued to the streets down below as her next words come out, softly.

“I think...you should rest. I’m gonna go, and I’ll see you later. If you -if you want help I’m here.”

“Maggie wait -“

Maggie ignores her, and she’s 10 steps away from the door when she makes the split decision to return to Gabriella’s bedside, and lean over her to hug her gently.

“I’m not...mad zia. I’m just -“ hurt is what she wants to say, but she doesn’t want to make her aunt feel bad. She’s not a lost little girl anymore, depending on her for everything, even not feeling left out. They’re both adults now, and she needs to act like one.

I love you,” is what she settles with before leaving.

She pulls her hood up and her worn black leather jacket tighter around her—she absentmindedly realizes she left her winter coat in Gabriella’s hospital room—as she walks down the sidewalk, not knowing where she’s going, but knowing she needs to do something. She walks, and after a dozen blocks go by she stops feeling the cold as much as she feels she’s become one with it. The freezing December night has seeped into her bones, and Maggie is thankful. She likes the way it makes her feel numb. She just doesn’t...understand. She tells Gabriella everything. Every disappointment, every hope, every bad date she’s ever had since she started dating at all. That guy...Maggie can tell Gabriella likes him, loves him even, and she doesn’t understand how there can be someone in the world Gabriella loves, that Maggie didn’t even know existed until an hour ago.

She somehow ends up back at her apartment.

She doesn’t know how long it took her to walk here, but she does register that her feet are sore and the bottom of her jeans are wet. Her teeth chatter as she enters her quiet apartment, locks the door, and immediately pulls out the strongest alcohol she has on hand.

She sits in the dark and drinks.

 

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King’s next assignment arrives into her inbox early one Sunday morning, and Alex is ready for it. When he underlines that he needs a kiss for the cameras, she’s not surprised.

She knows the grace period is over, and either way, it couldn’t be more...demanding than the night at the club had been. Nothing could be like that. And so she swallows her nerves and her first order of business for the day isn’t even to call J’onn—but to talk to Maggie about it.

She goes up to Maggie’s loft just shy of midday—which is why she stops in her tracks when Maggie answers the door wearing nothing but a shirt that she can see, her bare legs rubbing together to preserve heat as Alex stands in the door, just...looking.

“Come in, it’s cold,” Maggie says, ushering her in, and Alex has no choice but to comply. It looks like Maggie has just woken up, and she’s about to offer to come back later when her eyes notice Maggie’s...she’s not wearing a bra.

She forces herself to look at her face only, and Maggie looks...tired. Different.

“Are you okay?” she asks, her embarrassment at catching Maggie unaware fading into concern. “How’s Gabriella?”

Maggie shrugs and diverts her gaze.

“She’s fine,” she mutters. Alex frowns.

“What did you want, Danvers?” Maggie asks, brightening up a little.

“Have you checked your email?” She asks, for once in their time together having the upper hand when it comes to information. But Maggie looks so down that’s it’s not even satisfying.

“No. Anthony, I’m assuming?”

“Yeah. The...kiss,” Alex tells her. “Next week. He said we can choose the place, so we don’t ‘get nervous’ again, but he wants it.”

Maggie nods. “It was a matter of time. Are you cool with that?” Maggie asks, and Alex is touched, that even with her aunt being out of commission and how it’s clearly affecting Maggie, she’s still concerned about her.

“Yeah, don’t worry about me.”

 

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It’s strange not having Gabriella help her pick out her outfit.

The day of their first kiss date—or as her an Alex had dubbed it, Operation Basium, Latin for kiss, she’d been informed by Alex, and she’d agreed because it sounded funny—arrives bright and early, without a care about her being in a bad place with her aunt.

It’s been over week since Gabriella’s fall—from grace, her mind supplies—and she has visited her since then, given that she’s confined to her aparment, but all their visits have been tense.

She’d driven Gabriella home after her 24 hours at the hospital had ended, and her aunt had tried to restart their conversation, but Maggie had made it clear she wasn’t ready to talk about it.

Since then, they’ve mostly sat in silence when together, or opted for only discussing trivial stuff. It reminds Maggie of how she used to be with her mom, which she hates because Gabriella is so much better than her mom. She shoves that all down though, as she finished getting ready. Today is about her fake date with Alex, and she wants to be a good company.

She’s actually a bit excited to show Alex around the city she loves. It’ll be a nice distraction.

Maggie’s been to Manhattan for some modeling gigs and TV roles in the past, and she’s explored the city every chance she’s gotten. And every single time she discovers something new—she loves it. She doesn’t even mind the array of smells wafting through the air or the brown slush they walk through. It’s part of the city’s character. She’s not sure Alex agrees though—her face has shifted from contentedness to a slight grimace as they’ve walked down the sidewalk, through the icy mess left by last night’s snow—but she’s determined to change that.

She knows just the way to show Alex the magic of New York City, and she sees their destination up ahead. Staten Island Ferry looms large in front of them. It’s one of her favorite places to visit with...Gabriella, just to pass the time, and she’d sent the time and place to Anthony last night as required, so the cameras would be ready. All they had to do was show up.

She points ahead, and Alex finally recognizes where they’re going.

“Maggie,” Alex stops her midwalk with a hand to her arm. “Wait, I don’t have any cash on me, do they take Visa?”

Her expression is worried, and Maggie can’t help laughing.

“It’s free, Danvers.” She grabs Alex’s hand and pulls her towards the entrance with excited steps. “Come on!”

They make their way to the top level of the boat, two more people in the throng of bodies trying to get to work on the island, and Maggie finds them a free spot where they can lean over the railing. She looks out at the city and choppy waters below, and closes her eyes savoring the smell of the ocean and the invigorating cold air hitting her face.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” she turns to ask Alex. She stares at her with a small smile, but she shakes her head.

“It’s cold,” she states. Maggie smiles.

“I grew up in Nebraska, you know? And I don’t miss a lot from that place, but one of the things I miss are the winters. Good cold winters full of snow, the way it’s meant to be.” She chances a look at Alex, and her gaze is far away, as if she’s imagining Maggie’s childhood winters along with her. Maggie closes her eyes again as the ferry finally starts moving. “The one thing California couldn't give me," she tells Alex, even as she realizes it’s a lie.

There’s another, but that one’s more impossible than snow in LA.

 

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Alex watches Maggie enjoy the day with her eyes closed, and though she huddles in her jacket—there’s something fundamentally wrong about it being sunny outside when it’s this cold—she likes the fact that Maggie is having fun.

She deserves to feel carefree after the scare with her aunt at the hospital. And she feels privileged that she gets to be the one to see it—even if it is being required by a contract.

The ferry moves along the water, and Alex barely notices the man on the other side of the boat, taking pictures of them. He at least does a good job of pretending to be a tourist and not a paparazzi. If she doesn’t look at him, she can almost feel like she’s a tourist herself, getting shown around the city by a friend.

Alex looks straight ahead—in the distance she can make out the Statue of Liberty. It looks...smaller than she expected, and she can’t believed she hadn't’ seen it before. They must have passed by it during their helicopter ride, but she must have been distracted—probably by the woman at her right. Maggie had been scared of the height.

She’d spent Thanksgiving alone once when she was younger, her parents don’t support her career, and Alex is sure she loves her aunt more than anyone in the world. She knows more and more about her every day.

Alex is about to point the monument out to Maggie, but she’s already noticed, if her sparkling eyes are any indication.

“Lady Liberty,” Maggie announces, saluting her. Alex hums in agreement.

“Give me your tired, your poor,” Maggie says, and it takes Alex a moment to realize she’s reciting a poem. “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Maggie says. “The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Maggie gives her a smile. “You ever heard it, Danvers?”

“I recognize some of it. It’s what’s written on the statue, isn’t it?”

Maggie nods.

She gasps, suddenly, and Alex looks behind her.

"What?"

“Your hair, look,” Maggie whispers, and Alex stays still as she touches the side of her head. “It’s a snowflake,” she says, but it melts too fast for Alex to see it.

“With this sun?” she asks, looking up and starting to feel the tiny pinpricks of cold against her cheeks.

Maggie shrugs.

“Sunshowers happen,” she says, before closing her eyes to seemingly enjoy the tiny ice particles hitting her face. Alex shakes her head, and finally decides to close her eyes too. It feels...cold. And not any different than before. But she feels well accompanied.

Maggie sighs.

She nods over her shoulder, pointing to the paparazzi.

“We can come back outside for that guy on the way back, give him his pictures.” Maggie shoves her hands into her jacket pockets. “Want to go inside now?” she asks.

Alex looks down at Maggie’s lips, and then shakes her head.

“Not just yet."

And then she pulls her in.