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yearning to breathe free

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Odero si potero, si non, invitus amabo : I will hate if I can, if not, I will love against my will

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She breathes in, and out. In, and back out.

Maggie briefly thinks as much as her not getting nominated doesn’t seem fair, it’s not fair for her to feel as strongly as she does about it too. She’s been through so much worse, through so much shit. So why does this make her chest constrict and her lungs feel like they’re going to burst?

She decides she won’t cry over it.

It’d be pointless, senseless, if she shed a single tear because she didn’t get a nomination for an award. She gets to be disappointed, but she shouldn’t act like a little girl about this. She crosses her arms and presses them against herself, as tight as she can against her stomach, and keeps breathing methodically until the burn in her eyes passes.

She emerges to find the rest of the awards have been announced, and the current show is simply a recount of what they just stated. “Oscars 2018, Snubs and Surprises!” the news ticker reads, and Maggie turns off her TV. That’s what happened. She got ‘snubbed’. Or so M’gann would say, and Gabriella, and everyone who saw her arrive on set at the ass crack of dawn and leave late at night, almost every day for months... Maggie isn’t a proud person, she’s not conceited, but she is proud of her work. She busted her ass for The Informant. She thought she had this, at the very least the nomination, in the bag. She won her Golden Globe in the same category, she was convinced she had it. M’gann was too. And Gabriella had made her promise she’d get to be the first one to congratulate her already.

What went wrong? She swallows down the thickness in her throat, and rubs her hand over her face. It’s done, she’s not nominated, and it’s fine. It’s not the end of the goddamned world no matter how much it feels like it. Regardless of the bruises and the all-nighters and -the contract.

M’gann had wanted her to have a steady girlfriend so she’d look great during award season. And it had worked, she’d said it herself. The Golden Globes articles had been a gold mine, and M’gann was sure that even if the movie didn’t get a nod, she would. It only made sense. But it didn’t happen, and now she can’t help but wonder if it was all for nothing.

She was never going to get nominated, had she just been through the small almost-scandal with Emily a few years ago or had she been married to some women and had two kids. It was never about her image, or her values. It was about her choice of partner, it had to be, because it doesn’t make sense. Maggie isn’t one to assume that every person who’s ever treated her wrong did so out of homophobia or misogyny or misguided racism based on her Sicilian, toasted skin—but she can’t find a explanation that fits as much as that one. She would’ve been the first out lesbian nominated.

She would’ve been able to say she left the hellhole that was Blue Springs, Nebraska, and she was out and proud her entire career, and she worked her ass off and was nominated for an Oscar. But that isn’t happening now.

What was the point of everything with Alex? The initial fighting and awkwardness, the hit to their initial friendship and the learning to exist around each other both as women playing a role, playing at being in love in front of cameras and as friends, if it didn’t achieve what it was supposed to? It didn’t help her chances in the least.

She was supposed to think she could beat them at their own game. That she even had a shot.

She runs her fingers through her hair, down to her wet T-shirt—she’d left her shower in a hurry, and dressed without even drying her hair, because she wanted to be in front of the TV on time. The chill of the wet shirt sticking to her back combined with the air conditioning finally pulls her out of her frozen state, and she notices her cellphone is ringing nonstop.

Gabriella.

Maggie reaches for the phone.

“Do you want me to be there?” Is the first thing that her aunt says when she opens the call. “I can be on the next flight over.”

Maggie takes a deep breath, trying to control the desire to cry climbing up her throat. Those first few months with Gabriella, she’d forced herself to keep her emotions on lockdown. She’d gotten good at pretending like she was fine, at folding the pull out couch and showering before Gabriella was even awake because it wasn’t her responsibility to take care of her. She’d become practiced in the art of occupying the least amount of space possible. But then everything happened with Elisa and Gabriella showed her that it was okay to cry, to feel.

She forgets that lesson sometimes, with women she dates or friends she refuses to let closer to her than necessary, and every once in a while she still aids herself with alcohol to really let go...but she’s never forgotten that lesson with Gabriella.

Right now though, she can’t be that little girl crying into her aunt’s chest, and feeling for the first time in her whole life what she’d always hoped to feel with her own mother but never quite did.

“No, Gabriella. It’s fine. It’s just...it’s just an award.” She forces her voice to remain even. “It’s not like someone died.”

“I know,” Gabriella tells her, her voice concerned. “But you really wanted this. Oh, Maggie-”

“It’s fine,” she insists.

“You deserved this. Nobody deserved it more than you. I don’t know what they were thinking! No offense but that little girl is like eight! Who nominates an eight year old?!”

“Gabriella...it’s fine, really. I’m sure the kid deserved it too.”

“You’ll get a nomination, piccola. You’re going to get there, I know it. I’m sorry, I was so sure you’d get this...M’gann said-”

“I know. We all thought it was a given,” she says. That was her first mistake. “It’s fine, though. I’m fine. Actually, I’ll talk to you later, okay? I want to talk to M’gann about a few things, and I have lines to learn this afternoon.”

Gabriella is silent for a moment. Maggie can see her in her mind’s eye, frowning, the space between her eyebrows folding in the little divot that she called her only decent dimple. (“Because you got them all, kid.”)

“Okay,” Gabriella says, finally. “Of course. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

As soon as she closes the call, her phone is ringing again. It’s M’gann, and Maggie is still running through the words she’d said when they’d first chosen to go through with the contract, and ‘Oscar campaign’ stands out, and she doesn’t want to be angry with her manager, and friend, for something that isn’t her fault.

So she doesn’t answer.

Instead, she makes time by having a glass of orange juice for breakfast, trying to inject some normalcy into the fucking day, and when hurt has given way to anger that she was overlooked so clearly—and it loses its ability to swallow her whole—she makes her way down the stairs of the building.

Six flights of stairs is enough to get her heart rate up, and she goes down them so fast it keeps her attention occupied. Maggie think she should probably hit the gym.

She makes her way to the apartment mailboxes, intent on focusing on bills to be paid and checks to be made. That’s normal, and she needs to treat today with normalcy—as opposed to bending under the weight of the disappointment that threatens to crush her. She just needs to keep moving until the feeling that something she’s been working towards for a decade was ripped from her -was never hers in the first place. She just-

“Maggie!”

Maggie turns around only to meet Alex’s eyes, that look at her in much the same way she imagines Gabriella or M’gann’s would.

“Hey, Danvers.”

“Hi. I saw the nominations. That-”

“It’s fine-”

“That was fucking bullshit.”

Maggie’s eyes pop open, and her lips break out in a half smile against her own volition.

“Language,” she chides Alex, marvelling at how a few curses have already done more to lift her mood that running down 6 flights of stairs.

“How the hell could you not have gotten nominated?!” Alex exclaims. “You won the Globe, it’s almost a prerequisite at this point.” Maggie’s smiles fades. The reminder that they all thought she had it in the bag already is too raw.

“Well, the Academy didn’t think so.”

“That was bullshit,” Alex insists. Maggie is amused at how determined Alex looks, but at the end of the day, she’s a creature of habit, and her often-followed gut feeling is telling her she needs to be alone.

“I -huh. I have stuff to do at my apartment so…”

“Oh, sure. Sure.” Alex presses her lips together, and Maggie makes quick work of grabbing her mail.

“I’ll let you get back to your things,” she says, waving a hand at Alex’s outfit —she’s wearing running shoes and leggings. Alex nods, and Maggie turns around, quickly retreating back upstairs.

But before she can get very far, a warm hand hooks her wrist with one of her fingers, and Maggie nearly shudders at how delicate the touch is. She looks back, and meets Alex’s eyes. She feels breakable this morning, and Alex is touching her like she’s made of glass.

“You really deserved it, Maggie. Everyone knows that.”

“Thanks,” she says, and damns herself when the soft understanding im the dark hazel eyes of the person she’s come to consider her partner, in a way, for the past few months, makes her throat feel tight.

She climbs ups the stairs back to her apartment two at a time.

 

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Alex’s feet pound out a steady rhythm on the running trail, matching her heartbeat.

Her lungs seem to work overtime to absorb more oxygen, and she can almost feel her heart rate increase in turn to pump that oxygen through her blood. This is what running does for her. It grounds her. She never feels as in control of her body, apart from maybe when she’s acting, in the thick of an emotional scene. Her breath comes out at a measured pace as sweat rolls down her neck, drenching the short hairs at the base of her neck.

It’s a cloudy, cold day—made even more so by the tree branches hanging over the path and filtering out the sky—but she stopped feeling the cold during her 4th lap around the Reservoir Loop, and she’s clocked three more laps since then.

Tchaikovsky’s Overture 1812, Op. 49 rings in her ears as the flourishing climax of the song reaches its peaks and the cannons go off in the background.

People always do a double take when she tells them she likes exercising to orchestra music and original movie scores. It’s not information that many are privy too, but the little clique of girls who had adopted her back in LA seemed to think it was strange. It is a bit unorthodox, she supposes, a full orchestra blaring in your ears. But she thinks it can be just as motivational as whatever it is other people listen to. Like the top 100 stuff that Natalie and her other ‘friends’ back in LA liked. The music currently blaring in her ears is what she grew up listening to too, and it reminds her of her dad.

As a filmmaker, he’d always had an added appreciation for movie scores—often performed by a philharmonic orchestra—that he passed down to her. She can still clearly recall many a ‘the floor is lava’ games played in their living room set to the Star Wars theme wherein she was transformed from a 5-year-old enthusiastically jumping from furniture to furniture into a rebel pilot dodging enemy fire from the Empire. She’s older now, and the floor isn’t lava—although in her career she has had instances where it felt like she was tightrope walking over a lava pit all the same—but her choice of music hasn’t changed.

In her 8th lap, Alex starts slowing down, beginning her cool down period.

She hadn’t particularly wanted to jog this morning, but Matt insisted she needed to make sure she was back in tip top form now that shooting resumed, and it wasn’t like she’d actually gone to the gym during their break. Nightingale is in the back half of the season now, and Claire—as her naivete slowly wears off in the remaining episodes—will be in more action scenes, which Alex loves. It’s why she was excited to sign up for the show in the first place, to play the badass with big guns. Claire’s big scenes are still with Blake, of course, but the prospect of practicing fight choreography with Maggie is actually a bonus.

She hasn’t gotten her boxing match with Maggie just yet, but a choreographed side-by-side fight should be almost as fun. If it was any other way, she’d take advantage of having found Maggie out of her apartment to pitch the idea -but Maggie probably isn’t in the mood to box right now. That is, unless some of the Academy members are on the other side. At least that’s what Alex would feel like doing if she was in her place.  

She’s not sure about Maggie. Especially since she didn’t even seem to be angry this morning at the mailboxes, she just seemed sad—and resigned. Alex felt a stab of hurt at seeing her like that, and it fueled her own unexpectedly fiery anger at the award committee for doing that to her, for painting that small, quiet expression on a face made for smiling. They’d snubbed her, plain and simple. Kara had woken her up with a barrage of texts saying just that.

Alex had managed to get one half smile out of Maggie this morning—with a small dimple in her left cheek that had somehow looked more sad than anything—but it’d faded as quickly as it’d come after Alex’s outburst. Maggie was probably just smiling at her big mouth, prone to blurting out things she shouldn’t—a trait she still hasn’t fully broken despite her decade plus in a business where that type of thing could end her career. She’d bulldozed on after that, taking the upturn of lips as a good sign, only to watch it fade at her reminder that it was practically unheard of for an actor to be nominated for Golden Globe, but then skipped over for the Oscar in the same category.

It really is bullshit; her own dad was nominated for and won the Golden Globe for Best Director, and then went on to do the same with the Oscars. Maggie deserved that too.

She’s by far the best actor Alex has had the privilege of going toe to toe with, and Alex can see how her own acting is elevated in scenes with her. She’s had a front row seat to how hard she works on Nightingale too , and Alex is sure she worked even harder in The Informant . The whole thing was bullshit.

Maggie hadn’t looked any better as she’d gone back up to her apartment—her presence diminished and that innate air of confidence she exuded gone—and the lingering last look she’d given Alex stayed with her through her run, pushing its way to the forefront of her mind.

Maggie was usually so tough, and now she looked so...vulnerable.

And Alex can’t stop thinking about what to do.

 

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She doesn’t know what to distract herself with anymore.

If Maggie has something she hates about herself, and she has a few things, it’s the fact that she can’t let things go. She needs to chase something down until its inevitable end, needs to know why things happen, especially when it concerns herself and why she wasn’t good enough for something. As a kid, she used to ask herself why her parents hadn’t...just loved her enough, and as an actress she’d only traded the familiar thorn filled sentence towards every project where she wasn’t chosen, every casting where she didn’t get a callback.

Awards that everyone was so sure she’d be nominated for, that she never got anywhere close to.

She doesn’t want to think about any of it now.

She hates herself a little for the way her brain knows exactly how to distract her, how to keep her neurons busy and engaged and firing away so she doesn’t think about her own shit. She gravitates towards her laptop.

As she pulls up Google, she feels just as dirty as she did when she was 15 and discovered porn for the first time. Her eyes unable to look away or stop watching as she found something that held her attention, part curiosity and part taboo. This is some of both. She already invaded Gabriella’s privacy (and her aunt doesn't know about that one yet) and this isn't different. She's aware of it.

She has a fucking problem because it doesn't make her stop.

She scrolls down the page to an article she hasn't read, written a few days after Jeremiah Danvers' death, the morning of his funeral. Paparazzi pics of a younger Alex dressed in black stare back at her—and that's too much. Maggie exits the page. And then looks for another one, without pictures.

She can't imagine going through something like what Alex did and never talking about it. It’s some level of fucked up that she found out without giving Alex the chance to tell her herself.

 

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Her legs settle into walk as her jog comes to an end, and she finds now that she’s glad she took the run, if only because it cleared her mind, and gave her an idea. She should do something to cheer Maggie up. That’s what friends do, and she certainly counts Maggie as her friend now—and hopes the feeling is mutual.

She gives it some thought as she briskly walks through the cold streets in the direction of their apartment building. She quickly goes over things she knows Maggie likes doing in her head. She likes taking care of her bonsai, but that’s not really a group activity and Alex can’t see it being especially fun either. Knowing her luck, too, she’d be liable to ruin the miniature tree, which would just make Maggie feel worse. She enjoys a good scotch, but a strong scotch doesn’t seem like the best route to take after a disappointment, and it’d only have a temporary effect that would fade quickly come the harsh light of morning. She has plenty of experience with that. Maggie absolutely loves her aunt’s tiramisu. At their first meeting at La Nuvola Bianca last year (and Alex’s steps falter for a millisecond at the startling realization that it’s been 6 months since then) she’d taken her time savoring each bite with a small sigh or moan of appreciation afterwards, that had embarrassed Alex at the time. But her aunt isn’t in New York City anymore, which she hadn’t even known until Maggie told her, so bringing her tiramisu might just remind her of that fact. Maggie likes the color pink, despite her continued insistence that the pink apparel and accessories she sports are, in fact, magenta (which is...pink). Alex could buy her something pink from Victoria’s Secret, but she immediately cringes at the mental image of herself walking into the store, surrounded by lingerie, to buy a gift for her co-star, and the option is quickly shelved. She probably likes the theater, and they are in the home of broadway, but snagging good last minute tickets the day of the show might not be doable, even given her celebrity status. And she wants to do something today to cheer her up, not in three weeks.

That leaves...well, Alex isn’t sure. She still knows far less about Maggie than she’d like, but she respects her right to privacy—Alex is already intruding enough as it is with the contract, though Maggie did agree to the intrusion. Her list of things she knows Maggie likes at an end, Alex moves onto the next best thing: a generic list of fun activities.

There’s bowling at Chelsea Pier, which would be fun if only to see which of them would win. Karaoke, that’s another thing people like to do, and there are karaoke places liberally littered throughout the city—her singing skills are a bit rusty, but she knows she could still belt out a great rendition of “Breathe 2 AM,” though it’s such an old song by now she’s not even sure it’d be an option. She passed a pinball bar one day while on her morning coffee run, that could be fun. She also knows there’s a vibrant paintball industry in NYC, which she’s actually been dying to partake in herself, but she just hasn’t had the time. It seems a bit more aggressive than what Alex is aiming for though, however, the idea is good—she stores it away for future use. Maggie might not feel like going out, Alex thinks suddenly, and that leaves only the tried and true method of eating your feelings away with some nice, greasy junk food. Pizza.

Pizza and beer could be good. She could just...show up at Maggie’s with the food, and then move on from there. To what, she doesn’t know. Her plan isn’t as solid as she’d like.

But if it eased that expression on Maggie’s face, at least it’d be a good a start.

 

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Her phone rings, and Maggie jumps.

She grabs it and slides the green icon across her screen by rote, before she remembers she’s trying to avoid a conversation with M’gann. It only pushes the Oscar nominations of that morning all the more painfully to the forefront of her mind. And with those, the same thoughts she's been trying to avoid. What was all this for? She's not nominated so what was her stupid campaign and insane PR contract for? She’d never wanted to lie, but she did so convinced there’d be a huge payoff, the nomination or even win she’d always been chasing after.

“Maggie, I can hear you. I know you’re there.”

She sighs. “Hey, M’gann”

“How’re you holding up?”

“I’m fine.”

“You don't sound fine.”

“Well, what do you want me to sound like? I just wasted a half a year of my life on the contract, all the work in the movie was for nothing-”

“Maggie.” M’gann sounds empathetic, but firm. The exact same reasons Maggie had chose her when she was just starting out. Because she looked at her and didn't see a fragile little girl with stars on her eyes, but a hard working woman ready to give whatever it took. M'gann was ready to demand it. Maggie can hear her do it now. “Are you hearing yourself?”

Maggie shakes her head. “What was the contract for? You wanted it for my Oscars campaign, and I’m not nominated.”

“I wanted it for award season, and yeah, the Oscars were a part of that, but Maggie, this has been amazing for your public image. Even without a nomination, you’ve never had as much positive news at the same time on as many different publications.”

“And Anthony paid for most of them.”

“He certainly didn’t pay for the twitter trends, nor did he pay for the uptick in viewers for the show. I know you feel terrible, but don’t kick yourself down further and kid yourself into thinking you’ve wasted anything. You made a damn good movie, too. And I don’t know a Maggie Sawyer that feels bad about working hard.”

“I don’t,” Maggie admits. Award or no award, she had given The Informant her all. It was—it is—her first film as a lead. She still remembers the night of the premiere, and no- nothing could have topped it.

“Thought so,” Mg’ann tells her, and then hums. “Have you talked to Gabriella?”

“Yes, of course,” Maggie says, frowning at the tone of M’gann’’ voice. “What does it matter?”

“I know your M.O. Maggie,” she says simply. “You close up and lock it away and -”

“I dont need a therapy session, M’gann,” she says firmly, and instantly feels guilty about her outburst. M’gann is in her corner. She always has been. She’s just on edge. “I’m sorry. I just…”

Mgann sighs. Maggie hears the resigned little sound over the line, and feels like a scolded child without her ever saying a word. She’s acting like one all the same.

“Get some rest, eat something,” Mgann tells her finally. “Feel better.” It’s so genuine that it makes her feel even worse than a second ago. M’gann is disappointed too, Maggie has to remember that. They were both banking on her being nominated, and it would’ve been big for M’gann’s own career too.

“Call me when you do, okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Maggie replies, tone softer.

“Goodbye.”

Maggie sits back down in her couch, her eyes trailing over the images from the crash that were so readily available on Google images.

She hates that she can’t stop looking, and she can only imagine how hard it must be for Alex to know that those exist. She went through some shit as a kid, nothing as bad as this, but she at least has the comfort that there are no photos.

Alex isn’t that luck-

“Maggie?!”

She slams her laptop closed. A few knocks follow the initial exclamation, and hot guilt floods her at being caught red handed, even if Alex didn't know she was more or less looking into her. (More, definitely more.)

She gets up from her couch and covers the distance between it and her front door.

She looks into the peephole. “Danvers?”

“The one and only.” Alex’s smiling face looks back up at her, and Maggie opens the door. “Brought pizza,” Alex says simply, holding up two boxes and a six-pack of beer.

Maggie frowns, even as a small smile sneaks onto her face.

”Pizza and beer?” she asks. “Did you get your wires crossed, Danvers? I don't really have anything to celebrate today.”

“No,” Alex says, at her rebuttal. “I just thought we could...hang out.”

Maggie hums.

“Break both of our diets you mean,” she points out, thinking of her next gym session already. She was proud of how strong her body was. And she wasn’t opposed to eating crap every once in a while, but she’d certainly developed a taste for the clean, vegan options LA had offered her in high school and college.

“That, too. One of these is all veggies and fake cheese. I know you’re a vegan.”

Maggie smiles, and grabs the beer as she ushers Alex inside.

“I’m not actually,” she corrects the other woman.

The expression on her face makes Maggie smile to herself.

“Then why do they keep giving us vegan ice cream on set? They said you asked for it…”

Maggie shrugs. “I like the taste.”

Alex stares.

“That’s...really fucking weird, Sawyer.”

Maggie laughs.

She looks for a pair of plates in her kitchen as Alex opens the pizza boxes, letting her know that she’s stuck with the vegan pizza anyways. Maybe this is what she needs.

Maybe it’s time she change her M.O.

 

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“Wanna talk about it?” Alex asks, when their plates are clean save for the pizza borders littering Maggie’s plate. Apparently, it wasn’t worth eating them since they had nothing on top, according to the woman.

“Huh?” Maggie looks up, her face open and calm and Alex feels bad for bringing it up. Realization dawns on her face. "The Oscars, you mean.”

Alex nods.

Maggie shakes her head, and takes a drink of her beer. They like the same kind.

“It’s done. It’s...whatever.”

“Well...if you ever want to talk, I’m here. I’m right downstairs, actually.” That gets Maggie to smile.

“I feel l’m climbing the walls at this point, Danvers. My aunt is worried about me, my manager is giving me space. And I’m…” Maggie shrugs, and Alex wonders if the woman ever spells out how she feels, if she ever puts a name to those feelings like Kara so easily does. She wants to hug Maggie, because she can imagine the disappointment she’s feeling, has felt similarly a dozen times over. But she can’t.

“Let’s go out,” Alex says, because that’s something she can do.

Maggie gives her a look.

“Where?”

Alex is at a loss. There’s a thousand and one places in this city, but she doesn’t know where she’d take Maggie now that she’s half been given the chance. Maggie seems to notice, and she raises her eyebrow in a challenging smirk.

“Actually, I think I know a place.”

 

 

 

They take the subway there.

Maggie doesn't tell her where they’re going, but she tells Alex to bundle up, and 20 minutes later as they walk towards the subway station together, she understands why. They walk to the nearest station through slushy sidewalks, and they ride the subway to Brooklyn.

Alex must admit that she’d never been to the city. It sounded slightly dangerous to her ears, a place where someone who was obviously a tourist might get mugged. But Maggie, her blue beanie pulled low over her forehead and her hands deep inside a black winter coat, looks as comfortable as any New Yorker. Alex trusts her.

That trust wavers just a tad when Maggie guides them into a lonely, graffitied part of town, leaving behind the cobblestone streets and the brick houses, and exchanging them for a small place with a metal door, and tattooed men loitering outside.

“Dollywood,” Maggie says, when a metal slab is pulled in the door and a pair of dark eyes look out. Alex raises her eyebrows. The door opens a second later.

“A speakeasy, almost, isn't it?” Maggie asks, turning around.

“Alcohol is legal,” Alex says, matter of fact. Maggie chuckles.

They leave their coats on a booth at the back, and no sooner is her coat is down than Maggie challenges her to a game of darts. Alex readily accepts. Maggie wipes the floor with her. In Alex’s defense—she’d had two beers earlier, and the cold must have somehow exacerbated the effects of the alcohol, because she’s usually a great aim. Maggie sticks her tongue out in concentration every time she throws, and Alex looks away.

“Pool, next?” she offers, and Maggie turns back at her with a twinkle in her eyes.

It’s Alex’s game.

She takes off her sweater, standing in the warm bar in only a tank top, and she cracks her knuckles in a way the she knows she can afford. She won’t be losing tonight. Maggie laughs, until she sinks the first 2 balls. Then her tongue comes out again in concentration, but it doesn’t help her any. She’s not bad, exactly. Alex is just excellent, and Maggie is...not.

But she’s fun when she gets exasperated, and the minute she takes out a $20 dollar bill and offers Alex to place bets on it, the game actually gets started. With her so called “encouragement” on the table, she improves marginally, but she’s not match for Alex.

4 games later and $80 dollars richer, Alex finally walks back to their table with two beers, and a crick in her back that she wouldn’t change for the world.

“Where did you learn to play like that?” Maggie asks, and Alex smiles wistfully.

“We had a pool table in the basement. My dad liked it. He taught me how to play. He taught Kara, too, but much like you-” she takes a sip of her beer for effect, “she was hopeless.”

“Low blow, Danvers. And after you’ve left me in the street, too.”

Alex snorts. “I’ve seen your loft, you’ll be fine.”

Maggie laughs. It dims after a minute, and Alex is determined not to let that smile slip off her face, so she changes the subject.

“Wanna order something?” she asks. “What do they serve here?”

“That’s a great question,” Maggie says. “I’ve only seen the cocktails menu, so… Wanna try this out?”

“If I get food poisoning and have to miss work you’re taking the blame.”

“Cross my heart,” Maggie promises, before getting up and getting them both menus.

They end up ordering something called ‘The Mushroom Monstrosity’, and Maggie looks entirely too excited to try for someone who’d initially balked at the offer of pizza.

It’s a damn good burger. Alex is already thinking about inviting Kara here so she can demolish one on her own, or maybe bring J’onn the next time he visits her. Maybe Maggie could tag along. She takes another big greasy bite, her mouth overflowing with mushrooms, bacon, lettuce, and fried onion rings, not to mention the thick meat the burger boasts off.  She realizes if her mother was there she’d chide her for eating the way she is, but Maggie isn’t any better, and Alex...embraces it. Nobody is pointing a camera at her. Nobody in this seedy bar in the far side of Brooklyn cares about her, or about Maggie, and she has no reason to pretend here.

She notes Maggie’s eyes wander off outside halfway through the meal, her face taking on the same expression she had that morning by the mailboxes, and Alex takes out her cellphone on a whim.

She types but a few words, before the barrage of articles start to appear.

“Behold Maggie Sawyer , leaping, swinging, and punching her way through The Informant , the spy movie that has topped quite a few Bond ones, if you’re man enough to admit it,” she reads out loud.

Maggie looks up at her at once, with a curious frown on her face.

Alex clicks elsewhere.

“Italian-american actress and model Maggie Sawyer is somehow the perfect blend of superbabe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness.” Alex looks up. “Okay, that one is kind of weird.”

Maggie smiles. “What are you doing?”

“I’m just showing you, that regardless of what a bunch of old men were thinking—although they clearly weren’t thinking when they didn’t nominate you—people love you. They love your work.”

Maggie’s smile softens, and she looks at Alex in a way that makes her look down and click on another article.

“Maggie Sawyer’s emotional, raw performance as a girl living in a psych ward is nothing short of amazing, this critic is very seldom awed but she is now.”

She thinks she sees a blush tint Maggie’s cheeks, but she doesn’t stop. Even if it embarrasses her, even if she’s not used to or doesn’t like people praising her success to her face—she deserves it.

“Maggie Sawyer, Rosewood Street ,” she reads. “Her lack of experience doesn’t show on screen. Her character adds a fresh, magnetic energy to the show.” Alex laughs. “What is this picture?”

“Let me see,” Maggie demands, and Alex turns her phone over. Maggie groans. Alex only chuckles louder at the ridiculous pose.

“Hey, it’s fine you were like twelve in this picture. We all have bad childhood photos.”

Maggie meets her eyes. “I was eighteen.”

“Oh.” Alex frowns for a beat. “Well, you’ll look amazing when you’re thirty-seven.”

Maggie acknowledges her words with a fry thrown her way, and between chuckles they go back to her meals.

And if they accidentally chew with their mouths open, it’s because they know nobody is watching.

 

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The streets of Manhattan are freezing in the dead of night, the corners of the sidewalks stacked with tiny mountains of brown snow and ice. Alex tucked her scarf over her nose and mouth a while ago, but Maggie breaths in the freezing air, nothing to protect her face but a blue beanie pulled over her forehead. Her nose has gone red, but apart from her hands shoved deep inside her pockets, she doesn’t seem to be bothered.

Alex makes a mental note to find out just how cold Nebraska gets in the winter, because she can’t fathom anyone who would enjoy this weather, regardless of where they grew up.

She forces herself to speed up when she’s left seeing the back of Maggie’s head, brown waves bouncing with her steps. She falls into step beside her.

“Can’t keep up, Danvers?” Maggie asks, her breath coming out in white puffs.

Alex shakes her head. She’d dignify her words with an answer, but she doesn’t want to take the scarf away.

They turn on their street, and everything goes even quieter, calmer. There are no cars, somehow, something she’s never seen in Manhattan. A taxi speeds by as if to shut her up, and Alex chuckles inwards. She’ll never forget the city she’s in.

“Wanna go up for a nightcap?” Maggie asks, and Alex realizes they’re in front of their building. They walk up the few steps toward the front door.

“I think we live in the same building,” Alex says, ducking her head and walking inside when Maggie holds the door open for her. The air is gloriously warm inside.

“You know what I mean, want to come up to my loft?” Maggie asks. “Hmm. I like saying that. My loft. The loft.”

Alex smiles as she stares at Maggie. The couple of beers they had at the bar seem to have had some effect on her, and she’s as loose and mellow as Alex has ever seen her. It’s lovely to watch.

“I’d love to,” she tells her.

They climb the stairs quietly, and it’s only 6 floors, but it never occurred to Alex to call for the elevator. She’s had more fun with Maggie tonight than she can ever remember having with anyone apart from Kara, in ages. Maybe since the earlier, better days of college. She doesn’t want the night to end just yet.

They pass Alex’s floor, and she follows Maggie as she climbs the steps to the last floor of the building—technically. There are 7 floors, but that’s only because the apartments on the sixth floor have two levels. (And Alex remembers the stab of bitterness she felt when she was told one of those lofts wouldn’t be hers.)

“My lovely agent sent me a bottle of whisky for my last birthday,” Maggie informs her, as she opens the door. “I’ve been looking for a good occasion to open it.” Her voice taking on a hint of wistfulness, and Alex wonders if she’d wanted to open it when she got nominated for an Oscar.

She follows Maggie into the large apartment.

She looks around while she retrieves the bottle of alcohol, staring up at the long beams and the high ceiling in the middle of the step. The second floor is almost one large inside balcony, and Alex is curious about the space. She takes a seat on the wide breakfast island separating the kitchen from the living room.

Maggie walks back to her, a black box in her hands.

When she’s close enough, Alex reads it. This is not a Luxury Whisky, the box reads. Maggie pulls out a dark caramel bottle from it.

Maggie stares at the box.

“79% Glen Ord sherry butt,” she reads. “17% grain Whisky…100% expensive.”

Alex snorts, the words sounding far funnier to her ears than they probably actually are.

Maggie serves them both two fingers, and Alex gets up from her place at the breakfast island and walks around her apartment, eyeing the high ceilings and the second floor balcony on three sides of the room. The fourth, is the wall facing the main street, although calling it a wall is being generous. It’s just floor to ceiling windows, one after the other.

Alex wonders how Maggie can live like that. She has curtains in her own apartment.

“Isn’t it weird how anybody can stare into your apartment and see what you’re doing?” she asks, and then takes a sip of the whisky. It’s good, heady, the perfect mix between bitter and sweet.

“One way glass, Danvers,” Maggie says. Alex can hear the smile in her voice, can imagine the dimple playing on her cheeks. “I can stare at them all day, but they can't look back at me.”

Maggie goes quiet for a moment, now beside her, staring out into the streets below, and Alex thinks about what she just said. It seems lonely, somehow, being able to watch the world pass by without it knowing you’re there.

The quiet is broken with Maggie’s snort. “I’m not an exhibitionist.”  

Alex smiles, but she doesn’t let go of her words just yet. She’s known Maggie for months now, and she hasn’t heard her talk about her friends. Alex hasn’t talked about hers, either. She wonders briefly if that’s because they’re even more similar to each other than she thought, and they both just...don’t have any. Any worthwhile ones, at least.

Alex wonders if maybe they could be that for each other.

“Should I refill that?” Maggie asks, breaking Alex out of her head, and Alex nods. Maggie refills her glass, and Alex takes a thoughtful sip as her mind zones in on something.

They had fun tonight, a lot of fun.

And for the first time, it’s not going to be on the papers the next day.

Alex could get used to that.

 

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January turns into February without much fanfare.

The weather remains in the freezing range, the skies overcast and cloudy with the sun trying to fight its way through. The wind still blows bitterly, exacerbating the chilled air and battering the people below as they commute through the city. Even Maggie begins to be slightly bothered by the length of the winter, if only for the scenes she has to film where she can’t afford to be wearing appropriate clothing.  

The city hums along regardless of the passage of time.

Shooting for Nightingale resumed last week, and it’s taken until their second week for the crew and cast to acclimate to set life—for the show to return to a well oiled machine. Maggie’s body definitely protested upon returning to her regular 4:45 AM mornings, but it’s nice to see everybody regularly again too. Mary and Louise had outrageous holiday stories featuring their ridiculously large families they’d regaled her with her first day back. Jeff had pictures of his grandkids to show her, his face filled with pride as he showed off his daughter’s newest baby girl. Gabriel greeted her with cries of ‘golden girl’ and double cheek kisses, twice. She and Alex settled back into their rhythm before the break, but with a new feeling to their friendship now.

Maggie feels like they’ve finally built a new, solid foundation in their near constantly shifting, cautious pas de deux—which she attributes to their outing after the Oscar announcements -or lack thereof. She’s actively kept her mind off of that topic, opting to throw herself headfirst into Blake with renewed vigor.

And as the days have passed, the sting has lessened more and more.

Being back at work also means fully resuming the contract duties again. Anthony had been positively ecstatic about their display at the Golden Globes and every article written that mentioned Maggie’s win and who her date for the evening was. His unabated glee capturing all his attention, he’d even allowed them a brief breather their first week back, but as Monday rolled around he returned to his normal, self interested self, somehow even more overbearing. Maggie knows why though. A very important holiday is coming up—one that Anthony put in all caps in the subject of the email he sent this morning: Valentine’s Day.

Maggie’s never had a particular affinity for the manufactured holiday that practically required couples to commit ostentatious public acts to their significant others to prove how much they loved each other. It’s not Maggie’s style, but she’s dated plenty of women who do love it—the dressing up, the fancy dinner, the rented out ballroom filed with rose petals and champagne. She always tried to give the woman she was with the perfect Valentine’s Day, when the cookie cutter holiday came around. And when she hadn’t, the relationship ended shortly after with her girlfriend citing reasons such as emotional unavailability—and often physical, too, with her long hours on set—uncaring, workaholic, player. Sometimes she’d even get a borderline  sociopath thrown over the shoulder as the door slammed shut.

This year, she’s not expecting the holiday to be any better than previous years.

For one, there’s the added component of her being legally forced to celebrate it for the world to see. Then there’s the hyper romanticized nature of the holiday itself, and who she’ll be spending it with. She moved past dreading spending time with her co-star months ago. And dread is not the word she’d use to describe the tug in her chest present when she thinks about spending February 14th with Alex, but Valentine’s Day is a big deal. It’ll be their first date truly dripping with built in romanticism and a gravitas exaggerated by corporate America.

In his email, Anthony gave her a list of locations available for the big day. Only one option on the list popped out to her. They would start the night with a dinner at 30 Rockefeller’s Rainbow Room, situated on the 65th floor. Maggie had never been, but she’d read the reviews. A stunning view of the city as you dined—or so google had informed her. Afterwards, and that was the part that caught Maggie’s attention, they would take a limo to the Empire State Building to finish off the night.

She doesn’t possess any strong feelings for or against the Rainbow Room, although it does have rave reviews so she assumes it’s a great establishment, but visiting the Empire State is definitely something she’d actually enjoy, and it certainly checks all the boxes off for Valentine’s Day.

Although the place is the quintessential—and in this case unoriginal—romantic location made for a When Harry Met Sally moment, there is something to be said for a good old fashioned classic. The Empire State Building is as classic Valentine’s Day and New York as one could get. And it’s beautiful at night from the observatory deck. She’d visited once a few years ago while shooting in the city.

It’d been a punishingly hot August day, her clothes glued to her skin with sweat. She’d had a cold then too, somehow caught in the summer, that combined with the heat left her feeling miserable. As the afternoon had worn on, she’d wandered the city, browsing street markets, popping into smalls shops when she could for a respite from the sun, and ended her day standing in front of the imposing, towering Empire State Building. She’d spontaneously decided to follow the stream of people entering and bought tickets, squeezing her way into the crowded elevator up to the 86th floor. When she’d exited, she was greeted by almost the entire city landscape laid out before her glowing in a variety of shimmering hues, lit up by the rays of the dying sun and set against the tinted sky swirling with purple and pink clouds. She’d maneuvered her way through the crowd of bodies until she was pressed up against the metal barrier, hands clinging to the metal bars as she looked at the view. And that’s how she stayed as the last vestiges of sunlight disappeared at the line of the horizon and the inky dark of night took over.

At night, the city had shone in a different way, lit up this time by the artificial yellow and white lights of the buildings. It was still magical.

It was in that moment Maggie fell in love with New York City. It’s a fond memory of hers, and it’s one she’d enjoy sharing with Alex. Considering the woman hadn’t even been on the Staten Island Ferry before Maggie took her, there’s a good chance she hasn’t lived the full Empire State experience either. Although Alex certainly grew up with the means to do so. When she was there that first time, she saw lots of smiling parents and their children. She could easily see Alex as a young girl with her family visiting, probably rattling off the history of the building’s construction. She was definitely one of those precocious kids—which hasn’t changed—but Maggie wonders how much of her younger self can still be seen today. If what happened...changed Alex. The same way what happened to her with her parents changed her.

She sighs and pushes the mindless train of thought away for another day. She might as well start planning for Valentine’s Day seeing as how it’s Saturday, meaning she has the free time to do so. Maggie knows what Anthony would want for the big day, the most over the top gag that’d probably make both her and Alex puke at its tackiness. But she’s not sure what Alex would enjoy, and she would like to make sure Alex enjoys the night too. Something in Maggie’s gut tells her she hasn’t had many, if any, great—hell, even decent—February 14ths with a special someone. Her dating history is pretty bare, Maxwell Lord being the only significant guy she can recognize, and he’s a known asshole.

This seems like it will be another first for Alex, and Maggie finds herself trying to strike the right balance between what Anthony wants and what Alex would like.

She grabs her phone from the counter, unplugging it from the charger, and hits the first number in her favorites.

“Maggie! What’s up? This is a good call, right? Not an ‘oh shit, I accidentally killed someone’ call?” Gabriella pauses to laugh at her own comment, and Maggie can hear the sounds of a restaurant in the background. “I am fully equipped to handle either, but if it is the latter, I’ll have to get back to you later this evening with my full escape to Antarctica with a new identity plan.”

She gives her aunt’s little joke a short laugh—to be polite. Her humor is starting to sound more and more like Chris’.

“Are you working today? I can call back later if you are, it’s not that important.”

“I was working, but someone,” Gabriella coughs lightly, and Maggie knows who she’s talking about, “forced me to take the day off because it’s not healthy to work on the weekends, apparently.”

“Hm,” Maggie hums. Chris still isn’t her favorite person, but she is glad he’s getting Gabriella to spend more time outside of her job. When La Nuvola Bianca was just starting up, it was necessary for her to be there at least 6 days out of the week, but by now she could probably switch to part time only.

“And that was my short way of saying I’m free, spill the beans, kid.”

“What makes you think there are beans to spill in the first place?” she scoffs.

“Oh Maggie,” Gabriella chuckles. “You have that tone of voice that screams ‘this is important to me, but I’m going to pretend like it’s not just in case it inconveniences the other person.’”

Maggie raises her eyebrows slightly, not enjoying her aunt’s accurate assessment and elects to ignore it. “Anyways. Anthony wants a big extravaganza for Valentine’s Day -“

Gabriella’s low whistle interrupts her. “And you need my help planning out the big day for your special lady friend.”

“I wouldn’t phrase the last part of your sentence that way, but essentially, yes.” She refills her mug with more tea and moves to the dining room table towards her laptop.

“First things first, location?”

“7 PM dinner at the Rainbow Room followed by a trip to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.”

“Damn, can I come too? A friend of mine went and said the charcuterie was tongue meltingly delicious.”

“Sure,” Maggie replies drily. “You can third wheel the entire night; I’m sure neither Anthony nor Alex will mind and the public will think it’s normal for me to take my aunt on my romantic Valentine’s Day date.”

“Okay, okay, message received,” Maggie swears she can hear Gabriella’s eyes rolling through the phone. “Moving onto the next item on the list, things Alex likes?”

That gives Maggie pause.

The first thing that pops to mind is a good scotch and coffee, but after that it becomes more difficult. Alex likes spending time with her sister, but that’s not relevant to a romantic holiday. In the mornings, sometimes Maggie will see Alex covertly—to any eye but Maggie’s own—take two blueberry muffins to eat with her daily cup of coffee. The day after it’s rained, Alex will intermittently inhale deeply throughout the day, breathing in the fresh, sharp scent that rain brings. She enjoys physics, Maggie thinks, because only someone who liked the subject would voluntarily choose to read a science magazine, placed as decoration, before the morning table read began. Maggie can’t think of any way the information she’s learned about Alex will help her plan a good Valentine's Day though.

She knows what Alex doesn’t like, which could also be a starting point. She doesn’t like winter and all that comes with it, early mornings, healthy food, or big public romantic gestures—which is exactly what Anthony has planned.

“Uh, my mind is blanking at the moment, sorry,” she settles for.

“Blanking.” Gabriella sounds skeptical, but thankfully she doesn’t dwell on it. “Flowers. Everybody enjoys those. Show up at the beginning of the date with a bouquet?”

Maggie winces slightly. “That’s pretty cliche. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it happen a million times on TV. Anthony might even ask me to do that anyways.”

“It is cliche yes,” Gabriella sighs exaggeratedly, “but you’re not giving me much to work with here, Maggie.”

“Sorry.” She matches her aunt’s sigh, but hers is genuine in nature. “I don’t know enough tangible things Alex likes, especially in regards to the romance department. Not that this would have to be that, of course. It’d be a...friendly date, for us. While we act out Anthony’s date.” Gabriella hums, and Maggie keeps going. “She doesn’t actually like big overt gestures—but because of the contract I have to do it—which is why I want to do my best to make the day still somewhat enjoyable for her at least. I know it sounds stupid-”

“It’s not stupid, it’s sweet. But, may I ask,” Gabriella pauses, and the silence lengthens to the point where Maggie is considering asking if she’s still there, but a moment later her aunt’s voice comes through the phone again. “It sounds like King has the night planned, why call me? Just follow what’s written—eat dinner, go to the Empire State—you don’t need to do anything extra. It’s not like you’re actually dating.”

The questions makes Maggie squirm, legs shifting beneath her on the couch, the leather pulling at her bare legs.

That night, at the Christmas party, she hadn’t expected to be Alex’s first mistletoe kiss, but she was, and it got her thinking. Maggie is now fully aware of the weight on her shoulders of being responsible for someone’s big first moments—even if they are only happening because of a PR deal—and she doesn’t want to screw it up. Her first impression of Alex was that she was a prickly, awkward person, but if you managed to get beyond her hard edges, she was a good person.

A person who shows up at her door with pizza and beer to cheer her up because she noticed you were down. A friend who buys little gifts as part of a ridiculous gift war and indulges scattered, disjointed late night/early morning ramblings in between takes. She can err on the side of impulsiveness, to her own detriment, and she’s been on the receiving end of her misdirected anger, but she’s also funny (unintentionally at times), sweet, and sincere in everything she does—she can’t help it.

Maggie isn’t sure how to articulate that all to Gabriella, and oddly enough, she doesn’t even want to. It feels too private, too between her and Alex. But her aunt is still waiting for a response.

“I just want…” Maggie picks at a loose thread on her sock, buying time to formulate the best answer, “a friend to have a good Valentine’s Day, down to every detail. I get the feeling she hasn’t had many.”

“A nice gesture for a friend.” Gabriella hums again on the other line, and Maggie thinks she can hear Chris’s voice in the background. “That simple huh?”

“Mhm, yeah.” Maggie pulls her legs up close to her body and wraps her free arm around her knees. “Simple.”

 

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A drop of sweat rolls down her neck.

Alex quickly swipes it away, looking over at Maggie in the process and wondering how she’s remained sweat free. Maybe her skin also includes sweat preventative measures because the universe decided not only should her skin be down feather soft, smell amazing all the time, and glow when the sun hits it, it should also remain unmarred by rivulets of sweat in the heat too.

Red balloons seem to cover every corner of the pier, the color—a staple of Valentine’s day—only making it feel hotter than it is.

Maggie must feel her gaze glued to her because her eyes swivel over to meet Alex’s, bright and warm as ever. “Something on your mind, Alex?”

“You,” she tells her honestly, her eyes roving over the jean shorts she’s wearing, tight and cut off just below her ass.

“And what are you thinking about me?” Maggie asks cheekily, and Alex grabs her by the waist and pulls her closer to her body.

“How fucking amazing you look right now,” she tells her roughly, not recognizing her tone of voice. Maggie makes her feel like this, so overwhelmed, so...consumed. Alex doesn’t have a care in the world for everyone around them, the faceless strangers going about their day looking like nothing but blurs around them.

“Remember what King told us,” Maggie whispers, stepping closer to her, and Alex nods. What King told them. She brings Maggie closer by the lapel of her leather jacket and then she’s kissing her, taking Maggie’s lips between her own.

King’s orders.

She has to kiss Maggie. She has to...feel how small yet strong her lithe body is beneath her palms, the leather jacket doing nothing to hide how delicate the curve of her small waist is, and how good her hips feel when she lays her hands over them, her thumbs brushing her hip bones. Maggie sighs against her, pressing herself even closer, her tongue entering her mouth.

Alex opens her mouth, trying to devour her, feeling her tongue tickle and play with her own, wet and hot, so, so hot inside her mouth.

Alex lets her fingers trail downwards, over the curve of Maggie’s ass, and thanks God or the devil or whoever is listening that the weather is so warm, and Maggie is wearing jean shorts that cut off just below her ass. It’s so easy to let her hands trail downwards, so good to just let her fingers sneak below the hem of her pants when Maggie moans her assent against her mouth and then dip beneath her underwe-

Alex wakes up to a knocking in her door.

She’s sweating, the heater blasting hot air throughout the room, and Alex curses New York’s weather for changing so swiftly while she was asleep.

A quick look at her alarm clock let's her know it’s 10am. Maybe it’s on her.

She’s not one to sleep in, and she finds she hates it this morning, as her heart still beats fast and hard with the remnants of a dream that has all but faded from her conscience. Her entire body seems to...pulsate with it, though, and she doesn’t like the hot rush over every inch of her skin. She needs to turn her heater down.

There’s another knock on her door, and Alex realizes what woke her up in the first place.

She throws on a robe and makes her way towards the door. She opens it only to find a delivery guy, holding a humongous bouquet of red roses. She knows they’re from ‘Maggie’, King had given her orders regarding those already last night.

She signs for the cheesy bouquet and then she’s quick to bring it inside, and lay it on her table, taking a quick picture. The sooner she’s done with it, the sooner she can take a shower and wash the bothersome sweat off herself.

She post the picture, and drops her robe on the way towards the bathroom.

 

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Apparently, King thinks Valentine’s Day is so important that both she and Maggie get the day off.

It’s a day she would normally spend working from dawn to sunset, and then afterwards returning home to melt into the couch. As it is, she doesn’t have anything planned to occupy the 11 or so hours until her dinner with Maggie.

The shower shocked her out of any remnants of sleepiness—she’s taken to starting her showers off cold to wake her up in the mornings, and then turning the knob around to hot once sufficiently alert—and once clear, her mind had turned to the dinner tonight.

Alex isn’t a fan of Valentine’s Day.

She’s never had a good one, or even been on a date for it. She doesn’t count the little chocolates her parents gave her as a little kid, or the outings they planned as a family once Kara came. Valentine’s day was supposed to be about love, romantic love, and Alex had never had that on the date. The closest she came to it was with her college boyfriend, but they broke up two weeks before the holiday. There was one other time she hooked up with a man she can’t remember now, an extra from Body of Medicine who had listened to her talk about her lines instead of asking for a selfie. It was as unsatisfying as it sounded. She’d felt dirty once he left, like a conquest, like something he would brag about having to his friends—and the clearest memory she has of the night is accidentally falling asleep in the bathtub afterwards.

As far back as she can remember, most of of her February 14ths were spent studying when she was still in school, and then working after she left school. It’s never been a special day for her. Unlike Kara, she doesn’t attach unrealistic visions of romance and dashing men sweeping her off her feet to it. It’s simply...just another passing day. But this year it isn’t.

It’s one of the most important dates for the contract, as King has been keen to remind them as he’d fluttered around them all week like a fucking mosquito.

Dinner at the Rainbow Room followed by the Empire State Building—neither of which she’s actually been to, but she’s heard of them both. Alex has just spent most of her 26 years on the west coast. Stanford was there, and all her acting roles had been shot in California, too. She knows from old photos that she visited New York with her parents to see a Broadway show back when she was little, and it was just the three of them. But beyond the recollections of the cold weather and accidentally stepping in a large puddle—ruining her cotton blue tights—the memory of it is vague. And since then, she has visited a few more times, keyword being visited ; she never stayed long.

Years later, finding herself living here has been a bit of a culture shock. But Nightingale has left her either too busy or tired to engage in much sightseeing in NYC beyond checking out the nearby coffee shops. Actually, now that she thinks about it, her introduction to the city has been largely at Maggie’s hands, or besides her.

Skating at Rockefeller—sober—riding the Staten Island Ferry, and now their impending Empire State excursion. (Technically, King had a hand in it too given that all of those activities were due to the contract, but she doesn’t want to give him any credit.) It’s been...nice to see New York through Maggie’s eyes. Her rose tinted view of the city has managed to bleed into Alex’s periphery, making her notice and appreciate small things that never registered in her brain before.

People don’t try to make small talk with her here, unlike in LA, they go about their business briskly and with a purpose, which Alex appreciates. As an extension of that, they don’t make awkward eye contact either. The other day she passed an old couple, in their pajamas, having a heated fight in the middle of the street and no one had even given them a second glance. New Yorkers mind their own business (largely because they don’t care about other people’s shit, she supposes). But still, it’s nice.

The prospect of experiencing more of the city isn’t disagreeable. The fact that she’ll be spending it with Maggie makes it something to look forward to—which catches her off guard.

Alex is actually excited to celebrate the holiday with Maggie, even if it’s only for the contract. She thinks it might be fun. She and Maggie have been making the best of their scheduled outings, to a point where Alex barely notices the cameras, and spending Valentine’s Day with Maggie—with a friend—although not the purpose of the holiday, could shape up to be one the best ones yet.

But the dinner is still hours away.

Her temporarily forgotten coffee is cold as she sips it, eyes wandering her apartment for something to do. She could clean. Her mantle is a bit dusty, and the counter could use a good scrub.

J’onn put together a list of potential assistants for her that he’d already personally interviewed, she should probably get around to picking one. Inviting someone unknown into her life who’d be privy to intimate knowledge about herself isn’t something Alex seeks, but it is necessary, especially now that her career does appear to be recovering.

She grabs her phone, unlocking it and opening PDF attachment J’onn sent her of names, and walks towards her couch. She settles into the cushions and grabs a nearby notebook—she was a notorious note taker in college, or doodler depending on how interesting the subject was.

The hum of the television and the monotony of names scrolling past her eyes helps quiet her mind, but she can still feel thoughts of tonight’s dinner trying to push their way to the forefront.

 

 

 

Alex waits just inside the door, saving herself from the cold outside.

The short dress she’s wearing has a cutout on the middle of her breast bone, and she doesn’t need to be exposed to the New York winter dressed like this.

Her watch lets her know it’s 6:30 PM. Maggie said a car should be arriving for her just about now. Alex checks her message again, short and sweet—like the woman herself. A police siren goes off in the distance, and the sidewalk outside the building is a steady stream of people rushing home, or perhaps off to fancy Valentine’s dates like she is.

It’s a normal Thursday, except it’s not. It’s Valentine’s day, and the excitement she felt earlier in the day has mixed with a fluttery nervousness now, making her restless.

She shifts slightly from her position leaned against the wall, the blue fabric of her dress rising slightly on her leg. Alex gives herself another once over. Maggie just told her to wear something nice, but she’s not sure if her version of that word matches what Maggie wants. The dress was one she’d had sent over from LA, and it’s one of the few pieces of her wardrobe not tainted by alcohol and sweaty clubs. She didn’t want tonight tinged negatively in any way. For some reason, it’s important to her that this outing be a success—for both of them, for their relationship -their fake relationship.

Shiny polished shoes enter her vision, and she looks up.

“Miss Danvers,” the man bows slightly and gestures towards the entrance, “your car awaits.”

The ride feels short, and as the driver pulls into the block he asks whether she’d prefer to be dropped off on Fifth Avenue or right at the Rainbow Room entrance. She chooses the latter, but a split second later changes her mind as she suddenly feels she could use the fresh air—maybe it’ll calm down the fluttering in her stomach.

Rockefeller Center towers over her as she steps out of the car, its large presence immediately filling her view.

She takes a moment to appreciate the architecture of it, of New York City in general. It has a long, significant history that makes Los Angeles pale in comparison, Alex will give the city that. It’s got character, as Maggie would probably say. She didn’t get a good chance to admire the skyscraper last time she was here, their impending first kiss occupying every corner of her mind—leaving no room for ruminations over the grandness and history behind the impressive building.

Alex’s heels click on the sidewalk as she briskly walks past the ice rink below, sparing it only a short glance.

Her feelings surrounding that night are...mixed. There’s the embarrassment of falling on her ass so many times and telegraphing her nervous so much so that Maggie didn’t even kiss her properly because of it. But there’s also the remnants of fun when she did manage to get the hang of it, and the warm pressure of Maggie’s hand in her own.

She feels a buzz in her coat pocket and pulls out her phone to see another message from Maggie, smiling at the words.

On your way, Danvers?’

Alex pockets the device, her smile growing as she quickens her pace, no point in responding when she’s almost there. The elevator ride up to the Rainbow Room is as long as to be expected—made even longer by the stops on numerous floors along the way—but finally the 65th floor button lights up and the doors open.

The restaurant is gorgeous.

Floor to ceiling windows line the walls of the circular room, and a large, dazzling chandelier hangs in the center of the the space. A soft pink light surrounds the ceiling where the chandelier is placed, creating a perfect Valentine’s Day atmosphere.

She only has the chance to take a few steps out onto the carpeted dark floor, before a man in a white suit greets her with a smile.

“Madam, your table is this way.” He smiles over his shoulder as he weaves them between tables in the circular room. “I must say, your date looks beautiful tonight too. You’re quite the lucky lady.”

“Mhm,” Alex raises her eyebrows, wholly unsurprised that Maggie’s looks charming yet another individual. And if it’s not her looks, it’s her personality, her laugh, or maybe just her dimples, that draw people in like bees to honey—or like Kara to potstickers. She almost bumps into the man when he abruptly stops with a flourish of his hand and a nod of his head.

“Your table, Miss Danvers. Enjoy your dinner and your date.”

Alex turns to thank the man, but her eyes catch Maggie’s figure at the table, and suddenly she can’t breathe. The background noise of the restaurant diminishes until all she can hear is a ringing in her ears. The entire world narrows to one focal point. All she can see is Maggie. She fills her every sense, and Alex’s neurons fire off faster than she can comprehend, sending her brain haywire.

She’s beautiful.

Alex has always known that. From the moment she laid eyes on her while watching her old roles, she had enough visual acuity to assess that Maggie Sawyer was an objectively beautiful person. She had nice bone structure, a pleasing even distance between her facial features, and besides her height, her body was up to the Hollywood standard.

And it’s not like Alex hasn’t seen Maggie dressed up before. Their first dinner at La Grenouille she was wearing a black lacy dress. She’d gotten an up close view of the gorgeous designer dress she wore during the Golden Globes. Last summer, when they were still on uneven ground and cautiously trying to suss the other out, she’d seen Maggie dressed up for their photoshoot. But tonight, she looks different, or maybe Alex’s perception is what’s changed. Perhaps, the world infinitesimally shifted when she wasn’t paying attention, and now she’s in an alternate universe where everything is just slightly off, but enough for her to notice.

“Danvers!” Maggie stands up, dimples in full force. “You made it, I was starting to think you might not show,” she jokes.

Alex’s tongue feels heavy in her mouth, like she’d just gone to the dentist and they’d shot her up with novocaine.

“Sorry uh,” she swallows a few times, her suddenly burdensome tongue getting in the way. “The elevator ride took forever. People just getting on and off…” she half waves her arm to the side and scratches the back of her neck, averting her eyes and hoping to god she isn’t blushing.

Maggie tilts her head, her eyes gleaming with a warm sparkle that Alex has noticed often makes an appearance around her.

“I have heard that’s what people do on elevators,” her smile is impish now, and Alex can only roll her eyes, but she feels more in equilibrium now. Maggie has a way of doing that; she’s often the one who throws her off center to begin with, but she also has the ability to right her. “Well,” Maggie walks around the table, pulling out the chair opposite her own. “Your seat awaits.”

“Aren’t you the gentlewoman,” Alex smirks gently as she takes her seat, pulling down the napkin onto her lap.

“I try,” she shrugs. “You need to take a look at this menu, it’s pretty fancy fare. Though my aunt did say she heard good things about the charcuterie.”

Alex follows suit, opening up her menu. It is a nice selection of food, and she looks up to ask Maggie what she’s thinking of getting, but the vision in front of her causes her words to catch halfway in her throat.

The candles on the table illuminate Maggie’s face, burnishing it in a warm, flickering yellow light and highlighting her bronzed skin and full lips pursed in thought. Alex gulps, eyes flying back down to her menu. Her nostrils flare slightly as she breathes in and out slowly. The window at her left offers her some much needed distraction, and her breath halts for a whole other reason.

The city is gorgeous laid out in all its expansive, bustling glory in front of her eyes, the skyscrapers gleaming and proud—the cars whizzing below creating a light show. She can appreciate New York even more at this angle. She can even see the Empire State building lit up in pink for the holiday.

It’s cheesy, but Alex smiles all the same.

“It’s a beautiful city, isn’t it?” Maggie disrupts her thoughts, and she slides her gaze towards the woman. Her chin is propped in her hand, eyes looking out the window.

“Yeah, beautiful.” Her tone must sound off because Maggie’s eyes lock onto hers, and Alex has the urge to look away, but she wills herself to keep eye contact, and it’s Maggie that breaks their locked gaze.

“You know, Danvers, I was thinking earlier today that...”

Alex feels her body lean forward, stomach pushing into the edge of the table, in anticipation of her next words. But it’s in that moment the waiter arrives, and Maggie’s words, whatever they might have been, remain unspoken.  

 

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“Let’s share a dessert,” Maggie lets the menu fall onto the table and glances up at Alex just in time to see her rolling her eyes, but the small smile at the corner of her mouth belies her mock annoyance.

“Could that be any more cliche?”

“Okay, Chandler,”  Maggie scoffs “I just thought that since we had a big dinner, we could both share a dessert. Our trainers would probably thank us for it.” And Anthony , she wants to add, but she doesn’t want to break the atmosphere. She and Alex had fun tonight during dinner, and even though she knows it’s not real, in most senses of the word—that they’re here under contract—she doesn’t see the point in mentioning it.

Make it look good ,’ Anthony ha’d texted her. ‘It cost me an arm and a leg to get reservations.’ But Maggie thought that was his problem, not hers, and she wasn’t about to work even on Valentine’s day. They were here, that was enough. She could have fun with Alex without thinking of the cameras capturing their every move.

“Mhm,” Alex’s fingers drum against the back of the menu for a second before she places the menu on the table atop Maggie’s own. “Kaffir Lime Cheesecake Brulee. How about it, Sawyer?”

“I was actually thinking of the liquid mango ravioli,” she crosses her arms and smirks. (She’s fine with anything to be honest, but it’s fun to see the twist of mild disgust that crosses Alex’s face.)

“Mango and pasta should not be together, ever.”

Maggie throws her head back, a laugh erupting forth. “Oh my god, you think it’s literally mango wrapped in pasta.”

Alex glowers at her across the table, a light pink dusting her face, and Maggie takes pity on her. Not everybody grew up in a restaurant or around food all the time like she did.

“It’s a mango puree served in a spherical shape, which the chefs achieve by submerging it with sodium alginate and letting it sit in a bath of calcium.” Alex’s face immediately perks up at the sound of some form of chemistry, and Maggie inwardly smiles. “And no, I don’t know the exact chemistry behind it. My aunt tried to explain it once, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t know either.”

“Not a fan of science?” Disappointment flashes over Alex’s face, and Maggie shakes her head. She hasn’t been that forthcoming with her interests, she supposes, and she doesn’t take offense solely because she knows Alex and her have been in the same boat. So many people look at a pretty face and see nothing beyond it.

“I am, actually. It was my thing in high school. But there’s a big difference between mango science and the kind of science you studied in college.” Maggie gives her a look. “That we both did, actually. Botany is a science. And Psychology-”

“Is not psychiatry. Where’s the science behind treating serial cheaters or giving people couple’s therapy?”

“An elitist, are you?” Maggie teases her. “It’s the highest form of science!” Alex outright rolls her eyes, twice, at that, but Maggie continues on. “The human brain is an entire world, Danvers. There’s a universe inside every head around you.”

“Including the plants, miss botany major?”

“Don’t start.” She rests her forearms on the table and leans closer to Alex, making sure she’s fully in her line of vision.  “Nerd.”

 

 

 

The street lights flicker by on Alex’s face through the slightly dirty car window, and Maggie has a flashback to another car ride taken not too long ago, but with a far different atmosphere. Alex is smiling now for one, and Maggie can read the happiness on her face like a book.

The cab has a distinct smell of alcohol in it, an individual with too much to drink probably just rode the same cab, and part of the carpeted seat beneath her thigh is stiff, meaning she’s probably sitting on a stain. But it’s nice, mostly because of her company.

“Anthony wanted a limo, but I put my foot down,” she tells Alex.

Alex wrinkles her nose at the smell. “I don’t agree with King very often, but maybe he was right.”

“That’s not very nice of you, sweetheart,” the driver suddenly says, and Maggie chuckles as Alex slinks back in her seat.

"Come on, Danvers. It's part of the experience."

 

 

 

The elevator doors ding open to reveal a nearly full deck. Couples stand together on every corner of the observatory deck, taking pictures of the view-and of each other. Alex looks over at her with a curious expression, and Maggie raises an eyebrow, giving her the signal to ask whatever is clearly on her mind.

“Aren’t you afraid of heights? I know there’s glass on the 102nd floor, but -”

“It’s sweet that you care, Danvers,” she nudges her shoulder against Alex’s, bringing their bodies leaned up against the back of the elevator closer together. “But I can manage.” She hopes. Where she’s actually planning to take Alex doesn’t have any glass.

It barely has any barrier to stop people from the at least 1250 foot drop off of the Empire State Building onto the streets of New York.  

They go out to the deck, and not two minutes later a young girl comes up to them and asks for a photo. It unleashes at least half a dozen people taking a break from their celebrations to take selfies, even if they don’t know who they are—as demonstrated by the older man asking if Alex played softball—and as soon as it’s over they make their way back inside, away from the cold and most of the crowd.

She’s sure it was Anthony’s plan all along.

But Anthony hadn’t specified which floor they needed go to. He wanted their Empire State excursion more as a nice bonus gift the press could tack on at the end, is the impression Maggie gets. The pictures they took just now serve as proof and evidence enough. So she thinks she should be free.

“Want to take a break?” she asks Alex, who gives her a look.

“You mean leaving?”

“Not exactly. Just... a break away from their cameras.”

Alex frowns, but she finally nods, and Maggie leads the way.

 

 

 

“Wow,” Alex sighs as they step out into the observatory deck of the 103rd floor.

Maggie keeps her distance from the waist-high edge, and when looking down at the buildings becomes too much, she stares resolutely at her shoes. Alex has no qualms about leaning over the barrier, her eyes bright, and Maggie tugs uselessly at her dress.

“Danvers, be careful,” she tells her. “I’d hate to have to recast Claire.”

Alex laughs, but when she turns around it fades slightly.

“You are scared,” she mentions, and Maggie rolls her eyes even as she takes another small step backwards.

“I’m cautious,” she corrects Alex. She looks amused.

“Come here.” She offers her hand, and Maggie takes a breath and takes it, if only because she wouldn't be able to live with the teasing if she hadn’t.

“The view is amazing from up here,” Alex whispers softly, her breath blowing out in white puffs of air. Maggie squeezes Alex’s hand tighter, and looks down at the buildings and the lights, at the black river in the distance.

“It’s something else,” she admits, and lets herself take a long look before she lets go of Alex’s hand and takes a step back into the apparent safety of being inside. Alex continues to stare out, her short hair blowing in the wind. Maggie has half a mind to pull her back, scared the wind will blow her away.

Alex turns around.

“You planned this,” she says accusingly. “I’m sure people can’t just come up here because they want to.”

Maggie shrugs with one shoulder. “I...might have pulled a few strings.”

Alex stares at her. “Why?”

Maggie takes a moment to answer. She doesn’t know how to word it, in a way that won’t offend Alex, nor make her sound like a fool.

“I just wanted at least one part of tonight to be real, you know? We deserve a good Valentine’s day, don’t we?”

Alex smiles softly. “I think this was my best one yet. Not that- not that I never dated someone around this time of year or anything, it’s just...my relationships...The picture perfect Valentine’s day dinner. It just never...”

“Never happened?”

Alex nods.

Maggie does too.

“I can relate to that. I don’t think I’ve been single during Valentine’s day that much since I was a teenager, actually, but it just wasn’t my thing. Everything on February 14th feels...just a little bit forced.”

“This doesn’t,” Alex says.

Maggie swallows, then nods. “You’re right, this doesn't.” Maggie looks out into the distance, the buildings not seem quite so imposing from here.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Alex.”

 

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They take their heels off at the bottom of the stairs.

Maggie can walk in them just fine, but she doesn’t actively like wearing them, She has an appreciation for a good 3 inch heeled boot, but stilettos are more trouble than they’re worth. So she takes them off, and Alex follows along, laughing.

They climb the stairs to Alex’s floor, bouncing between comfortable silence and small talk about the Rainbow Room’s food. Finally, they arrive at Alex’s door.

“Thank you for a great night,” Alex tells her, turning around before she opens her door.

“Thank you for coming,” Maggie answers.

Alex tilts her head. “I think I was legally contracted to,” she points out, and Maggie chuckles.

“You know what i mean.”

“I do.”

It’s the best she’s felt with anyone who isn’t her aunt in she can’t remember how long. Maybe ever. And she knows one thing that will make the night better.

“Can you come upstairs for a second?” she asks Alex.

The other woman frowns, but nods. “Sure.”

They climb the stairs for the two remaining floors before reaching her loft, and then Maggie runs inside her apartment, leaving an amused Alex outside, after being ordered to stay put. She grabs what she needs, and then exits just as fast.

She hides it behind her back.

“It’s technically the 15th now, but I got you something. For real.” She brings her arms around from behind her back, and shows the stuffed animal to Alex. “Happy Valentine’s day.”

Alex smiles, and grabs it.

“I can’t believe you got me a-”

“I know,” she tells her, preening. Alex shakes her head, but then smiles.

“Thank you.” She looks down at the toy in her hands, and then back at Maggie. “I, huh...I didn’t get you anything.”

“I guess that means I’m winning the gift war now, then.”

Alex looks up at her, incredulous.

Maggie turns around to enter her apartment. “Goodnight, Danvers,” she throws over her shoulder.

“Night.”

“Oh, and Danvers?” she asks, before closing the door. Alex meets her eyes. “Press his paw when you’re alone.”

Maggie disappears inside her apartment, something like contentment filling up her chest.

 

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Alex holds her heels in one hand and the stuffed animal in the other as she enters her apartment.

Her feet ache, and she’s tired, but it’s the good kind. She hadn’t felt in a while, not since the last time she got to surf back in Malibu, before the Globes. She drops her shoes somewhere between the living room and dining room, and she climbs the few steps to her bed before sitting down on it.

She feels ridiculous for being so excited to see what Maggie meant, but there’s no changing that now.

She presses the animal’s paw, and for a second, nothing happens.

Then, a very distinctive roar fills the silence -Maggie’s voice.

Alex laughs out loud, the sound bouncing off the walls of her empty apartment. She gets a rush that she doesn’t often feel, to take a picture and share it with anyone who may want to look. It’s the first time she wants the world to know something about her and Maggie, and it’s exactly because of that that it feels good to keep it to herself.

She takes out her cellphone, takes a picture, and then sends a text to her sister before she’s able to go on with her night. It’s somewhere between washing her makeup off and putting on her pajamas that she realizes something that makes an already perfect night even better.

Maggie had called her ‘Alex’.

 

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NTExNjIz

 

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Light tries to make its way through Alex’s closed eyelids.

She groans—half asleep—rolling away from the window to resume her sleep, and she almost achieves it, but a loud ping somewhere near one of her pillows jolts her fully awake. She must have forgotten to charge her phone last night, early this morning technically, and left it on her bed. She half-heartedly flings her left arm out, groping around for it. Her hand falls on something small and hairy, and the smile that spreads across her face is instantaneous. It’s the lion Maggie gave her. She left it in her bed too last night. But the one object she’s looking doesn’t appear to be where she thought it was.

Alex sits up and forces her eyelids to open, blinking for a few moments in her mostly dim bedroom, half lit by the shaft of light streaming through the room from the window. She turns around, yawning in the process, to look for her phone. It’s hidden beneath a pillow in the far corner, and Alex grabs it, wondering who is waking her up at this time in the morning.

It’s J’onn. Multiple messages from him actually.

She slides open her phone to and frowns as her eyes scan over the 5 messages sent. She quickly jabs her finger at the link he sent, and the seconds it takes to load seem like a century. Finally, though, the page loads, and what she sees makes her frown deepen and her stomach curdle.

Photos. Pictures from their moment up on the 103rd floor, the supposed break from the cameras that Maggie had offered her, out of the kindness of her heart, Alex had originally thought. But looking at the article now, reading the words detailing a fair deal of their time up there, from when Alex pulled Maggie up beside her to peer over the edge to Maggie’s subsequent retreat, it’s all there for everyone to see.

She feels a tendril of anger start creeping up her spine, but its warring with another feeling—embarrassment—and the latter is winning. She’s so stupid. She thought their moment last night had been genuine. She’d opened up to Maggie, and for once, Maggie had done the same to her. It just felt...real. But that was Maggie’s job wasn’t it? To portray a false front so truthfully and naturally that it felt real to the audience. And maybe some of the emotion Maggie showed her in the moment was real, most actors draw on at least a semblance of their own experiences and emotions for roles, but she’d wielded it with the precision and grace her mom possessed during her surgeries.

It was just for the contract. It didn’t mean anything beyond the piece of paper binding them together. Alex was the only one last night who’d imbued the moment with a sense of gravitas.

She thought they were...being actual friends to each other, and instead for some reason Alex has been thrown out of the loop. Was she that bad an actress that King needed Maggie to fool her into thinking there were no cameras so she’d let her guard now? They’d been doing a decent enough job, or so she thought.

She stews the entire ride to set, and her makeup girl has to ask her to stop frowning twice before she can manage it.

Alex hates feeling like she's not on solid ground. She hates not knowing what's going on.

It’s just her luck that her first scene that morning is with Maggie, exactly the person to blame for her mood this morning. And King. But she doesn't have to see King every day.

“You okay?” Maggie asks, halfway through a scene, and Alex shrugs it off. But when the director asks if they want to take 5, Alex jumps at the chance. And she can't help but look at Maggie before she takes off in the direction of her trailer.

“We deserve a break, right?” she says, echoing Maggie's words at the Empire State building last night.

“Yeah…?”

She almost sputters at how nonchalant Maggie is, as embarrassment burns hot on her cheeks.

She walks away.

 

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After her initial scene with Alex, the rest of Maggie’s morning flies by, perhaps because her mind is more occupied with Alex than her lines.

Alex seems to be in a mood, and Maggie doesn't understand the reason why. She guesses something could have happened with her sister or her mom, and she’s intruded enough—it’s not her place to ask. But she’s still curious.

She’s thinking about asking her directly, how Alex had asked when she’d been down about the Oscars, but she doesn’t get a chance to leave her trailer because her phone starts to ring.

“M’gann, hi.” She wonders briefly what’s the reason behind her manager’s call this morning.

“Hi, Maggie.”

“What's with the tone?”

“Well, we got huh,” M’gann pauses, and she can hear her exhale her breath slowly through the phone. “An offer came in this morning. For you to present at the Oscars.”

Maggie’s stomach drops.

She’d dreamed about being on that stage in wildly different circumstances, and she can’t imagine getting to do it for the first time just to hand over an award to someone else. But she doesn't think she has a choice.

“It’d be bad form not to do it, wouldn't it be?” She asks M’gann, already knowing her answer.

“Yeah,” M’gann tells her. "It’s the Oscars. It’s an honor to present.”

“Feels more like a slap to the face,” she confesses.

“I know. Should I give them an answer?”

“Surprising you haven’t already.”

“Maggie. You know you always have a choice. But this is important.”

“I get it. Let’s do it.”

"Good. In other, happier, news I saw the pictures of you and Alex up on the 103rd floor-”

Maggie cuts her off, confusion flooding her brain. “The what?”

“The pictures?”

“We were up there alone. It wasn't -it wasn't for the contract. I just wanted to show Alex…” realization dawns on her as she runs through Alex’s behavior just earlier. “That’s why she’s mad,” she thinks out loud.

“Who is mad? Maggie?”

“I’ll call you back, okay?”

Maggie dials a number that she sadly has come to know by heart.

“Hello my leading lady! To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Did you get your paps to follow us to the 103rd floor?” She asks right away, she doesn’t have time for his antics.

“I didn't.” He replies, but his voice is gleeful. “I commend you on it though. A genius move Sawyer, you’re a natural.”

Maggie is quick to correct him, “They weren't supposed to be there. I didn’t mean to-”

“Then why go up there with her alone?”

His tone isn’t even malicious, only curious, but he isn’t entitled to know her reasoning. “I have to go on set,” she hangs up without another word.

 

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The spread at craft services doesn’t look particularly appealing today, but Alex’s eyes roam for some blueberry muffins, hoping they’ll at least have those available. She spots one at the back of the table and is about to reach for it when a voice startles her, stopping her movement.

It’s Maggie. Alex steels her spine and sets her face, not wanting to blow up again at her, at least not on set—it isn’t professional.

“About last night,” Maggie’s face is conciliatory, her tone soft. “I didn't -”

Alex interrupts whatever excuse was about to come out of her mouth. She doesn’t want to deal with it right now. “I just don't understand why you couldn't just tell me we were going to take pictures. Why let me make an ass of myself and start talking about -”

“Wait, you think I knew?” Maggie asks, and the steam goes out of her

“I -”

“I didn't know, Alex,” Maggie tells her, her eyes sincere if not slightly insulted. “Why would I pretend it was just the two of us?”

“I don't know. For the contract? If King told you -”

“We signed that contract together,” Maggie fires back.

Alex is just as quick to respond, “Like he doesn’t tell you information I’m not privy to. You're his shining star of the show. I feel like half the time I hear about our dates through you before I even hear from him.”

“I’m not on Anthony’s side. We signed that contract together,” she insists. “I’m not here to make a fool out of you, Alex. We’re on the same team.” Maggie reaches out tentatively, touching her arm. “Remember?”

Alex doesnt know what to believe. But in that moment, she chooses to believe in Maggie

 

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Twitter Post Mockup 2017

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

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Alex does a lot of thinking on the ride home that evening. 

She thinks about Maggie telling her for all intents and purposes that she’s on her side, and she thinks about the contract itself and what it means that they’re finally on the same page about it.

But most of all, she thinks about their Valentine’s day. About Maggie’s eyes sparkling in the Rainbow Room, and the way she laughed and called her a nerd. And their moment up on the 103rd floor and how she felt like she could demolish skyscrapers with her bare hands when Maggie trusted her enough to hold her hand and not to let her fall.

Her mind keeps racing in circles, round and round, over every little detail from that night. Maggie’s warmth as they stood side by side in the elevator. Maggie laughing while trying to steal some of Alex’s portion of their shared dessert. Maggie handing her the stuffed animal lion, and that last look she threw over her shoulder suffused with more warmth than Alex even knew could exist.

The car jolts forward as the signal turns green, and it’s as if the movement slides a piece of herself into place that she wasn't aware was missing. 

The realization hits her full force, taking her breath away. 

She wanted it all to be real.