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(Don't) Ignore the Pajamas

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Good things have never really happened to Alex while she’s been wearing pajamas.

She likes pajamas – likes being comfortable – but even as a kid it always seems like something is off. Nightgowns always get tangled around her legs, gifting her horrible nightmares of being buried alive in a twisted, evil, grasping patch of briars and cruel vines. She finally tells her mom, who bans her from watching Sleeping Beauty anymore.

Her grandma always gives her a flannel pajama set for Chanukah, and she dutifully wears them throughout the winter, even though she wakes up drenched in sweat every night, sticky and clammy and cotton-mouthed every morning.

In the summer it’s too hot for pajamas up in her room, but after the big earthquake when she was five, she’s too scared to sleep without anything on. She’d panicked, that night, as the house had rolled and trembled, pitching back and forth like a ship on an angry ocean. She’d been just in underwear, and her dad had run in and grabbed her, carrying her out of the house to the beach without stopping to get her dressed. She’d shivered, out on the beach, for over an hour, only five years old but old enough to be ashamed of her nudity in front of all of the neighbors.

So, for the rest of her childhood, she sweats through each summer night, wearing the lightest cotton pants and tank tops she can.

Middle school sleepovers become fraught – who is wearing the cutest things? Do you keep your bra on or take it off? Are you even wearing a bra? When you change in front of each other, what are you supposed to look at? When did cupcake pajama pants go from cute to childish? When did those tiny shorts – basically underwear – become cool?

And when Vicky’s brothers come downstairs for breakfast, are you supposed to still be wearing your pajamas? Should they see you without a bra? In your tiny shorts? Or should you have already brushed your teeth and combed your hair and washed your face? When they come downstairs in their loose pajama pants, where are you supposed to look? Are you supposed to want them to look at you?

In college, Alex gets used to wearing pajamas around her roommate, but is still never that comfortable with it. Her dorm is hot in the winter and chilly in the summer – a total waste of heat and AC, in her opinion. And her roommate has the bed next to the window, so she has control over that most basic regulation, and Shannon definitely doesn’t care as much as Alex does. So Alex is always a little uncomfortable at night.

And after the first morning she rolls out of bed, tiny shorts and tank top, no bra, hair mussed, and Shannon’s boyfriend lazily waves from under the covers in Shannon’s bed – it’s bra and pants for the rest of the year.

And she was never going to be the type of person to go to class in pajamas anyway, but she won’t even go down to breakfast or to study in the common room in sweats.

So pajamas are always complicated. Fraught. Uncomfortable. Too hot or too cold or too flimsy. She’d just…rather not.

 


 

Adult life with Kara has changed some of it. Kara loves sweatpants – cute pairs, old ratty pairs, those newer pairs with the slim leg and the pockets that are actually flattering. Kara puts on sweatpants within seconds of arriving home. And Alex doesn’t usually do that – after she gets home from her grueling joint MD/PhD program, she’s usually working far into the night, and being too comfortable is just a recipe for falling asleep at her desk. Again.

But she slowly starts, after plenty of coaxing from Kara, to wear sweatpants during Sister Night. They’re curled up on the couch anyway, and Kara always offers to be the one to open the door for the pizza guy, only gently mocking Alex for the way she drapes the blanket over her lap each time so that he can never see her in such informal clothes. Sister Night finally becomes as comfortable as an elementary school sleepover – where what you wore didn’t matter and you understood all the rules.

As she spirals out of control in her program, leaning heavily on booze and thumping beats and anonymous gritty sex with a series of strange men, Alex sort of stops wearing pajamas all together. Because she’ll be naked, or close to it, while they fuck, and then by the time she gets home – at two or three or four in the morning, back in her sweaty, grimy clothes that smell like tequila and smoke and desperation – she usually just showers, changes, loads up on coffee, and starts her day.

She isn’t sleeping much, except for crashing out on her couch in the middle of the day, when she should be in class. And that type of sleep doesn’t really deserve pajamas.

 


 

After joining the DEO, Alex barely sleeps in her apartment anymore. She spends most of her first year snatching a few hours of sleep whenever she can in the little DEO bunkrooms designed for just that purpose. She sleeps in her uniform, because it would be beyond embarrassing to be late for an urgent call because all she had on was a pair of ducky shorts and bunny slippers.

Eventually she starts going home – every once in a while, at least – to sleep. But she sleeps in clean DEO workout layers, something like black leggings and a dark tank top, so that she’s ready to spring into action at any time.

She likes the feeling of always being prepared. If there were an earthquake now, she’d be the most dressed, best prepared, least afraid person on her block. If a bunch of girls, or their brothers, showed up in the morning, she’d be fully dressed and ready to spar – verbally or otherwise. When she’s called into work, even if she arrives in her pajamas, she won’t have to worry about who could be looking at her. Everyone will be looking, but because she’s their boss.

She hears, with glee, that her reputation has started to proceed her. “You met Agent Danvers yet?” she hears one brand new recruit say to another. “I heard she’s the scariest person here.”

“Yeah,” another chimes in. “I heard she sleeps in her uniform. No one alive has ever seen her out of it.”

Alex smirks, from behind the corner. While that’s obviously the dumbest thing she’s ever heard, she likes that reputation. That anyone who saw her in shorts, or jeans, or a tank top without a bra, would immediately drop dead. That pajamas are for the weak, and all she needs to sleep well is her favorite gun strapped to her thigh.

 


 

Kara sits her down, after her fake date with Maxwell Lord, and gives her an extremely long lecture about work/life balance. She plugs her computer into Alex’s TV to give a full powerpoint presentation about it, complete with a clicker and a laser pointer and several charts and graphs. And while some of the slides are just speech bubbles hovering above imploring kittens, saying things like “it’s purrrrrfectly okay to take a night off!” and “you need a vacation right meow!”, all told it does make a compelling point.

Kara sets out some rules, and, honestly, Alex hasn’t really taken a day off since J’onn plucked her out of the jail cell three years ago. She’s tired, and she’s feeling run down, and now that Kara’s running around the city in a cape and tights, Alex is both more exhausted and simultaneously more able to take a night or two off.

Alex immediately vetoes a few of Kara’s proposed rules, like taking two full days off a week and not going into the field after having worked at the office all day. But Alex agrees to some of the others. She’ll take her gun off her hip when she’s at home. She’ll set aside Sister Night each week and they’ll both only leave for an emergency at Code Orange or above. She’ll spend at least one other night a week at home or with Kara (or anywhere that isn’t work, but they both know that list only has two possible locations on it). She won’t sleep at the DEO unless it’s a Code Red or above. She’ll change out of her DEO uniform when she comes home and she’ll sleep in pajamas. In her bed.

 


 

Living alone, it turns out, completely changes the entire pajamas equation. Alex’s studio is hers and hers alone, so she can make the temperature however she wants it. She leaves it chilly in the winter, so she can make a fire and wear pajama pants or sweats, and wake up warm and refreshed but not sweaty. She makes it comfortable in the summer to sleep in shorts and a t-shirt under a thinner blanket without either melting or drying up into a shriveled husk from too much air conditioning.

Kara buys her slippers and she learns to enjoy the comfort of fuzzy socks, the softness of her carpets, and the cool smooth surface of her floor on her bare feet.

She doesn’t wear a bra and no one can see her until she lets them in.

And if a certain alien happens to fly in her window while she’s still just waking up, well, she’s seen that alien in a lot more compromising positions than sleepily eating breakfast in shorts and fuzzy Supergirl socks.

She learns the pure joy of taking off her pants when she gets home, stripping them off for some of Kara’s old sweatpants – worn completely soft with use and washing and a little bit of super speed. She finds a store that sells these sweaters – all colors and cuts and styles but made out of this cotton and cashmere blend that’s the softest thing she’s ever touched.

She buys one of everything.

Slowly her closet changes. She tosses her old ratty lab clothes and her skimpy clubbing outfits. The newly empty hangers and drawers get filled with jeans and leather jackets and sweaters and sweats. She buys boots to replace her heels, and Kara fills her drawers with an endless variety of socks – not just Supergirl but unicorns and periodic tables and Hogwarts sets.

She buys a few pairs of actual pajama pants – thin and plaid and striped. They’re comfortable, and no one but Kara will ever see her in them, so it doesn’t matter.

 


 

The biggest change to her work/life balance comes in the form a petite detective – a small woman with a big presence who makes Alex want to make seismically huge shifts in her life.

Alex dresses carefully, when she’s going to tell Maggie how she feels about her. She wears her favorite black jeans and her best boots and that new black sweater, the one with the open knitting across the chest so you can see her skin, and a black tank top under to keep it somewhat appropriate. She puts on her light gray leather jacket, to keep herself from being fully monochrome, and she knows she looks good. She likes how she looks in her uniform, but this isn’t like that. And it’s not like how she looked good in grad school either.

This looks like her. Put together, strong, confident, badass. Possibly even sexy.

She looks good, and she feels good, and she’s ready for some of the life part of that balance.

But Maggie turns her down.

And Alex doesn’t even change into her sweats before trying to drown herself in her bottle of whiskey at home.

 


 

Maggie comes to confront her in the name of friendship, over at Kara’s. It’s game night with the guys, so Alex is wearing another sweater – a loose-knit green one, this time, and jeans, and those new brown boots Kara’d pressured her into buying a few days after Maggie’d rejected her.

Alex is glad, in that moment, that it isn’t Sister Night. She needs the armor these clothes give her (although of course, her actual armor would be preferable). She needs the height from the boots and the shaping of the jeans and the contours of the sweater to make herself feel like something Maggie was stupid to turn down.

She’s not sure if it works, but it’s a damn sight better than Maggie seeing her in what she wore to the last sister night, which involved a pair of very small shorts, unicorn socks, and an enormous Stanford sweatshirt.

 


 

She’s wearing her DEO uniform when she stitches Maggie’s shoulder, but she feels completely naked in front of her. Her mom’s words are just ringing in her ear. “Does it have anything to do with Maggie? You mention her a lot.”

So apparently she’s completely obvious and apparently every single person in the universe knows about her stupid, unrequited, completely awful crush, and even her uniform can’t quite make her feel like a badass anymore.

She’s got her thigh holsters and her gun and she’s sewing Maggie’s skin back together, but she feels more raw and exposed than at any sleepover in her life.

 


 

After Medusa – after they just barely, somehow, incomprehensibly manage to stop that horrible genocidal attack, Alex finally relaxes. Her mom manages to fix both Mon-El and, much more importantly, J’onn. Alex spends the day in her DEO uniform, enjoying the science and the professional camaraderie with her mom and her sister and her space dad.

And that night, it’s no longer a Code Black, so, per Kara’s rules, Alex heads home.

And, as per Kara’s rules, she changes out of her uniform. Kara has plans tonight, so after a long, warm shower, Alex gets directly into her pajamas. It’s late, and she hasn’t slept in a hot minute. She puts on a pair of pajama pants that are somewhere between white and light gray, with little white squares for texture and pattern. They’re so thin that they’re almost see-through, but the fire is going, and it’s warm in the apartment, so they’re perfect. And it’s not like anyone else is going to see them. It’s the start of winter, and there’s a Christmas-y nip in the air, so instead of a t-shirt she puts on a dark blue Henley, the type with four buttons at the top and shallow vertical stripes in the knit.

She pins some of her hair back after her shower.

She means to make dinner but instead she just finds herself sitting, content and quiet, at her counter.

She loves her job, but, tonight, she’s grateful for her work/life balance. For her pajamas and her whiskey and her bed and her apartment and the soft lighting of this little room that belongs to her.

So she’s beyond surprised when the knock comes. She assumes it’s a threat, ignoring any concern over her clothes in favor of snatching up her gun and suspiciously making her way to the peephole.

But it’s Maggie. It’s Maggie with a pizza, and Alex feels her heart gently throw itself outside of her chest. She’s putting her gun down and unlocking the door without a thought, like Maggie’s bypassed all her software and has hacked directly into her gross motor functions.

And it isn’t until Alex is stepping aside and Maggie’s walking into the apartment, that Alex realizes.

She isn’t in jeans, or her uniform. She isn’t in a sweater that somehow manages to be both aloof and alluring. She isn’t in boots, and she isn’t strapped with anything.

She’s in pajamas.

She’s in pajamas pants, and they’re thin and see-through and cling to her butt, and Maggie will see them. Will see her. Will see everything. And she’s wearing a bra but not a good one, and what if Maggie can tell? And her hair is pinned back and she’s not wearing makeup and she’s barefoot, and holy shit, this is Alex’s worst nightmare. This is her worst, most horrible, most pubescent nightmare come to life. Because the pretty girl is in her apartment, and the pretty girl is wearing a shirt and probably a bra and a jacket and boots and jeans, and the pretty girl has her hair perfectly curled and is wearing makeup. The pretty girl knew this was going to happen and dressed accordingly.

And Alex doesn’t know where to look, or where she hopes Maggie looks. Alex is completely, utterly, irreversibly in pajamas. In front of Maggie Sawyer, the person who invented swagger and leather jackets and wearing as many layers as possible.

The words that come out of her mouth are “Ignore the pajamas,” but there’s so much weight behind them. So much baggage. So much fear and insecurity and horribly repressed gay feelings. So much shoving herself deeper and deeper into the closet, so much fear of what her body and her friends’ bodies meant.

She’d love to just throw herself into the fire and let the pajamas burn off her charred corpse.

But Maggie barely looks at the pajamas. She only looks at Alex’s face, and she says, “No, they’re cute,” and she makes a sound that, coming from anyone else, would be a giggle.

She looks and sounds like maybe she’s happy to be seeing Alex in her pajamas. Like maybe seeing Alex vulnerable, seeing this at-home-Alex, being one of the very few to ever see her outside her armor of DEO black and muted sweaters, actually means something to her.

Like maybe she wants to be there not only for the work part of Alex’s life, and not only for the parts that Winn and James are there for, but for another part too.

For a part that has never even begun to exist before.

The pajama part.

And then she’s saying all kinds of things, and Alex can barely keep up. Because Maggie is saying that she regrets turning her down, and that she wants to kiss her, and all Alex can think is, like this? In these pajamas? This improperly dressed? This raw and visceral and completely unguarded? In these worn, thin, almost threadbare pajama pants?

Because Maggie turned her down when she looked really good in black jeans and a leather jacket and perfectly curled hair, and Maggie asked for her friendship when Alex was wearing that green sweater and those jeans and her highest boots like armor.

And now Maggie’s here, asking for her. Almost begging for her. Maggie came here, and it’s late, and she brought pizza, and Alex is in front of her in pajamas. Alex is, right this minute, someone she hasn’t been since she was eleven years old.

Because Alex is afraid and she’s nervous and she’s confused and she’s worried that she’s dreaming this, but she’s abruptly not worried about her pajamas anymore. She’s not worried about how she looks or what Maggie thinks of them, or if she should be wearing more traditional sweatpants or shorts or if she should be wearing a bra or not, or if her socks are ruining the look.

Because Maggie is kissing her. Maggie is kissing her, and rubbing her thumb up and down Alex’s cheek, and Maggie is using her lips to pull Alex in deeper and deeper. Maggie is sucking the very breath out of Alex, and this has to go down in history as the most perfect moment in the entire world.

 


 

So many of the good things in Alex’s life happen when she’s wearing pajamas. Not just the first night Maggie kisses her, but the first morning after Maggie sleeps over. Alex is in a tank top and sweats, and she puts on a bra because she doesn’t know quite what the protocol is with someone who has seen you naked and you want them to do so again. Soon.

But Maggie is wearing Alex’s shirt, and Maggie is wearing Alex’s little sleep shorts, and she’s rolled them up at the waist a little bit to make them even shorter, and that’s just the most fantastic thing Alex has ever seen.

And when, after they call out of work for the morning, Maggie strips the pajamas off of Alex, it’s as loving and wanting and hot as when she’d pulled off Alex’s lingerie last night.

And Alex gets to mumble, “Hello sunshine,” into Maggie’s skin as she slides the orange shirt off her, and she takes a mental note that the pretty girl did not decide to put on a bra this morning.

And that’s all just so fucking fantastic.

 


 

Once Gertrude comes into their lives, Alex finds herself making another change. Because Gertie has to pee right before bed, when Alex and Maggie have ideally been in sweatpants for hours already. The first few nights, Alex changes back into jeans to take out the dog, and Maggie mocks her mercilessly.

Even Alex finally agrees that it’s ridiculous, and so that’s how the neighbors across the way get slowly invited into the small club of Gets-To-See-Alex-In-Her-Pajamas.

And then morning strolls with Gertie, before falling back into bed for a very satisfying morning off, expand the circle to anyone in a five-block radius.

And, in a horrible heat wave in August, the first emergency vet visit in the middle of the night means that the vet, four different technicians, and the three other very stressed people in the pet ER see her in her smallest, coolest shorts.

And when Maggie’s appendix almost ruptures, the pretty girl insists that Alex change into pajamas if she’s going to be spending the night in the hospital with her. So Winn and James and J’onn and Vasquez and Lena and several of Maggie’s friends from the station all see Alex in those old light gray pants with the white squares.

And Alex couldn’t care less, because, not five minutes before they all come in, Maggie beckons her over for a kiss. “Still cute,” she murmurs into Alex’s lips.

 


 

After their wedding – both of them exhausted and stiff and exhilarated – they strip off their formal-wear, carefully hanging everything up and putting away everything that could possibly be ruined by a night on the floor. They make very tired love to each other, falling asleep naked. Maggie promises, with a kiss to the back of Alex’s neck, that if there’s an earthquake she’ll grab the bag of clothes on the way out.

And the next morning, Maggie tosses Alex her favorite sweatpants and tank top, and they go downstairs for brunch with everyone who could stick around. And they all see Alex in her pajamas, and she couldn’t be happier about it.

All of the best things happen in her life when she’s wearing pajamas.