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It’s noon, which means it’s been not-quite six hours since Lucy woke up in their hotel room in DC. 

Not-quite six hours since the first thing they did was pull on their binder because they could tell that today was again going to be one of those days—where they needed it to keep the rising dysphoria at bay.

And now it’s noon and the ache is settling into the sides of their chest, flaring whenever they move.

It’s going to be a long day.

Maggie calls them partway through—it’s Lucy’s lunch break and they’re sitting on a park bench with headphones in, thankful for the breath of fresh air.

“Finally got a break from your meetings?” Maggie asks.

The familiar timbre and inflection of Maggie’s voice coming through Lucy’s phone pulls a tired smile out of them. “Thankfully.”

“How are you holding up?” The audible care tinged with concern reminds Lucy of oh-so-gentle eyes and fond touches. Hearing Maggie’s voice isn’t the same as sinking against her, but it’s enough. Enough to hold them steady through the rest of today.

“It’s DC,” they say, in lieu of an answer. Trips to the capitol feel longer and longer lately.

Maggie knows they’re miserable. DC is always exhausting, filled with casual racism and xenophobia and a general lack of empathy that already tests them on bad days. But now, now that they’ve stopped burying every gender except the one people assume, there’s the undercurrent that everyone sees them as a woman when they aren’t.

It grates against their skin and catches at their peripherals, digging in and looping over and over in the background until they’re beyond drained.

Lucy’s not out, not here. They could be—technically there’s nothing stopping them. 

But in this room dominated by old white men and thinly veiled bigotry, Lucy doubts that they’d be accepted, or even respected (not that Lucy is currently given the respect they deserve, given they are seen as a woman). And while Lucy knows shouldn’t have to suffer like this, their role in these trips to DC—advocating for the work that the DEO accomplishes and for the fair treatment of aliens—it undeniably benefits from maintaining a certain amount of respect. The work they can accomplish with that—they work they have accomplished with that—Lucy can’t endanger it.

One day, they’ll come out here. Maybe when the DEO is more fully recognized for its merits. Maybe when aliens are more protected under the law. (Or maybe when this becomes too much, because it’s only been a single day and if it stays this way, they might just quietly break down by the end of this week.)

“Do you wanna hear about what Danvers did today at work?” Maggie notices their non-answer but doesn’t push. She can tell that right now, Lucy needs to be distracted and reminded of the people that love them.

“It’s what, around nine for you in California? The day has barely started and she’s already gotten into trouble?” That sounds like Danvers.

“And I heard that Pam keeps special records of how often and how quickly she breaks them. This wasn’t even the fastest.”

Lucy huffs lightly, one side of their mouth quirking up into a smile. “Pam’s got a whole cabinet dedicated to Danvers, I’m not surprised. At least I’m not dealing with that paperwork.”

“Oh, Alex specifically said that you’d be glad you didn’t have to deal with it.”

“So what was it this time?”

--

The good thing about meetings is that there isn’t much reason to refer to anyone by their pronouns. So it’s Director Lane, or sometimes Major Lane. 

Lucy tries to appreciate that.

But they know, they know that they are seen as a woman without even having to notice the “she’s” that they sometimes overhear when they’re being talked about outside of these meetings.

The rest of the workday drags.

--

Lucy finally opens the door to bask in the reprieve that their hotel room provides. 

They strip off their binder and stretch, inhaling slow and deep for the first time in hours.

It’s a small relief. The binder does help—Lucy would be worse off if they didn’t wear it today—but the physical pressure also builds up into its own discomfort over time.

There’s a part of them that wants to put it back on regardless. 

But they’re trying to be better about that.

At least the dysphoria is less intense now that they’re alone.

They settle for a sports bra and distraction—work, exercise, a movie—anything to help control the way they’re reeling.

It half works.

Maybe.

--

He wakes up as Leon and prepares for an equally draining day.

And it is.

He does his best. He has learned by now how to perform, no matter the circumstances. Has learned how to box himself away to finish the mission, the case, the objective. So despite the static crawling through him, threatening to overwhelm—he makes these meetings productive, and tries to feel good about that.

After all, this is part of his job, and things are progressing in the way he wants them to. His background gives him skills that lend themselves to the particulars of these… issues that are being sorted out. He’s needed here.

So he’ll endure this. He’s gotten good at that, after all these years.

It’s not all bad.

(And yet, somehow, it feels so much worse now compared to before.)

At least they have breaks, so he can walk down to the single-stall gender neutral bathroom, pull the front panel of his binder forward to relieve the pressure and finally get some deeper breaths in.

Three and a half more days of this and then Leon will be on a plane back to National City. Back to where Alex and Maggie will ask how to refer to him, to where that will filter through the DEO quickly and quietly so he doesn’t need to make some grand announcement to avoid being misgendered every day at work.

The end of the day finally rolls around and he rushes out of the building as quickly as he can while still being polite. Other times he lingers, building up connections with interested nods and thought-out questions, or catching up with the rare genuinely friendly face. 

He doesn’t have nearly enough energy for that today.

He pulls out his phone on the way out. There’s a notification for messages from Alex.

He smiles through a handful of cat gifs and sends some hearts back, starting to feel a little lighter already. A reply comes moments later.

Check with the front desk when you get back to the hotel. There’s a package waiting for you.

The small cardboard box he receives is addressed from Alex. Leon’s sure he didn’t forget anything before leaving for Washington. What was so urgent that she had something delivered this quickly?

When he opens it up in his hotel room, he finds a note on top.

We thought you might appreciate a reminder of home <3

-xoxo

His breath catches momentarily at the surprise rush of emotion that passes through him.

He lifts the note out of the box.

Alex’s black slouchy beanie that is slowly becoming his and Alex’s beanie.

Maggie’s go-to flannel, recently worn and full of her scent.

Their little crocheted bonsai, the only bonsai that Maggie trusts Leon and Alex with.

Two bars of dark chocolate, one with raspberry filling and one with mint—his favorites.

And at the very bottom,

A box of Nerds, complete with a picture of Alex and Maggie taped to the front.

Leon laughs.

And despite the past couple days, despite the fact that his girlfriends are thousands of miles away across the country—he feels loved. 

So very loved.

--

He video calls Alex and Maggie in the evening once they’re finished with dinner and have settled against each other on the couch. 

“Looks like you got our box,” Maggie smiles.

Leon’s sitting in bed, wrapped in Maggie’s flannel and Alex’s beanie. 

“I did get it.” He smiles back. Just seeing and talking to his girlfriends makes him feel lighter. “You’re the best, and I love you both so much.”

“We love you, too.”

They talk idly, keeping his mind off of the worst parts of the day until Leon feels his eyes wanting to stay shut with each blink.

“Want us to let you go so you can sleep?” Alex asks.

“Would you stay until I fall asleep?”

“‘Course, Lee.”

He’s still wearing a looser sports bra to avoid the feeling of fabric moving across his chest and the hotel bed is still much too empty. 

But he also has Maggie and Alex voices softly filling the space, a constant warmth until he drifts off to sleep.

--

It’s been a week. 

A long, tiring week in DC.

But now that it’s just past noon, Lucy’s plane has finally landed and she’s finally back in National City.

She’s finally coming home.

Alex and Maggie pick her up at the airport. But first, they pull her in close by the fabric of Maggie’s flannel, hugging her tight. We missed you, Luce.

Lucy hugs them back just as tight. She missed them too, so much.

Lucy plucks the beanie off her head and puts it on a grinning Alex before getting in the car. “Take me home, nerds.”

When they get back to the apartment after swinging by Noonan’s to pick up lunch, they eat on the couch so that Lucy’s thigh can press against Maggie’s, so that Alex’s arm can brush against Lucy’s. 

“What do you want to do for the rest of the day?” Alex asks.

Lucy rests her head on Alex’s shoulder. “Can we just stay in? Put something on and cuddle?”

“Yeah, c’mere.” Alex turns to press a kiss to Lucy’s temple and then shifts to pull her in more comfortably. 

Maggie curls into Lucy’s other side with a happy little hum.

Lucy sighs softly. The closeness and casual intimacy are exactly what she needs to slowly unwind from DC. (While she always loves spending time with Alex and Maggie, she wishes she didn’t need this assurance because of DC. But, one day. Maybe soon.)

There’s a beat where they simply enjoy each other’s touch.

And then,

“...So who’s gonna get up to grab the remote?”