Alex smiled to herself after noticing Lucy again.
Some indeterminate number of minutes before, Lucy’s fingers had been carding through the shorter hair at the nape of Alex’s neck. The idle rhythm had joined the other constants in the background—the slight springiness of the couch when either of them shifted, Lucy’s weight against her side, the amused burst of air when Lucy read something funny on her phone.
Now, her fingers rested motionless against Alex’s neck. A quick glance to the side confirmed Alex’s suspicions. Lucy sat relaxed—chin tucked towards her chest, eyes shut, breath steady but light as she either slept or teetered on the edge of it. She had an uncanny ability to fall asleep in any position in a matter of minutes, something that grad student Alex would have been jealous of.
The sound of the apartment door being unlocked registered in Alex’s mind somewhere. But she knew who it was, so she didn’t look up just yet, wanting to soak up Lucy’s relaxed state for a fraction of a second more. These serene moments still felt precious, even though they were practically living together already. She couldn’t imagine mornings of waking up next to Lucy and Maggie ever getting old.
A half-second later, Lucy picked her head up at the noise from the lock. “Is that—?”
The door swung open.
Given that Maggie had gotten held up at work even longer than usual because of an arrest, Alex expected her to shuffle in. Maggie’s usual routine after a particularly exhausting day started off by collapsing on the couch and requesting to watch something they had already seen on the TV. She’d bury her face in Lucy or Alex’s neck and just listen while they stroked her hair, or they’d talk with the noise soft in the background.
To Alex’s surprise, Maggie practically bounced over to the couch and immediately stooped down to kiss Lucy and Alex.
Alex couldn’t help but grin back up at Maggie, her excitement infectious. “Hey, looks like you had an especially good day. Exciting case?”
Maggie shook her head but brightened even more. “You know how we were talking about taking a trip all together if we could find the time off?”
“You got it?” Lucy perked up too, leaning forward on the couch. The idea of a trip had been in the works for a while, but coordinating a time hadn’t worked so far.
“A whole four days plus the weekend!” Both dimples popped, showing off the smile that Alex loved to see. (Sunshine, indeed. Maggie had claimed that orange shirt for pajamas and even if it wasn’t Alex’s color, she couldn’t be happier waking up to the sight of Maggie in it.)
“That’s amazing!” Lucy pulled Maggie down onto the couch and slung an arm around her, Maggie easily settling into her side.
“This is perfect,” Alex agreed. “We were going to offer you a relaxing night of cuddles, but if you want to start planning, we can do that instead.”
“How about both?”
“Mm, both sounds good.”
They had planned the perfect trip. One that had left Alex so excited to board a plane and take time off that J’onn had pulled her aside to ask why she was so distracted at work.
So everything should have been perfect.
And it would have been, if not for the way that things were not going according to plan.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Alex stared down at her phone resting in her lap as she read over the flight status again. The words cancelled and delayed were still there. Mocking her.
Maggie leaned into her shoulder, looking over at Alex’s phone to see what had caused her mood to tank. “Damn. That’s short notice… At least they told us before we boarded, so we’re not stuck on the tarmac?”
“What’s going on?” Lucy leaned across Maggie to catch a glimpse of Alex’s phone. “Oh. Well don’t speak too soon. You never know what might happen given our track record.”
Alex dropped her head down with a groan. “I’m sorry. This—I was being stupid, booking a flight with a layover. Now we’re going to be stranded here for over twice as long as we thought. I’m sorry.”
The start to this trip had been good, too. Getting through security was only a mild annoyance and they had even managed to get seats next to each other on the flights. The first one had gone smoothly, no crying babies or passengers causing a scene. (No engines on fire.)
(Alex had still jumped at the patches of turbulence they hit. She wasn’t scared… just, it was nice to have Maggie and Lucy’s hands in hers after they noticed.)
(She always wanted to hold them, anyway.)
But now, not only was their connecting flight cancelled, their new one was delayed by hours.
“Hey, it’s fine. This isn’t your fault,” Lucy assured, leaning forward and seeking out Alex’s eyes. “There’s nothing for you to apologize for.”
Which Alex knew. And Lucy and Maggie knew she knew. But they also knew that it was the whole flying situation that was throwing Alex off, just enough to leave her slightly on edge.
“We all agreed that this itinerary was the best option. And as amazing as you are,” Maggie nudged Alex when she scoffed. “I mean it. But you still can’t predict when flights are going to be cancelled or delayed. It’s fine, really. Yeah, we’ll get there a little later than we expected, but if I had to choose who to spend an extra long layover with, you two would be at the top of my list.”
“I hope we’d be at the top.” Alex huffed it out but nudged Maggie back with a smile.
Maggie grinned and continued, “So, this leaves us with most of the day to kill. We could hang out here, sitting in this crowded airport sampling the best that it has to offer…” Maggie trailed off, squinting skeptically past the stream of bustling people towards a couple of restaurants and stores.
“It’s actually pretty decent, as far as airport food and entertainment goes,” Lucy said. Alex did have to agree—in terms of airports to be stuck at, it could certainly be worse.
“There is the brachiosaurus here we read about,” Maggie said with the casualness of someone who had immediately been intrigued by a fossil at an airport, only to be dismayed when she learned it was a full cast of the actual bones. “Or, maybe we could head into Chicago. It’s close, right?”
Alex nodded. That… that was a really good idea. “I actually have ideas for what we could do,” Alex offered. It was something she could do to make this delay better, hopefully.
“Oh, I didn’t realize you knew the city.” Maggie looked at her, surprised and interested. “Have you mentioned that before?”
“Uh, I don’t usually bring it up,” Alex shrugged. “My grandparents lived in Chicago, so I’d go there sometimes as a kid. They were pretty short trips though, so I don’t really know the city well. But I know some places that you’d probably like, if you’re interested?”
“Getting to spend time together in a different city, plus personalized recommendations from you? Sounds like a perfect vacation.”
“Trip to Chicago it is,” Lucy grinned. “Let’s find a place to lock up our bags and head out.”
Once their bags were safely stored, Alex led them to the Blue Line train stop that would take them into the city.
“So, what did you have in mind?” Lucy asked Alex while they waited on the platform.
“There’s a natural history museum I was thinking about.” Alex had a feeling they’d enjoy it. Maggie could spew random animal facts and Lucy could do the same for history whenever the topics came up, and Alex always loved every second of listening to them.
So unsurprisingly, Alex got two eager affirmatives.
“Oh, and I don’t suppose you’re interested in some actual fossils?”
“You know, I went here once as a kid. I forgot how pretty it is,” Lucy mused as they walked through the main entrance of the Field Museum. The building itself looked a bit like a Greek or Roman temple, white marble giving the interior of the main hall a bright glow. As they stepped further inside, the room opened up with a two-story ceiling. Columns with curly tops flanked the sides of the first floor and elegant arches were visible on the second. The high ceiling also made space to display some taller objects in the museum’s collection, like a pair of elephants and a dinosaur fossil that Maggie was making a beeline for.
“Really? When were you here?” Alex asked as they both watched Maggie crane her head back to take in the massive fossil.
“I went when I moved to Illinois for a couple of years. We lived pretty far away from Chicago, so we just visited during the move. I was too young to remember a lot, but I don’t think this was here when I went.” Lucy gestured at the dinosaur and stepped back to get a better look at the entire thing. “This is huge.”
“Yeah, I don’t remember this either.” Alex walked around the fossil towering over her to read the info placard. “Check this out. At 28 ft tall and 112 ft long, it’s not just big—it’s the largest dinosaur that scientists have discovered.”
“Woah.” Maggie slowly walked around it, gazing up with a subtle look of awe.
Alex couldn’t help but pull out her phone to take a picture of her and Lucy.
“If you’re going to show us that and say how short we look, you should know that you’re dwarfed by this too, especially if it’s the biggest dinosaur,” Lucy warned.
Alex laughed. “I wasn’t going to say anything!”
Lucy’s skeptical look was well deserved.
They continued to explore the museum, looking at the animal dioramas, a plant exhibit, several anthropology exhibits, and the Hall of Gems.
(Alex asked what their favorite gemstones were purely because she was always interested in knowing what they liked. Not for any other reason where that info might come in handy.)
(Okay, she was storing that information for later. Later. Because among other conversations, there was the whole topic of legal marriage and if they even wanted that. But Alex could feel it, could feel that these were people who she would want to commit herself to eventually. And in a lot of ways, she already had.)
Just before they exited the exhibit, Alex’s phone buzzed. She checked the screen—a flight status notification.
She prepared for the worst.
The frustrated growl that came out of her mouth after reading it was probably a little too loud for a museum, if the heads turning towards her were any indication.
“You okay?” Lucy stepped up next to her, placing her hand on Alex’s back.
“Yeah, I just,” Alex sighed and showed the flight announcement to Lucy and Maggie. “We’ll need to spend the night.”
Maggie snorted quietly at their misfortune. “Just our luck, huh?” She smiled wryly. “Well, not that I’ve seen much of it, but this city has been growing on me anyway. And either way, it’s time we get to spend together.”
They took a seat on the bench outside the exhibit while they found a hotel to stay in. It took less time than Alex was expecting and soon they had a room booked.
And now that she was on her phone, she noticed just how late in the afternoon it was getting. “The museum is going to close soon, by the way.”
Lucy pulled out the museum map, checking if there was anything they hadn’t seen that they wanted to. “Wow, we hit on everything we marked.”
“We’ve been here a while.” Maggie said as she looked over it too. “I’m actually feeling a little hungry now, if you want to start thinking about dinner.”
“Yeah. Are you guys in the mood for anything?” Alex asked.
“Deep-dish is a Chicago thing, right?”
“True, and if it’s pizza you’re in the mood for, I know a place nearby,” Alex suggested. “I assume it’s still around. I can’t remember if it has deep dish, but I can vouch for their thin-crust. That’s really the signature pizza of Chicago, I feel.”
Luckily, Aurelio’s Pizza was still open, and pretty much as Alex remembered. They sat down at a table, Alex opposite Maggie and Lucy.
Lucy glanced down at the menu briefly, eyes zoning in on the toppings they offered. “So how do you know this place?”
Alex looked over her own menu too, even though she had a good idea of what to order. “My grandparents took me here once after going to the Field Museum, and I liked it so much that it just became a thing, I guess.”
“Sounds like you had fun with them,” Maggie smiled softly.
“Yeah,” Alex said a little wistfully as she glanced off to the side, remembering. “I mean, my memory is a little fuzzy, to be honest. They passed away before Kara got here, so I was pretty young. But I enjoyed visiting them and they always took me to fun places.”
(A small part of Alex was almost grateful that Kara arrived when she did, in relation to that. The thought of Kara gaining that family only to lose it later was a painful one. Kara had lost too much already.)
(But they both knew that there was so much to be gained with having family. Lucy and Maggie had carved out places in Alex’s heart and she couldn’t imagine giving that up, even with the fear that came with losing them. And Kara had already started seeing Lucy and Maggie as family, too. The knowledge that they were among the heartbeats she instinctively checked for now had been touching for all of them.)
“I’d love to hear those stories, if you want to share,” Maggie offered, with Lucy nodding in agreement.
“That would be nice,” Alex smiled back, wondering when it became this easy to want to talk to them about herself, even the parts that seemed less interesting. It was nice. “But pizza first? Let me guess, you two want mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.” At the end of the day, they were predictable with their pizza even though they were willing to branch out to other toppings.
“And you’re going to get sausage and green pepper?”
“That is my go-to order,” Alex acknowledged. They had memorized that after the first time she ordered a slice for herself. “But I figured we’d just get a large pizza and split it. Sausage and green pepper was what I always got here as a kid, but I might as well change things up a bit.” (And privately, maybe they were winning her over on the toppings, too.)
Before long, one large pizza was placed on the table.
Maggie squinted at it. “Tell me what I’m looking at here.”
“Thin crust with your favorite toppings?” Alex furrowed her eyebrows as she examined the pizza for herself. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. Unless Maggie was detecting something invisible to her.
“No, I mean why am I looking at these… squares?” Maggie carefully picked up an edge piece by a thin sliver of crust poking out under the cheese.
“Oh!” Right, the square-cut thin crust pizza was something she had only noticed when in Chicago, though it was apparently found in the surrounding areas as well. “It’s called tavern-style? It’s just commonly cut like that in Chicago. I guess I never really thought about why.”
Maggie took a bite. The crust made an audible, satisfying crunch.
“So, what do you think?”
Maggie hummed, contemplating as she took another bite.
“I like it,” Lucy answered after tasting it. “I definitely remember having this as a kid. School pizza parties, mostly.”
“This is good,” Maggie agreed once she finished chewing. “But I gotta say, the squares are still throwing me off. You end up with three different types of pieces!”
Alex snorted at her indignation. She leaned back in her seat with a raised eyebrow. “Didn’t you say you used to not like crusts? You should like how this lets you just eat the middle parts.” Alex grabbed a slice for herself. She bit into and yup, just as good as she remembered. Thin, crispy crust and an abundance of cheese.
“That was when I was a kid, and I still ate them. Which is better than you not even touching pizza with sun-dried tomatoes on it.” Maggie retorted.
“I maintain that they have no place on a good pizza. And yes, I know that pizza has tomato sauce on it, but the sun-dried tomatoes taste different and weird.” Alex grimaced at the thought.
Maggie rolled her eyes, looking amused at Alex’s persistent stance on the topic. (Alex had no intention of budging. She was right.) “Anyway, what do you think, Luce? Square slices or triangle slices?”
“I mean, this makes your fingers get greasier… I don’t know, Alex.”
“Lucy!” Alex shot her a mock betrayed glare. “You lived here for a couple years! You should be on my side!”
“Okay, I am really enjoying this pizza, square slices and all,” Lucy admitted, reaching for more.
Maggie kicked her under the table.
Lucy laughed. “Don’t worry, I still think that Danvers is wrong about sun-dried tomatoes.”
Once they ate their fill, they started heading out. Alex had one last thing to show them and then they’d get their bags and head to the hotel.
Maggie stopped short of the exit. “Hey Alex, have you ever been to this place?” She nodded at a flyer next to the door.
Alex stopped to look. “The National Museum of Mexican Art. The largest Mexican art collection in the US,” she read out loud. “Woah. I haven’t. I’ve really only been to the more science-oriented museums here, now that I think about it.”
“Sounds like a good plan for tomorrow.” Lucy said.
“I’d definitely be interested in that, but you should pick something you want to do tomorrow, Luce.” Maggie suggested.
“Alright. We should have time to do two things anyway, so I guess this kinda worked out, huh?”
“I guess it kind of did,” Alex agreed as they walked out.
Outside, the sunlight reflecting off of the high-rise buildings was slowly fading. Cars, streetlights, and bright windows threw off light as they walked.
“So, what’s the last thing you’ve got in store for us, Danvers?” Maggie brushed against Alex’s arm, threading hers through Alex’s.
“Well, we’re right near Millennium Park, so I figured we’d stop there quickly, now that we have the time.” The park had a mix of greenery and public art installations and would be a nice way to end the day.
After riding the bus for a few stops and then walking for a block, they made it to the park.
They walked by the Crown Fountain first, the two 50-ft tall rectangles covered in LEDs that displayed videos. At Lucy and Maggie’s insistence, Alex recounted how she used to play in the water when she was a kid and splash unsuspecting strangers.
Past the fountain stood The Bean. Its actual name was Cloud Gate, Alex explained, but the sculpture was shaped like a giant bean, earning it that nickname.
Lucy sped up at the sight of it, apparently interested in that sloping sculpture in particular.
Lucy dragged them up to the steps leading to it. She and Maggie wandered under it while Alex circled around the outside, looking at the distorted buildings and amber city lights reflecting off the metal surface. This wasn’t what Alex planned, but it was nice to be back in the city, even nicer to get to see it with her girlfriends while sharing random facts and memories.
“You know, someone once stuck a dildo onto this,” Lucy said conversationally, once Alex walked underneath the curve of it.
Alex snorted. “Do I want to know why you know that?” She was glad that no one else was within earshot.
“Hey, I was looking The Bean up on the bus and that just came up,” Lucy said. Alex imagined that her hands might have been raised if she wasn’t trailing her fingers along the metal. “There apparently was a whole event on Facebook dedicated to people sticking dildos on it. No idea if it actually happened though.”
“Don’t tell me—”
Somewhere behind her, Maggie laughed. “Don’t worry, Danvers.” Her arms wrapped around Alex from behind and her chin came up to rest on Alex’s shoulder. “I’ll make sure Lane won’t sacrifice your favorite to decorating this hunk of metal,” Maggie whispered.
(Which wasn’t even possible, since Alex was never going to let the TSA scan her bag and find that.)
(And she wasn’t going to risk it when Maggie and Lucy were all she needed anyway.)
Alex huffed but relaxed into Maggie. “You two are unbelievable.”
“And you love us.” Lucy turned towards them with a smile, giving Maggie and then Alex a kiss. “Come check this out.”
Maggie leaned into Alex, walking them forward slowly with her arms still loose around Alex’s torso.
Lucy faced the metal again, tracing her finger along it. The surface was foggy with a thin layer of condensation, allowing her to write on it.
One swoop with her finger.
Maggie covered Alex’s eyes.
“What are you—”
“It’s a surprise, Danvers.”
A beat as Lucy continued to draw for a moment, Maggie’s amused hum in Alex’s ear.
Maggie dropped her hands. She circled around to stand by Alex’s side.
“Well?” Lucy stepped back from her drawing.
Alex took one look and couldn’t hold back the smile that burst onto her face. “A bit cliché, Lane?” she said, but warmth bloomed in her chest.
“You love it,” Lucy grinned, knowing that Alex did. Had done it (and apparently planned it with Maggie) since she knew Alex would.
It was something Alex had mentioned once during a movie, a lighter romcom that they decided to put on for fun. The whole carving your initials into a tree thing. It was a childhood fantasy—Alex had known it was a little silly, a little cliché, probably not nearly as romantic as an adult.
But she felt like she had just… missed out on all those experiences. And there were so many emotional milestones she was experiencing late.
That spark of something indescribable. Kissing and enjoying it so much that she would kiss Lucy and Maggie senseless. Smiling uncontrollably since the thought of them just made her so damn happy.
Feeling so hopelessly in love.
So while there was a part of Alex that was chiding herself, saying that the sight of a heart and three initials didn’t warrant this kind of ridiculous joy in her chest, there was a louder part that was making her fall even more impossibly in love with these two people that had already captured her heart.
(And by the looks on their faces, she was sure that Lucy and Maggie felt the same.)
“Since no trees have been harmed in the making of this, it’s going to disappear, unfortunately. So,” Lucy pulled out her phone and handed it to Alex.
(Lucy’s phone had the best camera. And Alex, with the longest arms, had immediately become the designated selfie taker.)
(She had felt self-conscious about it before. It seemed weird, like a self-centered thing to do. Now, she’d find herself automatically opening up her camera app since she wanted to preserve every moment with them.)
Alex held Lucy’s phone up and took a photo.
Then took another one when they noticed that Lucy had her eyes closed.
And once they got back from their actual planned vacation (which continued without any additional unforeseen problems, to Alex’s relief), they printed out the photos taken during the trip. They compiled them into a scrapbook, save for the heart one.
That one sat framed on the fireplace.
They all agreed that it was the best part of their vacation.