Ring in hand, heart on sleeve, Alex asks.
Maggie says, “No.”
It’s carefully phrased to make it seem like ‘not now but maybe later’, to keep it open ended and offer some promise of a future, but Alex has been through enough to see the echoes of ‘never’ in dark eyes. It leaves her well aware it’s not likely to turn to ‘yes’ at any point in the future, but even knowing she has little chance, she clings to a vague hope that what they have will stretch on as a long ‘maybe’.
‘Maybe’ only lasts two months.
Because ‘never’ becomes reality when a striking redhead strides into the bar and Maggie can’t look anywhere else. Alex isn’t surprised when, three days later, Maggie follows the redhead to Gotham. She knows she never really had a chance.
In the aftermath, Alex resolves not to hold it against any other Kates she meets in the future, though she’s far from confident she can manage the trick.
And when Kara finds a way to bring back Mon El (whom Alex has taken to thinking of as mono because he feels so much like a disease suffered by high schoolers who’ve kissed the wrong partners), it only gets worse. Not only does she not have her sister around to commiserate, but when she is around, her emotional mood swings —a constantly moving pendulum that hits joy at one apex and sheer fury over his behavior at the other—are exhausting.
Then a few days later ‘mono’ waits until Kara’s out of the room before helpfully suggesting a threesome to get over her problems with a chortling, “I could use a little variety and it’s not like you’re real sisters.”
When she realizes she has no idea what Kara will do if she tells her, but suspects the answer isn’t kick him to the curb, she decides it’s time to take a break.
And get really, really drunk in a bar no one she knows has ever even heard of, then stay drunk for several days before going back and claiming flu.
Really, she just needs to get the hell away from them all.
She leaves a text for Kara, a voice mail for J’onn, and personally lets Vasquez know she’ll be out for a few days and not to bother her unless it’s an emergency. The lieutenant is wise enough to simply nod and say, “Take care of yourself.”
Alex grunts something appropriate and hurries out.
She drives for long while, losing herself in the concentration required to navigate busy streets and freeways before she finds a place that looks depressing enough to meet her needs. It’s called Herbie’s. A local dive a couple of municipalities over, it’s neither gay nor straight mostly because the odds of getting laid by going there are very close to zero. It’s a place to go, drink heavily, be grumpy and morose and most importantly, left alone.
There’s even an ancient Motel Six next door where she can walk without effort if she’s even slightly ambulatory, so she needn’t go home.
In short, it’s exactly what Alex needs.
A few people glance over when she walks in, but nobody pays any attention. She takes a booth, orders a bottle of something cheap and strong and begins with a shot. The rotgut is rough enough that she has to start gingerly to keep it from coming back up. Not quite the two-fisted drink-till-you-drop event she planned on, but it gets easier with each sip. She's well into a second shot of painfully bad liquor before noticing the blonde at the bar.
Much like Alex, her body language broadcasts a clear fuck-off. It’s a message apparently even the least sober denizens of Herbie’s can see because they all hang back.
Alex holds up a silent toast to whatever mojo blondie puts out because she’s taken up a post right in front of the bar and has a really nice ass. Even at a place like Herbie’s that would usually merit a bit of drunken interest, but nobody gets closer than five feet except the bartender and even she remains at arm’s length. She finds it kinda hot. Which is oddly comforting. Having gone most of her life without much in the way of sexual impulses, she’s been worried it would be a long time before she felt that way again, that maybe she’s not so much a lesbian as Maggie-sexual.
So it’s nice to appreciate a really nice ass and see the appeal of the blonde—of someone who looks nothing like her ex.
She even has a momentary fantasy of wandering over, playing it James Bond cool, and making a play, even if she knows in her heart that James Bond cool is not really her style, at least not in a place like Herbie’s with a hot blonde in full fuck-offery.
Maybe if they had an alien invasion and she could play hero she could do it, particularly if she got to kick someone’s ass. She’s pretty good at the asskicking thing. She tips her head to one side, silently contemplating the blonde’s ass where it’s parked on the barstool. Mind you, she’s learned a few other uses for that part of the anatomy.
She enjoys a moment of pleasant contemplation even as she knows she’s not going to make a move, because while she’s brave, it’s a different flavor of courage. Maybe if somebody tried to spirit the blonde away to some alien world, then she could do something.
That thought running through her head, she pours herself a fresh drink, takes a sip and cringes. It’s not good. There are smoother brands of kerosene. Then again, the self abuse of bad liquor is part of the experience she supposes.
She’s about halfway through a shot glass when one of the denizens of Herbie’s works up his courage enough to make his move on the hot blonde. He’s wavering on his feet, and Alex is pretty sure he hasn’t been sober in years. She can’t hear what either of them says, but the rejection is clearly a mean one because he stumbles back a pace, and she hears his muttered exit line.
“Dyke.” It’s said with enough venom that the spittle flies.
His hands curl into fists and it suddenly occurs to Alex that the blonde’s nice ass is attached to a slender, almost delicate figure unlikely to withstand blows well.
She’s on her feet before she can think better of it, a curious mix of rage and hurt coiling in the pit of her belly, combat instincts triggered to the point where she’d cheerfully beat the crap out of him. She may be new to the whole gay thing, but she’s never liked those kinds of insults much, even when she didn’t realize they applied to her.
The idea of a little frontier-style justice appeals even if her opponents looks likely to go down with one blow. The only question is whether or not he’ll cry for his mommy when he does. The over-under says yes.
So when another denizen of Herbie’s finds his feet, this time a man mountain of sheer muscle, Alex is almost happy. This guy will be a challenge.
She’s already moving when he reaches out.
And unexpectedly grabs the rude asshat by the collar.
“Dude,” the man mountain growls and shakes the drunk “Apologize.”
Alex skids to a halt a pace or two behind and to one side of the blonde, braced for combat, but pulled up short by the way Man-Mountain ducks his head politely. That is not a man readying himself for enough down home, homophobia, sexism and overall misogyny to earn a beating.
“Sorry, Miss, he gets stupid when he’s drunk.” Man-Mountain glares at the drunk and shakes him again. “Herbie’s is proud to be gay friendly as well as a safe space for single women to get a drink without harassment.”
Alex freezes, every clever rejoinder she had in her head instantly gone. What does one say when a dive like Herbie’s goes politically correct?
Then he shakes the asshat again. “Now, apologize, Myron.”
Alex sags. Well, hell. She can’t pound on somebody if he’s going to be like that.
Meanwhile, Myron’s casting nervous glances around. “Sorry, Ma’am,” he says, a bit of a slur to his words. He glances back at Man-Mountain, clearly hoping for forgiveness.
That’s just... It’s entirely socially acceptable to her. She literally has no complaint. Disappointed, she heaves a sigh.
The blonde seems to have somewhat the same response, because she’s just staring at the two men, her head tipped to one side, shoulders sagging.
Alex recognizes the body language of disappointment.
Then Man-Mountain nods to both women. “Feel free to let me know if anyone gives you trouble. We don’t really have a bouncer here—it’s a pretty chill crowd—but I step in if anybody gets out of hand.”
Alex doesn’t know what to do so she just mumbles, “Thanks.”
The blonde pivots back to the bar, slaps several bills on the counter and snaps at the bartender, “Leave the bottle.”
Alex stares, amazed by the size of the denomination of the top bill and very curious as to what this bar might carry that would merit that price. As far as she can tell, it’s more than the rest of the entire stock is worth. She’s so focused on the money that it takes her several extra beats to realize she knows that voice.
“And we need another glass,” blondie adds. It appears almost instantly and she’s filling both shot glasses while Alex is still struggling to place that voice. She pushes the shot glass into place in front of the neighboring stool.
That’s when Alex realizes who the blonde is.
Alex freezes, uncertain what she’s supposed to do now. She’s never actually spoken to the woman. Even though they’ve fought together, risked their lives together, and nearly died together, Kara’s need to keep the two sides of her life separate meant they were stuck doing a strange pas de deux wherein they inhabited the same space, but carefully didn’t acknowledge each other’s existences. It's easier than trying to figure what they can and can't acknowledge knowing.
Being Kara’s support system gets very strange some days.
“Oh, do sit down and have a drink, Agent Scully,” Cat drawls with a fine edge of sarcasm. She pivots on her stool, and tips her head to one side, peering first at Alex, then past her at the booth where her bottle of cheap liquor still stands. “A drink worth having,” she adds, “As opposed to that swill I wouldn’t use in a generator.”
Alex remains frozen.
“Sit,” Cat barks.
And Cat spins back around, elbows braced on the bar as she retrieves her drink and throws it back. “If you’re going to drink, you should at least indulge a bit and have quality.”
“Never occurred to me quality would be available in this place,” Alex admits.
“Danica always keeps a bottle of Teeling on hand for me.”
“Never heard of it,” Alex admits.
“It’s five hundred a bottle.” Cat pours herself a fresh two fingers and throws them back, then winces and hisses. “This is not meant for sipping. It’s meant to be thrown back without risking your vocal cords or having it come back up.” She points at Alex’s glass. “Drink.”
Alex thinks about it a moment and follows suit. It hurts, but not like the rotgut. She can chug this and not hurl. She’s barely set the glass back down when it’s refilled. As she drinks again, it occurs to her that Cat’s words mean she’s been here before enough to keep a bottle on reserve.
“You’re a regular?” she asks without thinking. “Here?”
Cat’s head is back down and she’s staring at her drink with focused intensity. “Only after divorces and broken hearts,” she mumbles and blinks at the same time she twitches her head sharply as if to throw off tears.
As far as Alex knows Kara’s boss hasn’t had any recent marriages or divorces, so...
“Sorry,” she mumbles. “I...” She’s tempted to confess her own broken heart in this odd, anonymous-but-not situation, but somehow the words won’t come. Breaking down into messy sobs in front of Cat Grant seems much too dangerous. Kara’s quoted way too many of the woman’s one-liners to take that risk. “Sorry,” she says again.
Cat shrugs. “I was...” She doesn’t finish, just trails into silence with a soft sigh, then kicks back another tumbler, momentarily flinching before she shakes it off and visibly squares her shoulders. “I’m fine.”
Which is the least believable claim Alex has heard in a long time, but she’s not going to call Cat Grant a liar, so she shrugs and drinks. “So...who?” she asks after she’s had enough alcohol to dent her better instincts.
A moment passes, then Cat glances over and her brows draw into a frown. “Did she send you to check up on me?” she asks, hazel eyes narrowing dangerously.
No need to ask who ‘she’ is, but the question confuses Alex all the same, so it takes her an extra beat to process. Of course, Kara would know what was going on. She knew everything about Cat’s life, and looked after her every need. “No...believe me, she has no idea I’m—”
“Please,” Cat snaps. “Are you really trying to tell me you just happened to talk into Herbie’s?” She snorts softly and pours herself a fresh tumbler, though she doesn’t immediately drink this time. “Right when Kara knows I’m likely here and feeling...depressed?”
“Really? That’s your argument?” Alex rolls her eyes, shaking her head at the drama queen self centered antics. “You and I have never even spoken before, so why would she send me instead of coming herself?” Alex regrets the question almost instantly because she sees her answer in the anguish that flares in Cat’s eyes.
In an instant, one reason occurs. Kara studiously avoided James after dumping him and still isn’t comfortable in his company.
And Mono’s out of the infirmary and unavoidably back.
“Get out,” Cat hisses under her breath and turns back to her drink.
“I’m so—” Alex says very softly, a wealth of understanding in her voice.
“Get. Out.” Cat’s voice is softer this time, but hurt and rage are threaded through those two words in a way that leaves Alex quaking.
“Tell her I’m fine...hardly falling apart over one painfully virginal, close-mouthed kiss, and she needn’t worry that I’ll out her in any fashion.”
Given that Cat Grant could out someone in a dozen languages and on every major continent in the world, Antarctica included, not to mention a major TV news network, the internet and probably to God himself, Alex’s stomach rolls with a flurry of nausea. If J’onn knew he might just insist on locking her up until he’s confident she's calmed down. From what Alex knows of Cat’s personality, calming down is the last thing that will ensue if that happens.
She has no idea what to do.
“Just go.” The anger and hurt are still there, but this time they’re tempered by a desperate note of pleading. “Please...just tell her I’m fine.”
In an instant Alex realizes that Cat Grant is in love with Kara, desperately, hopelessly, I’ll-die-for-you in love, and it’s been there all along, in every bit of support and advice and mentoring. Hell, she forgave getting tossed from the fortieth story of the CatCo building without even docking her a day’s pay.
If that’s not love, Alex isn’t sure what is.
Alex wets suddenly dry lips and suddenly realizes she’s found her feet somewhere along the way and is now standing next to her stool. “I...” It’s not a great beginning. “She didn’t send me,” she says at last, uncertain whether that’s a kindness or not since it might just make the pain worse to hear that Kara didn’t think of her as far as Alex knows. “I’m here because I...” She pauses as the sentence in her head refuses to come out. “For the same reason you are,” she says after a beat. “Met someone and...let’s just say it didn’t work out.”
Cat’s response is an acid tinged snort that says an enormous amount for such a tiny sound. “Not really interested in your sad tale of woe over whatever pretty boy you met at a bar last week. Trust me, sex will come again.”
The dismissive note leaves Alex wanting to grab the other woman and shake her like Man-Mountain shook Myron. “Funny that, since I never came before,” Alex sneers, the words unintentionally self-lacerating enough to literally make her wince. “See, I just assumed I didn’t care about it because I’m not wired that way, then I realized I actually was...for women...or maybe just one woman, but...” She chokes for a halt for a moment, incredibly aware that she’s confessing all of this to Cat Grant’s stiff back. The woman doesn’t even give enough of a shit to turn and look at her like a real human being. Which is probably why she finishes off with, “I guess the fact she ran off to Gotham with her ex when I asker her to marry me was an answer.”
“Not good enough,” Cat exhales almost inaudibly.
Alex erupts. “Fuck you!” She sees Cat’s shoulders tremble just a little and it feels good enough that she’s drawing breath to unleash another round of insults when Cat swivels the stool around.
“All right,” Cat drawls, leaning back against the bar as she peers up at Alex.
It takes Alex an extra second to parse the meaning, and when she does, her jaw drops. Frozen, she can only stand and stare and wait for the punchline.
Because that one oughta be a doozy.
Then Cat pushes to her feet, her body sleek, her movements far too sinuous for a woman who must be at least six sheets to the wind. A feline smile twists her lips as she deliberately steps into Alex’s space. “So, you wanna fuck?” she murmurs, her voice soft and wicked and dangerously inviting.
Despite a flicker of temptation, Alex stares at the other woman like she’s lost her mind, which seems like a distinct possibility. “Are you insane?”
Cat laughs softly, wavering gently on her feet. “Probably,” she admits, her slight unsteadiness taking her deeper into Alex’s space. Their torsos just barely brush and she reaches up, curling long fingers into Alex’s collar to drag her head down enough to whisper in her ear. “But you look like a woman who could use a night of crazy.”
Alex is appalled to feel her pulse accelerate and her insides quiver. Cat’s still clinging to her collar as she reaches over and retrieves the scotch from the bar, peering momentarily at the label before looking back up at Alex. “Do you know what good scotch feels like sliding over your skin?” she asks, so close her breath teases Alex’s ear. “It’s cold and stings a little...and when someone’s tongue, warm and just a little rough, licks it up...” She pauses for effect, then drawls very softly. “Well, let’s just say it’s pleasant.”
“I thought I wasn’t good enough,” Alex reminds herself as much as Cat in an effort to shore up her sanity as well as her resistance. As they stand there, Cat Grant is steadily leaning more firmly into her body and she can feel the press of small, taut breasts and pleasantly firm curves.
And they feel really nice, almost nice enough that she barely registers Cat’s soft sigh.
“That wasn’t for you.” A subtle tinge of hurt echoes momentarily in her voice before it fades away again. She doesn’t give Alex time to think about that confession, instead the tip of her tongue teases the outer curve of Alex’s ear, then she whispers, “I promise you, I’ll do my best to prove you are wired that way.”
Alex swallows hard, her breathing suddenly ragged. “Why?” she whispers. None of this makes any sense and Alex has always been a woman to seek logic.
Cat pauses, arching back enough to peer into Alex’s eyes. A wry twist of a smile torques her mouth. Releasing Alex’s collar, she trails her fingers along her cheek. “You look nothing like her.”
A hint of a frown creases Alex’s brow. Maybe it’s just drunken logic, but in the moment, she understands the argument. Cat looks nothing like Maggie, and right now, that’s the most appealing thing about her.
It occurs to her that they're still in a public bar and everyone is not watching with such studious care that she knows they’re all watching. Then suddenly, before she can contemplate their audience too seriously, Cat’s lips are on hers, soft and warm and tasting of expensive alcohol. The kiss doesn’t last long and when it breaks, Alex can barely breathe, much less think.
“So,” Cat exhales, “wanna fuck?”
Alex barely has a chance to nod before Cat regain a tight grip on her collar and drags her out.
* * * * * *