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You Took My Heart On A One-Way Trip

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The first time Maggie goes into the bar is the first time she sees Alex Danvers.

She’s barely been in National City for a week, and she’s still trying to find her footing, to settle into this place as her new normal.

It’s been a little difficult to do, given that she started work the day after she’d arrived in the city. So far, she wasn’t left with much time to do anything beyond unpacking the boxes in her apartment at the end of the day.

She’s feeling good, though, with the relocation. Better than she’s felt in a couple of months, at least. Better than she’s felt since the end of her relationship with Kate, which had been the instigator for her application to transfer in the first place.

Their breakup had been messy and painful and not even a surprise by the end of it all, which somehow had made it even worse. But Kate had really been her only deep personal connection tying her to Gotham – save for a very few friends she had from the force, none of whom were really all that close. Not close enough for her to feel motivated to stay.

It had seemed like perfect timing; she’d felt restless and in need of a change – of something –and then a lateral position had opened up in the police department here.

This new place is something Maggie sees as a new challenge to face, and she’s up for it.

She’d lived in Blue Springs with her parents, then Lincoln with her aunt. Gone to college in Metropolis, and immediately after had moved to Gotham. She’s no stranger to moving to new places, to being alone and trying to carve her own way.

She’s been looking for somewhere that’s felt like home for almost all of her life, and National City is where she is currently hedging her bets.

Flores, her new partner, convinces her into going out with “the squad” – and really, it’s just smart for her to join them, anyway, when these are the people who she needs to depend on to have her back on the job. And she goes to the hole in the wall bar down by the university with her coworkers, not necessarily because she wants to hang out with them, but because she needs to start finding something to hold onto in this new city.

She goes without any expectations that first night, beyond getting a feel for who she’s working with.

But what she finds is that the bar isn’t some sort of college-kid infested hangout like she’d somewhat feared, but an actual dive bar. Graffiti on the outside walls, located in a back alley, the interior clean but worn. It has a truly exceptional liquor display on the back wall that makes Maggie grin when she sees it as she steps inside.

And it has her.

She doesn’t know it at the time, but that first sight of Alex Danvers will be seared into her memory.

Her hair is wavy, long, and falling down her back, and Maggie wonders if it’s a trick of the dim lighting that makes her hair appear to have an auburn tint. Her cheekbones are high and sharp, eyes measuring and dark, and she’s wearing a plain, fitted black shirt with her sleeves pushed up to the elbow.

She’s gorgeous in a way that Maggie can’t ignore, in a way that has her pausing as her stomach dips low in an immediate reaction that isn’t common for her. At least, it hadn’t happened in a long while.

And she catches the woman’s eyes for a few halted moments… before the woman drops her gaze with a crinkle between her eyebrows, looking deeply into her glass.

She tilts her head, still staring, as Flores nudges her slightly, directing her to a booth in the back of the bar, “Hey, Sawyer, we’re back there.”

The woman is beautiful, that’s for sure, but that’s not really why Maggie can’t resist looking up to where the brunette is sitting throughout the evening.

It’s because of the way she sits there, slowly sipping on something Maggie deduces to be brandy and making it look so appealing in the slow, savoring way she sips, that she’s influenced to order one herself. It’s because of the way the woman looks so serious, so thoughtful sitting there, looking down with a slight frown at that something laying on the bar in front of her that Maggie can’t quite see from where she’s sitting.

She’s gone long before Maggie is, though, and she’s unexpectedly disappointed by that.

At the end of the night, Maggie’s still a bit on the fence about her coworkers but she had a good time – and she really likes this bar.

The liquor is good and cheap and the atmosphere has her feeling comfortable and more relaxed than she usually is the first time she goes somewhere. And, there are apparently stunning women who come in and drink hard liquor like it’s something to appreciate instead of endure.

She leaves knowing that she’ll be back, and somewhat wondering if the brunette at the bar will be, too.

//

She’s on a date when she realizes that she needs to meet the woman she’s been referring to in her mind as Mystery Brunette.

Maggie’s good at dating; she likes dating. She likes the excitement and the rush of getting to know someone new, she likes kissing and touching women, she likes getting used to the gay dating scene in National City with the women who already know the best places to go.

She’s been a pretty avid dater since she was sixteen, despite – or maybe because of, in part –the severe rejection from Eliza Wilke, leading to the… everything with her parents.

So within the first couple of weeks, she finds a routine that works for her. Basically, going out a few times a week, despite her work schedule. She’s been busting her ass because even though she’s only twenty-five, she’d already been making a pretty good name for herself in Gotham. And if she wants to make detective within the next few years – and she does – then she needs to make that name for herself here, too.

Dating has always been a good way for her to acclimate to a new place, though, and a stress reliever if nothing else, and she meets a lot of woman to help her… acclimate.

The more she dates, the less she thinks of some of Kate’s choice words from their break up that had been echoing in her mind for a few months. The highlight reel that includes:

I can’t deal with this. With you.”

and “We’ve been together for over two years and sometimes I still have no fucking idea what you want.”

and, her personal favorite, “I don’t even think you know what you want.”

None of the women really stick around for that long, a couple of weeks at most, but it’s uncomplicated and feels like starting over.

It’s nice.

Whenever it’s up to her to pick a place to bring her dates, she brings them to the bar. She’d been right about the bar that first night – she really, really likes it. And that feeling only gets stronger the more she comes here.

She likes M’gann, the bartender who always remembers her and sometimes snarky but always welcome conversation. She likes the music that plays from old speakers, she likes the steady but understated stream of regulars.

And she really, really likes that the Mystery Brunette from the first night is one of those regulars.

Given that she’s usually on dates when she returns to the bars on her free nights, she wouldn’t say the first thing she looks for is the Mystery Brunette. That would be rude.

But she wouldn’t not say the first thing she looks for is the Mystery Brunette, either.

She can’t help it. Maggie’s intrigued by the woman, maybe more than she should be, more than truly makes sense. But much like every time Maggie has been interested in something or someone in her life, she can’t simply let it go.

Her hair is shorter now, cut to just below her jaw to frame her face perfectly, and it works for her. Really, really well.

Maggie knows now that what she’d had open on the bar in front of her that first night was probably a notebook, because she has one open on most nights that she’s at the bar. She has with her that notebook, a pen, and a pensive expression more often than not.

She sits in that stool in the far corner like she owns it. She talks to M’gann like they’re friends, like she’s been coming here for a while. And she probably has, for all Maggie knows.

She drinks a variety of beverages and always seems to genuinely enjoy them, to savor them. Like she doesn’t just come to a bar to get drunk, but like she just wants to have a drink and think.

Maggie is also pretty sure that Mystery Brunette does a decent amount of looking at her. By she is pretty sure, she means that she knows, because they’ve caught eyes more than once.

And Maggie doesn’t remember the last time she’s felt more interested in someone without ever having spoken to them. She doesn’t think it’s ever happened, actually.

She doesn’t approach her, though, despite her interest, despite the looks. Mystery Brunette carries a distinct air of not-wanting-to-be-bothered that Maggie understands. And respects.

It’s not until she’s at the bar, trying to play darts with her date and doing her best to ignore the ridiculously obnoxious group of guys who she thinks definitely go to NCU over by the pool tables. They’ve been hustling people throughout the night, and are becoming so grating that Maggie has half a mind to pull out her badge and demand they leave even if they haven’t technically broken a law.

She’s this close to doing it when Mystery Brunette slams her notebook closed, a look of irritation on her face so fierce it’s impressive as hell, before she rolls her shoulders and walks to the group of men.

Maggie watches, more interested in this than her date trying to beat her in darts because she hasn’t ever seen Mystery Brunette engage with anyone else in the bar except for M’gann.

“If I win, you leave,” she can hear the woman say, her voice low and serious and it’s the first time Maggie has really heard her speak clearly. She’s never sat close enough to hear her before.

Maybe she shouldn’t be as interested as she is, but her attention is rapt as the men agree to the deal. Soon, Mystery Brunette has re-wracked the balls, she breaks them at the condescending “ladies first” insistence from the men.

And she sinks all of the solids within minutes, never missing a shot, and calls, “Corner pocket,” before she sinks the 8-ball.

Maggie’s smirking without even realizing it, especially as the men actually do leave – disheartened – and she can’t stop watching as Mystery Brunette walks back to the bar, accepting the congratulatory shot M’gann pours for her.

She downs it without a wince, not that Maggie would have expected a wince after seeing the way this woman can drink in the past few months, before she nods a goodbye at M’gann, slides on her leather jacket, grabs her notebook, and walks out.

It’s probably one of the coolest – and hottest, if she’s being honest – fucking things Maggie has ever seen anyone do, and she’s seen a lot.

And her lowkey interest takes a head-first leap into a need to actually know her.

//

The day after she meets Mystery Brunette, who she now knows is Alex, she lingers in the alley outside of the bar, waiting for her to show up to their date.

Or, maybe it’s more of a prelude to a date.

Whatever it is, Maggie is more eager about it than she’s been for any of her hookups and flings that she’s had in the last couple of months. Not that she is putting any expectations on this, necessarily, but Alex has caught her eye for a while now.

It had taken over a week before she’d finally seen the woman again after she’d kicked frat boy ass at pool. But last night, when she’d gone into the bar after a long day – she’d been on a stakeout with Flores, all day long. And while she actually didn’t mind him, spending the entire day locked in a day with a man who loved to talk and hum under his breath… well, it was long – she had been planning on just grabbing a quick beer.

Lo and behold, Mystery Brunette had been back, already sipping on a beer, and didn’t have a book or a notebook in sight. She doesn’t believe in fate or destiny, but that was a coincidence too good to pass up.

She’d thought better of asking, “Is this seat taken?” because it sounded too much like a line, but even so, when she’d asked if anyone was sitting next to her, Alex’s flustered response had given Maggie more than enough of a boost to reassure her that yeah, the woman had been looking at her.

Which is good, because Maggie had clearly been looking back.

They’d talked for over an hour over a couple of beers, and Maggie had unintentionally slipped out of her purposeful flirting mode and into genuine conversation, which isn’t something that usually happens.

But it was what had prompted Maggie into sending Alex a grin and asking, “So, what are you up to tomorrow night, Danvers?”

Maggie also isn’t one to usually set up seeing someone for two nights in a row, but she didn’t want to take a chance with this. It had taken a while just to meet the woman.

Alex’s lips had pressed together in a thoughtful pout Maggie had noticed in the past that was even more appealing up close, before giving a shrug and a small smile, “I have midterms coming up, but my sister will probably change the locks and kick me out for a while if I don’t take another break from studying.”

And she doesn’t know Alex Danvers all that well yet, but she’s pretty sure that from this woman? That’s an opening. Especially when she gives Maggie the ghost of a smile with the words.

So she’d taken it, and ran with it, “Meet me here tomorrow night. We’ll play pool and get some drinks. And maybe even be a little wild, and have some dinner, too.”

Her voice had dipped and she didn’t think she’d been very subtle in the way she’d drawn her eyes over Alex’s throat, watching as she’d swallowed slowly. But subtle wasn’t exactly the name of her game.

Alex had taken a breath, seemed to weigh her offer, before she nodded, “Yeah, I think I can swing that. As long as you’re buying the chicken wings.”

The full-watt smile Maggie gave her wasn’t forced in the least, and she’d taken Alex’s phone, holding it out for the woman to unlock it for her, which she’d done while watching Maggie closely, as if she didn’t quite know what she was up to.

She’d entered her number, saving just as she’d tapped at the bar lightly, feeling somewhat refreshed even after a long day, “Let me know if something comes up. But if not, I’ll see you here tomorrow at seven.”

And she doesn’t have a text from Alex, so she assumes she’s going to actually show up.

She does, with three minutes to spare, and Maggie watches with interest as she slows her Ducati to park next to Maggie’s prized Triumph Bonneville T100, and yeah, she’d said the night before that she had a bike, but damn she looks really good on it.

“Nice ride,” she comments, appreciatively running her hand over the handlebars.

Alex pulls off her helmet, short hair seeming to effortlessly fall back into place perfectly mussed – honestly, making Maggie’s hands itch to touch the ends and feel how soft they would be – and she swings one of her long legs over the bike as she tilts her head to Maggie’s, “You, too.”

It makes her smile, the fact that Alex really means it, growing even wider, dimples popping, with the look Alex throws over her shoulder at her as she starts walking toward the bar, “How do you feel about whiskey?”

She takes a moment to take it all in – the way Alex’s eyes are dark but glint lightly at her, and the way her ass looks phenomenal in her tight jeans – before she follows, “Love it.”

She buys them both whiskey and wings, and she builds on the knowledge she’d already gotten from Alex the night before.

She knows that Alex isn’t only a gorgeous face and a killer body, with a habit of hanging out in bars. No, she’s learned what she’s always working on in her notebook is homework and research, so that she can finish her dual PhD/MD – two years early, as if it wasn’t already impressive enough.

She knows that Alex seems to genuinely appreciate Maggie’s profession, looking at her with interest when she’d told her she was a cop. And when she’d asked about her gun and expressed a frank interest in going to a shooting range, it wasn’t some cop/gun fetish sort of thing that Maggie’s experienced in the past.

She learns that Alex lives with her sister, who is only a little bit younger than she is, and that she’s from a small town in California and has never lived away from the west coast. She learns that Alex makes a lot of little comments that are dorky as hell without realizing it, but it’s cute and makes her laugh.

Maggie learns that Alex doesn’t seem to have much deliberated flirting game, which is not what she’s used to but she likes it. 

Their conversation is easy, smooth, transitioning from topic to topic – school to work to hobbies – and it edges somewhere between personal enough that it doesn’t feel like small talk and not too personal that Maggie feels her hackles rise.

She likes it so much that she’s not even in bad spirits after Alex has kicked her ass in pool. Twice. And is giving her an appraising, teasing look, “Are you sure you’ve played pool before, Sawyer?”

“Not like this,” she tells her honestly, because of course she’s played pool, but she sucks and it’s not something she’s ever seen the value in really getting better at. It’s different when Alex is swaggering around the table, pushing up her sleeves, alternating between gently laughing at and with Maggie when she flubs, while offering helpful tips. She tilts her head, leaning on her cue, “Not with a pool shark.”

“I was practically trying to let you win that last one!” Alex shoots back, “You should feel glad we’re not playing for money right now.”

She agrees. But if being taken to the cleaners in some pool games means having Alex brushing up against her and becoming very familiar with the clean, fresh smell of her subtle perfume and getting to admire the way her sweater hangs off of her collarbones, then she’ll take it.

She flirts a bit and Alex flushes, the conversation flows and ebbs, and it’s somehow both comfortable and exciting.

Despite the fact that it’s the least overt of her dates in the last couple of months, and that they don’t go anywhere else, and that Maggie can tell this is going to come to an end at the bar and not go back to her apartment or Alex’s – it’s the best night she’s had since coming to this city.

When they leave, she’s not sure what to expect, but she feels it in the air, the vibrancy of their evening, echoing around them.

A lot of the first dates Maggie has been on in the last months end with sex or a heavy make out or at the very least, a kiss. That’s the way it goes when both people involved know it’s not going somewhere serious or long-term.

But she doesn’t know exactly how tonight is going to end with Alex, because there has been this feeling between them since the moment they met, this awareness that she feels and she’s felt it all night. Quick, darting looks and soft, fleeting touches have been really it as far as contact has gone tonight, and she’s wanting whatever is going to be next as they walk outside after she settles the tab with M’gann, who shoots her a discreet thumbs up.

Is it going to be something shy and fleeting? Alex isn’t shy, she’s gathered in their limited time together so far, but she can tell she’s more reserved. A touch of a hand and a promise of a future date? A kiss on the cheek? She doesn’t know exactly, and Maggie’s never going to try to force things to go faster than Alex is comfortable with.

There’s also this building anticipation she has and she doesn’t want to quell it.

It doesn’t mean she can’t perfectly picture backing Alex up against the brick wall, watching the way her eyes would probably widen a bit before fluttering closed in the dim lighting, and feeling if her lips are as soft as they look.

“This was fun,” Alex says, breaking the comfortable silence as she holds her helmet under her arm.

“Why do you sound surprised?” she’s teasing, but also – well, a little concerned.

But Alex rolls her eyes and shakes her head before nudging her shoulder, “I’m not surprised. I just don’t… do this often.”

She’s not shocked, because she knows that Alex is in the bar alone several times a week and she knows now that she’s busy as fuck with her doctoral classes and that in her spare time, she hangs out with her sister and the group of friends she has with her sister. She is shocked in that – how does a woman like Alex not have people falling over their feet for her?

But Maggie supposes other people’s loss is her temporary gain. And it makes her feel a little more self-assured, as she crosses her arms over her chest, leaning in a bit.

“Then, I’m glad you came out to meet me. I had a good time, too,” the sincerity with which she means that is startling, but… she’d had a damn good time.

They stand for a beat in silence and Maggie’s stomach dips in that anticipation again, wondering how Alex wants to end this. She’s almost about to take the initiative herself and lean in before Alex rocks on her heels for a moment and shoots Maggie a bigger smile now, crossing her arms as she says, “We should do this again.”

It’s not the ideal end of the date goodbye, but Maggie would be a liar if she said it didn’t anticipate their doing this again. Hopefully soon.

//

She ventures over to the far side of the bar, where Alex’s usual seat is, when she realizes – it wasn’t a date.

She’s been simultaneously looking forward to seeing Alex again after the other night, but also a little unsettled. Unsettled at the prospect of dating someone like Alex, who she is still only getting to know, but she can tell that it would be difficult to have a short fling with her.

Maggie isn’t sure she could do much more than that, even if there are parts of her that would want to try. Not now, not so soon after her breakup with Kate – not when she’s still hearing the words from their breakup in her ears, not when those words might not be wrong and she’s still dealing with them.

Still, it hasn’t stopped her from texting Alex every so often in the last few days. Always on the lighter side, but still. Because Alex – she feels like a breath of fresh air that Maggie’s been wanting to breathe in for a while.

And, it turns out that she doesn’t even need to worry about what Alex might be looking for from this – them – because apparently this isn’t a dating thing at all.

She slides into the empty seat next to Alex and within minutes, M’gann has given them each a tequila sunrise, apparently Alex’s celebratory drink after finishing her exams and Maggie’s fine with whatever Alex is having.

She thinks maybe they should meet up somewhere that isn’t the bar, which is why she asks, “Anywhere you have in mind for a good date night?” as in, their next date night.

Alex’s nose scrunches up adorably for a moment and Maggie tilts her head and takes a sip of her drink, feeling glad at having made this woman she’s seen as so unflappable and focused for months now, give her a soft smile.

She feels the need to add on, “Well as much as we both apparently love this bar, and I do, I do have some other moves up my sleeve.”

Alex frowns slightly, before scoffing out a laugh, “If I don’t do this that much, you can imagine how little I date. Besides, it, um, kind of seems like you have that all under control,” she inclined her head a bit, her hair falling forward as her cheeks blush.

But then she waves her hand lightly, dark eyes settling on Maggie with a teasing glint, even as she blushes, “It seems like you, uh, do pretty well. You know, with the women and everything. I mean, they always seem like they’re having a good time.”

And it takes a moment for those words to sink in – the if I do this not that much and the them referring to Maggie’s dates, and…

“Oh,” is all that she can manage to get out, as her eyes widen, and Alex looks at her curiously.

God. Wow. It takes literally everything in Maggie to not slam her head into her hands – repeatedly – at how badly she’d misinterpreted literally all of their interactions. Alex wasn’t reserved; she hadn’t even known Maggie was flirting. And, apparently, was even oblivious to the times that her own words and actions had been flirty in return.

It takes a lot for Maggie to feel truly embarrassed, but she does right now, landing heavy and uncomfortable in her stomach and in the back of her throat.

The entire thing is so ridiculous, Maggie can’t help but laugh, even though the twin feelings she has of mortification and disappointment.

Because… well, she’d kind of really liked Alex. It figures.

//

She’s lived here for a while now, but she gets to really know her way around National City through Alex.

She actually doesn’t really intend to become Alex’s friend. Not that she plans on not being her friend, either, but between working her ass off and going out a fair number of nights, she didn’t feel like she had a ton of time on her hands.

Plus, given the way they’d met? Maggie would much prefer to put that giant misunderstanding behind her. Making friends with the woman whom she’d thought she was kind of dating and had veritably fantasized about a bit? Not exactly a situation she imagined finding herself in.

But then she sees Alex again and again, and every time she does, Alex smiles at her, and greets her with, “Hey, Sawyer.”

And then she realizes that after knowing Alex Danvers, it would be very difficult to just go back to thinking about her as the Mystery Brunette in the bar.

The good news, is that despite the fact that she’d spent over a week thinking she was kind of dating Alex, Alex apparently had no idea that Maggie had any intimation of being more than her friend. So, her embarrassment is entirely private.

The better news? Is that Alex is kind of a great friend.

In spite of having lived in National City for months, she really hasn’t ventured out too much beyond some nightlife spots, the bar, and the areas she’s familiar with because of her job.

Weeks of hanging out with Alex in the bar – playing pool and darts, drinking after long days at work – drift into months, and with those months come more changes.

Months where Alex opens up more to her, tells her about her adventures at in what she’s studying, in the lab, where she tells her stories about what her sister has done or is doing, with echoes of laughter written in her face and voice in a way that’s contagious.

Months where they start hanging out beyond the bar, far beyond the nightlife spots Maggie knows of.

Alex teases her for having lived here for so long and not having gone exploring around, but is promptly quieted when Maggie arches her eyebrow and jokes-but-not-really, “This, coming from the woman who’s practically glued to her school and lab?”

They go out to different restaurants, Alex sharing with her stories about times she’s been there in the past, and then they delve into new food explorations on their own. She goes bowling – of all things – with Alex, and to the aquarium because apparently, it’s something National City is acclaimed for.

And Alex thinks that the aquatic animal rehabilitation and gene research they do to improve the animal’s quality of life is amazing, so she’s a complete nerd and tells Maggie all about it when they go. She does stuff like that a lot, and it’s more than endearing.

She invites Alex back to her apartment for movie nights and goes to her place, too, and somewhere along the line, Maggie comes to trust Alex. She’s always there at the end of a bad day or a good day, always reliable in her drink choices which is something Maggie values in a person, she’s up for a good conversation or a few minutes sitting in companionable silence.

No, she doesn’t make friends easily and she still can’t look back at the beginning of their friendship and how she’d so incorrectly interpreted everything without cringing at herself. But it’s a friendship deeper than most that Maggie is used to. There’s no bullshit and no drama, and there’s a lot of snarky jokes and camaraderie that is so easy to fall into Maggie almost wants to be wary of it.

It’s just that they are so effortlessly similar in ways Maggie’s not used to. From riding their motorcycles around, exploring the outskirts of the city together to the way they both dedicate themselves to their chosen paths in life, both understanding the stresses of what that entails… it all lines up.

She gains a friend in Alex and even more. She meets “the group” – Lucy, James, and Winn – by accident during game night at Alex’s place, and she doesn’t even mean to be invited, but they urge her inside, and she gets a half-smile and a, “Come on,” from Alex.

She has a few beers and it’s not the night she’d come here hoping for, but it’s good and different in its own way. Apparently, a lot of things with Alex are like that.

She doesn’t expect to get invited back into this close-knit group, but she does. Repeatedly. First, from Alex, but then eventually she gets text from an unknown number that she learns is Kara, inviting her to Alex’s birthday celebration. Then, they just keep coming.

She likes these people, she likes their dynamic, and she feels relaxed enough to join in. Which in itself is a little weird, considering she didn’t even meet Kara alone for a couple of months after being Alex’s friend. She’s never been one who is comfortable “meeting the family” so to speak.

Then again, she’s not dating Alex, so maybe that’s the difference.

And, it’s probably for the best that Alex isn’t gay.

It takes her a while into their friendship to realize that Alex is straight, because the thing is that Alex doesn’t ever date and doesn’t talk about going out with people, or even wanting to.

She isn’t sure at all about who Alex is interested in or if she’s interested in anyone romantically, until she makes a few throwaway comments about past ex-boyfriends that are enough to clue Maggie in.

Even if Alex were to be not straight – despite the fact that she has this lingering disappointment in the fact that she won’t get to taste Alex’s kiss the way it’s sat in the back of her mind for even before they’d really met – now that she knows her, she thinks… it’s for the best that Alex wouldn’t be interested in her.

Because Maggie isn’t positive, but she has a hunch that Alex would want, and deserve, something nice, and long-term, and romantic. With someone who can make promises to her about the future. With someone who would definitely not break her heart.

And Maggie? With all of the things that people have said to her, about her… yeah, she probably couldn’t be that person, anyway. Not the one Alex would deserve.

Because Alex is great, and also straight, and so Maggie tries to push those thoughts away, anyway.

//

They’re out at a café that they’ve started to frequent, when she realizes exactly how important Alex has become to her.

Because Alex has her lips drawn tight, which means something is weighing on her, let alone the way her long fingers keep tracing the rim of her mug distractedly.

So, she sighs and looks at her expectantly, “All right, Danvers. I’m giving you comedic gold telling you about chasing down my perp last night, but I’m not getting any of your usual snappy commentary. What gives?”

Because she really doesn’t know what it could be. Alex is graduating in less than a month, on-track with her multiple degrees, as far as Maggie knows, everything is going well with Kara and the others…

Alex shakes her head slightly, hair swinging before she tucks it behind her ear and looks down guiltily, “Sorry. Tell me again.”

That’s something she’s picked up about her friend; the shoulders slightly hunched, guilty look whenever she gets rebuked. She’s never pried into it, not really, because she certainly doesn’t welcome any prying into her own history. But she’s noticed, and she hopes one day she’ll get the whole story.

But Maggie narrows her eyes, shaking her head, “It’s not important. You tell me what has you all…” she trails off, exaggeratedly imitating Alex’s frown.

Alex rolls her eyes, “I don’t look like that.”

Maggie just shrugs, and waits. It only takes a few more moments of wheedling before Alex sighs, “I’m just – I’m not sure what I’m doing after graduation. And I have to decide, like, within the next couple of days.”

She takes it in, nodding even as her eyes search Alex’s face. Because it doesn’t really sound all that drastic; anyone would be lucky to have her working for them.

“All right, what are we talking here? Like, Lord Tech? Didn’t you get an offer from NCU to keep doing your research there, too?” as far as Maggie knew, Alex had gotten both offers from being scouted, without even applying for anything.

“Lord Tech is one of the places I’ve gotten an offer from, and NCU,” she acknowledges, and Maggie hadn’t even known she was fielding other offers but Alex continues after a deep breath, “But also STAR Labs and Wayne Biotech.”

And just like that, Maggie’s stomach bottoms out, her hand tightening on her cup. STAR Labs? Wayne Biotech? Both of those companies would probably be great places to work at but, they were definitely not in California. Central City and Gotham, respectively, were… well, damn far away.

She doesn’t like the heaviness of that, of how much she doesn’t want Alex to leave, as it settles in her stomach. How had National City become synonymous with Alex so quickly?

Taking a sip of her coffee to try to push away that knee-jerk reaction, she clears her throat. Her voice is still a little deeper, more affected than she’d prefer, but she makes herself smile, “Damn, Danvers, I knew you were smart, but I didn’t know that labs from all over the country would come head hunting.”

Alex scoffs, but flushes as she draws a hand through her hair, blowing out a deep breath. She isn’t looking right at her, though, and Maggie’s a little glad for that.

It makes it easier to say, “I thought you liked the work you were doing at NCU, though.”

She wonders if the hopefulness she thinks she hears in her own tone is as apparent to Alex as it is to her.

Those big brown eyes flicker to hers and hold, looking kind of surprised that Maggie remembered, but also glad, “I do.”

But then her mouth pulls into a frown, and she drops her gaze down to her coffee, “I just… it’s definitely not the most prestigious offer. Actually, it’s the least,” she lets out a dark laugh, “Less funding overall, less advanced technology. My mom thinks it’s stupid to even consider NCU, and she’s been calling me all week –” she cuts off on a sharp breath, eyes narrowing at a point behind Maggie’s head, seeming to shake her head at herself, before she mutters, “It’s dumb.”

“It’s not,” she tells her, eyebrows coming together at idea that Alex having serious worries about what to do about her future being dumb. Really, at the idea of Alex putting herself down at all. It makes an unstoppable defensive feeling crop up in her stomach, “It’s real, Alex. It’s valid,” she keeps her voice soft, “But, with all due respect, don’t listen to your mom. Do what you want.”

She doesn’t know much about Alex’s relationship with her mom, or anything about her dad for that matter, beyond the fact that he’s not alive. Just that there are times when she calls that make Alex hesitate before she answers, like she needs to debate if she’s up for talking to her or not.  

But Alex doesn’t know anything really about her own parents, either, so. Maggie doesn’t push.

What she does know, though, is that Alex is smart as hell, and that she brushes it off more times than not. She also knows that she very much wants Alex to stay here, stay in National City. That somewhere in the last seven months, Alex far surpassed being the beautiful brunette in the bar, surpassed being the woman who Maggie thought she was dating for a week and a half, and even beyond a casual friendship like the one she’s struck up with Flores.

So, she doesn’t tell Alex that she wants her to stay.

Because that feels a lot like walking a line Maggie isn’t sure she wants to walk. Or should walk, or even attempt to cross. She can’t let herself weigh in on this big of a decision when Alex already has other people she’s worrying about, on a decision that she should make for herself.

But she’s more relieved than she will admit out loud when Alex tells her the following week with a smile, “I took the offer at NCU. I want to keep doing the research I’ve been doing there.”

She’s sure her smile gives her away, anyway, because this relief is pretty intense, “Yeah? And you’re happy about that?”

Alex shrugs, shaking her head back even as she gives Maggie the reasoning, “I like what I have here.”

Alex says those words with a sheepish smile and a touch to Maggie’s shoulder that warms her from the inside out, and then she thinks maybe she’s a part of what Alex has here that she likes so much.

“Yeah, we like having you here, too,” she tells her in response, and gets one of those big, scrunchy-nosed smiles in response that she feels for days.

And then Maggie’s sure that she’s never had a friend like this before, ever, and the magnitude of that is almost frightening. To have someone who has helped her build a new life here, who has become such a huge part of it in such a short amount of time.

It both feels really good, and scares her a little at the same time.

//

Maggie goes out to dinner with Kate when she comes to National City for one of her charity galas.

She’d gotten the call from her ex the week before, and she’d been so shocked to see Kate’s name flash up on her screen that she’d almost missed the call. It’s been more than a year since the breakup, an actual year since she’s moved, and she’s reluctant to agree to the dinner that Kate suggests they have to “catch up.”

But she does accept, for a handful of reasons.

Because Kate was her most meaningful relationship, including the two serious college girlfriends she’d had. Because the ending of their relationship had been painful as hell and Maggie has been dumped several times, but Kate’s words cut her the deepest and she thinks about them still sometimes.

Because she still has yet to date someone for longer than a month since then, and she wonders – hopes – that maybe seeing her again will do her good.

And that’s the biggest reason. Closure isn’t something she’s had a lot in her life; not ever from her parents, not before her aunt had died, not from most of her past girlfriends.

She takes comfort and finds some strength in the way Alex had been so concerned with her coming to meet Kate when she’d told her.

“Are you sure? She… she really hurt you. I don’t want that to happen again,” she’d said, and those big brown eyes had been worried and Alex just genuinely cared so much that it made Maggie feel invincible. Definitely strong enough to have a dinner with Kate even if it could end badly.

They meet at a place she’s gone to with Alex a couple of times that she suggests, because she knows that Kate will like their menu, and she goes in with her guard up and both eyes open.

And even though she knows that she’s really over Kate, it’s still a relief that when she sees her again – all long stunning red hair and green eyes and almost six feet of her – she feels nothing.

Kate tells her about her life, about Gotham, and it doesn’t pain Maggie the way she’d worried it would. It makes her feel a little ache in her chest, at the life she’d thought would be her home at one point, and even after she’d immediately moved to National City, that would have hurt her. But that’s it.

 “Okay, so enough of that,” Kate says, sitting back with her drink in her hand as she arches an eyebrow at Maggie, “Tell me about your life.”

Maggie does.

She tells her about working on the force here – how the corruption of cops is way less of an issue than in Gotham, to which Kate aptly derides, “Like that’s hard.”

But she feels relaxed enough to keep going after that, less cautious and more comfortable.

She tells her about her new apartment, about how she’s actually seen the Pacific Ocean finally. It’s nice in a way she hadn’t been able to let herself consider. Nice, in that there haven’t been many goodbyes she’s had that are on a positive note.

Nice in a way that reminds her that she first met Kate as a friend and about how that had somehow gotten lost and jumbled in their mess of a breakup.

“You seem happier,” she comments, always astute.

It catches Maggie off guard for a moment, but then she says, “I am,” and she’s pleasantly surprised to find that… she really is. She likes this life she’s made here, the one she’s still making.

There’s a glint in her Kate’s eyes that tells her what’s coming even before she asks, “So, who’s the girl?”

She doesn’t intend to immediately picture Alex, to picture her likely sitting at their bar right now or to imagine the way she’d strangely texted her a little while ago, Be strong – like. So dorky, and so supportive, and so very Alex.

But she shakes her head, “I’m not in a relationship.”

She’s been on a few dates with Colleen – a leggy blonde nutritionist that she met at yoga – in the last few weeks, and she likes her. But there’s something inside of her that feels held back from moving forward on any of these dates, even with someone like Colleen, who she does like.

When Kate only continues to give her a look, Maggie rolls her eyes, “I’m seeing Colleen.”

And she gives Kate a bit of background but not much because – she is her ex, and she’s acutely aware of ways in which this could turn ugly. It wasn’t like Kate hadn’t had any bouts of jealousy, as irrational as it had been, during their relationship.

But Kate gets that frown on her face. It’s a coy frown that Maggie is extremely familiar with and she doesn’t have to wait long before she shakes her head, “No, not Colleen. The other one.”

Maggie’s eyes go flat, “I’m only dating one person,” and if her voice is a little aggressive, she can’t help it. Because of the nights near the end where Kate had accused her of trying to find her happiness elsewhere, and she just –

Quickly, though, Kate shakes her head and she can see the instant regret on her features, “No, that’s not what I meant, Maggie. I only meant… who’s the girl in those pictures with you on Facebook?”

“Oh. Alex,” she can’t help but grin just a bit at the picture that James had snapped of them at Alex’s party a couple of months ago, and the few that had been posted since then. Neither she nor Alex were big on social medias, but Kara was, and hanging out with them has been the most active Maggie’s social media accounts have been in years.

“Alex,” Kate repeats, drawing the name out in a knowing voice, “Alex Danvers, that’s right. She’s the one. Tell me about her.” She spears some chicken and leans forward with an expectant look, not that slightly pinched look of irritation or anything, like she’d had when they were dating and another woman was in conversation.

It’s a genuine curiosity and interest. And it makes Maggie cautious.

She narrows her eyes, her mouth drawing together slightly. Because they are starting to venture into territory that she doesn’t want to go into very much. Even if Kate isn’t jealous at all and they are both over one another, there’s something about Alex that she likes to keep to herself.

But she tells her some stuff, anyway, mindfully keeping it light.

“We’re friends. Good friends,” she feels the need to add on, though, because she hasn’t ever had a friend as good as Alex, present company included. And it feels like some sort of disservice to not say it, “She’s – a nerd. Seriously, she’s a year younger than we are and she has two doctorates.”

The thought of Alex’s graduation makes her grin indulgently for a moment; she’d missed the actual graduation, because she’d had a paperwork deadline. But she’d made it to the afterparty and had drank celebratory champagne with Alex while she’d still been wearing her cap, at Kara’s bubbly insistence.

“Sounds like she’s quite the woman,” green eyes glint at her from over her glass of wine.

“She is,” because that’s undeniable, from every angle, but she’s wary of the look, and leaning back in her seat to get some distance.

“And she’s pretty, too. Very,” Kate adds, and that’s when she gets that face that Maggie recognizes so well. “And, you looked happy standing all close to her in the pictures.”

It makes her narrow her eyes, irritation making them go flat, “Don’t make that face at me. Not about her.”

Not about Alex, this best friend she’s made despite their – on Maggie’s end – awkward first few meetings, and despite the fact that she feels this tug low in her stomach every time she sees Alex that she’s been very, very good at ignoring.

Kate shakes her head, feigning innocence even as her eyes positively gleam, “Face? What face? I don’t even have a face.”

“That I’m so smart and I think I’m so perceptive face,” she bites back, and she’s glad when Kate backs off and changes the subject, even though she knows that she’s still thinking about it. But for as much as she knows her ex-girlfriend doesn’t mean anything necessarily bad, Maggie can’t deal with that from her.

She can’t deal with her touching on this thing she’s built with Alex, or looking at it in ways Maggie refuses to look at it herself. And it puts Maggie a little more on her guard than she had been before.

But the rest of the meal goes well, without any more of those comments from Kate that make her feel like she should have some walls up. Until they’re about to leave, anyway.

“And… Maggie, you know I didn’t mean – all the stuff I said to you, in the end? I was hurting,” Kate tells her quietly, as they leave the restaurant. “You should be happy. Even if it’s not with your friend Alex,” she adds, this time playfully, and Maggie rolls her eyes.

“Yeah, I know,” the agreement in her voice is halfhearted, but she gives Kate a tight smile nonetheless before she hugs her goodbye.

She also knows that what people say in those times, in the heat of the moment where all of the veneer is stripped away and they don’t feel the need to spare your feelings, that those thoughts are what people truly do think of you on some level. She should know; between her parents and ex-girlfriends, she’s heard plenty of what people really think of her.

It’s still nice to hear, though. Even if she knows she’ll never forget Kate’s words to her during their breakup, she feels for once like a chapter of her life closed with a page turning instead of being torn out.

And that’s a good feeling.

//

She starts going out with Colleen more, actively spending the night at her place, taking it a bit more seriously after that.

Because Kate was right in one way; Maggie had been determined to date in order to find someone to be happy with, and that wasn’t going to happen if she never gives anyone a real chance.

It starts slow, with Maggie being the one to reach out to her after yoga one day and ask, “Want to grab dinner?”

And she knows that her wondering whether or not she should break it off hadn’t been super hidden to Colleen when the blonde’s eyes widen in surprise for a moment before warming into a smile, “Yeah. That sounds good.”

Colleen’s beautiful, smart, and they have several of the same interests; she’s the only person she’s ever dated who doesn’t find her affinity for vegan ice cream gross. They have a good time together in general, she’s good in bed, and things work well with her.

She gives Maggie a surprised smile when she shows up after one of her overnight shifts to give her a tea before work, and a, “Thanks.”

And another one when Maggie stays the night for two nights in a row, which is something she didn’t do before she decided to maybe see if they could be something.

Because she admits, “For a while there – well, I guess I didn’t know if you wanted this to keep going,” looking at Maggie from where they’re still sitting in her bed.

She doesn’t exactly know what to say to that, so she only smiles and leans in to kiss her instead.

And when they’re having breakfast together one morning, watching a cooking show that Colleen likes, she doesn’t let herself freeze up when the blonde leans in close, or when she says, “I like this.”

It’s not a lie when Maggie says, “I like this, too.”

It takes her a few weeks to tell Alex that she’s more serious about Colleen than she has been about her other women in the last year, though, and she can’t name the feeling in her stomach about why. Maybe because it would feel more real, like there’s more pressure.

And maybe it’s because she does know that Kate wasn’t entirely wrong, about her feelings for Alex, despite how little Maggie actually wants to think about it.

Alex is her friend, the best she’s ever had. But it doesn’t negate the fact that Maggie had been attracted to her since the first time she’d seen her, or that she’d fucking thought they had gone on a date together, or that she’d spent more than a couple of nights in the bed that she sleeps in fairly regularly with Colleen having X-rated thoughts about Alex.

Not that she’d continued to have those thoughts in the last year of their friendship. Mostly.

She reasons with herself that it’s completely normal to have a little thing for Alex; she would be crazy to not be attracted to her, that’s just something she can’t help. Plus, she’s brilliant, has a leather jacket collection that rivals Maggie’s own, and a laugh that lights up a room.

She’s essentially Maggie’s younger self’s wet dream. And not too far from her current one, either.

But it’s – it’s just a little thing, she convinces herself.

Because Alex is a friend she’d never imagined for herself, the friend who had showed up at Maggie’s apartment with tiramisu and horror movies on her twenty-sixth birthday, without Maggie even knowing how she knew. The one who invites Maggie to her family’s Thanksgiving with insistence until she can’t say no.

Especially because when Maggie tells her that her plans are with some Chinese food and her couch, Alex’s eyes take on that wide, puppy-esque look that she’s pretty sure could melt concrete, and for as tough as Maggie knows she is, she isn’t that tough.

Alex has a way about her that is more charming than anyone Maggie had ever met, and it’s completely unintentional. Maybe that has something to do with why it’s so effective; there’s something about it all that really makes it difficult to say no to her.

But Alex is also straight. Her straight best friend, and Maggie can allow herself this tiny, minor fluttering in the pit of her stomach for her, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. She’s certainly dealt with crushes on straight best friends getting out of hand in the past, and she refuses to have a repeat performance.

Besides. Now that she finally feels ready again, she knows it’s not the time to be holding on to some impossible, idealistic crush on her friend. There’s really never a good time for that, but even more so, it means that she should be moving on.

The entire reason Maggie’s been such an avid dater is because she’s been consistently alone for so long. Consistently alone, and hearing echoes of her father saying that she’s always going to be alone as he’d kicked her out, and that – that had driven Maggie more than anything to refuse to end up alone.

It’s why she’d dated Lindsey-the-Musical-Theater-Performer for over a year in college and then had still gone headfirst into a relationship with Jenna-the-Econ-Major for their remaining two years, despite Lindsey having broken her heart and saying she “was just… too much.” It’s why she’d taken Jenna’s parting words of, “It’s not enough,” and still went for it with Kate six months later.

So, she starts to try again with Colleen.

//

Despite having both a best friend and a girlfriend, Maggie spends Christmas Eve at the precinct.

She’s been dating Colleen for a couple of months now, and it’s going well, still. They’d exchanged small gifts the night before, both agreeing on nothing big. Her girlfriend had even extended the invitation for Maggie to join her family for dinner on Christmas.

She’d balked, though, an urgent discontentment inside that felt a lot like that would be moving way too fast. After all, they’d barely been dating for three months; Maggie hadn’t met Kate’s dad until a year after they’d been together. She can’t help it; she’s not good with parents and never has been. Not in her entire dating history, anyway.

One look at a parent, and there’s a feeling in the pit of her stomach that easily brings her back to her own parents. Like she would always be waiting for their disapproval. It’s unnerving to say the very least, and something she’d like to put off for as long as she can, usually.

Added to that, Alex is in Midvale with Kara to see their mother for the holiday. Which, Maggie doesn’t begrudge in the least. Seeing Alex with her family – with Kara – is almost absurdly sweet.

But she’s been gone for the last four days already, and Maggie just… doesn’t think National City feels the same without her.  

Spending time with Colleen is – good. Great, she assures herself, but it’s just not the same.

Anyway, working on Christmas Eve and Christmas is technically her own choice; she had no family to go see, nowhere she was ever expected to be. Nowhere she was being missed.

It just seemed fairer to volunteer to be one of the few unlucky ones to work on the holiday. Even when she’d been with Kate, she’d worked through the day; she especially wasn’t missing anything when her girlfriend was Jewish.

She should be used to it by now, she knows. But there’s just something about sitting at her desk, the only one left in the bullpen for overnight desk duty, listening to the Christmas music softly playing over the old speakers that some of the detectives had on earlier and didn’t shut off when they’d left, that’s getting to her.

It would be a lie to say that her Christmases spent on duty were ever not lonely. But this one is feeling even more than usual.

Maybe it also has something to do with the blank papers sitting on her desk, labeled as her Emergency Contact information.

She’d deliberately skipped over when she’d first moved to National City and done all her paperwork, because who was she supposed to put? She hadn’t even known anyone in this city, she had no family – none who gave a crap, anyway – and her last closest relationship was her ex-girlfriend who lived across the country.

Even now, it wasn’t like she’d magically grown a family who cared about her, a next of kin, a wife. She liked Colleen and all and could see herself continuing to date her, but this? Way too soon.

Captain Carter had walked out of her office earlier that day and had put the forms on Maggie’s desk with a pointed look, “You’re always expedient with your paperwork, but it’s been a year and we still don’t have this on file for you.”

Maggie had looked at the forms, realized what they were, and felt her expression go blank, before looking back up at her, unsure of exactly what to say, “I guess it fell through the cracks,” she offered. “I mean, everything else is in order, right?”

She knew it was. She was expedient with per paperwork, even if it was one of her least favorite parts of the job.

Carter’s expression had softened just a bit, before she’d tapped at the papers, “These need to be filled out, and it isn’t a request, Officer Sawyer. You know we don’t have the safest job, and if something happens to you… well, someone needs to know.”

Maggie leaned back in her chair, staring at the papers that she felt like were somehow mocking her, while a heaviness lodged deeply in her stomach and in the back of her throat that felt a lot like childhood memories that she refused to let herself think about. She was no stranger to loneliness, but listening to I’ll Be Home For Christmas over those crackling speakers –

Her phone buzzed with a text and she’s grateful for the distraction.

Colleen – 11:14PM
Are you still at the station? If you aren’t going
to be there that late in the morning, you could
come over before I go to family dinner… if you
still don’t want to come, that is.

She blows a breath out, maybe in kind of a huff. And she knows she’s in a bad mood, which doesn’t help, but Colleen also hasn’t been shy in the last couple of months about expressing moments of displeasure about Maggie’s unpredictable and sometimes late hours, or about being a little irritated that Maggie had turned down her Christmas dinner invitation.

Before she can answer either way, her phone rings in her hand. And when she sees who it is, she’s already accepting the call, forgetting completely about answering the text.

“Danvers,” she greets, resting her hand over her stomach and leaning back in her chair a little more comfortably.

“Sawyer,” Alex echoes, letting a beat go by before she teases, “Answering your phone on duty? Aren’t you supposed to be at the ready to protect the fine citizens of National City?”

A small grin steals across her face, even as she rolls her eyes, “You called me, so how do I know you aren’t purposefully distracting me to wreak havoc on the city?”

Alex hmms quietly, “I guess you don’t. It would be a pretty good plan.”

“Except I already foiled it,” she points out, shaking her head before frowning, “Hey, shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, enjoying the festivities with your mom and Kara?”

Alex is quiet for a moment, like she’s working out exactly what she wants to say, which Maggie knows she does sometimes. And then she speaks softly, “Well, they’re in the living room, falling asleep to It’s A Wonderful Life.” She pauses again, before murmuring, “But I was thinking about you working tonight and, you know, I just wanted to make sure you were… good. I mean, you told me on Thanksgiving that you don’t talk to your parents and – and you don’t have to tell me more,” she’s quick to add, in that rambling way she gets sometimes.

And even as it makes her chest and stomach clench at the reminder of her parents, it’s the way she can hear how Alex is just so genuine that that weight a little more bearable. In the way that Alex doesn’t push her, but accepts that she has these limits.

It’s not really like most people Maggie’s known.

“But, I guess I just don’t like the thought of you all alone on Christmas,” Alex finishes quietly.

Maggie’s heart flip-flops in her chest in a quick beat, and she has to swallow twice against the thickness in her throat, before she’s able to get out, “Didn’t know you cared so much.”

And she manages a teasing edge just to lighten the sudden heaviness of it all.

It works in the way that Alex scoffs, “Yeah, well…” and she can practically hear the way Alex shrugs, before she clears her throat and says, “I do, you know. Care. About you.”

She doesn’t blink twice, “I know.” And that in and of itself, this knowing that Alex cares so much is… new. She’s not used to it at all.

It makes the back of her eyes prickle with tears that she closes her eyes to ward off, and she tries to brush off the heaviness of it all, “But, you don’t need to worry. I’m used to it.”

“That’s even worse,” Alex informs her, sounding very serious, before she asks, “Do you have some time to talk?”

She technically isn’t supposed to take long personal calls while she’s on duty but, “Yeah.”

They don’t hang up for a while; instead Alex walks outside and they talk – about how Maggie thinks Christmas isn’t complete without the cold weather she’s been used to having in winter through her whole life pre-California, and which Christmas movies they’d both enjoyed growing up, and how Alex has been drinking eggnog with her favorite bourbon that she has to spike herself because Kara hates the flavor of the liquor.

She promises to drink it with her the next time they see each other after Alex comes back. They talk until well after midnight.

 “Merry Christmas, Maggie.”

Maggie listens to Alex’s voice and the sound of the ocean in the background blending with the tones of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and it takes her a moment to realize –

She doesn’t feel that aching Christmas loneliness for once. For the first time in… a long time.

“Back at you, Danvers.”

She fills out Alex’s information on her Emergency Contact forms.

//

It’s at a restaurant near her apartment where she nervously brings her two worlds to collide.

They’ve been together for over four months, and it’s just felt so natural to keep her Colleen-life and her Alex-life separate that she does not let herself focus on why.

But that’s why she’s irrationally worried about this introduction. It is irrational, she knows, but she can’t help but feel this anxiety about it settled in her stomach.

The way Alex turns to look at them when they walk in, and Maggie can see the way her eyes dart down to her hand intertwined with Colleen’s, and it’s not right or logical in the way it makes Maggie want to drop her girlfriend’s hand – doesn’t help.

She doesn’t drop it, though; her hand flexes, but she holds, and she pushes the thoughts away as she meets Alex’s eyes with her own, “Danvers, this is Colleen. And, this is Alex.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Alex offers a hand, causing Colleen to drop hers and Maggie tells herself that she is not relieved about that, “Maggie’s told me a lot about you.”

Which is a lie, because she doesn’t talk as much about Colleen with Alex, but she’s glad her best friend has the presence of mind to say it, anyway.

She’s smiling, but it isn’t quite right. Like, it’s there and it’s nice, but it’s off in a way Maggie can’t place. Much like the way her voice always seems a little bit off whenever she’s asked, “How’s Colleen?” in the last months.

“Yeah, she’s told me so much about you, too,” Colleen says back and there’s something in her tone that Maggie doesn’t not only understand but she also doesn’t like it. But then Colleen smiles, “It’s nice to have a real face to the name.”

But that’s the best part of the evening, because it quickly goes down from there.

Starting with the way Alex picks up the lager she’s been drinking and takes a few large sips, and Colleen, who doesn’t drink at all, zeroes in on it and makes a comment about liquor correlating to bad health, and, “Aren’t you the doctor?”

Colleen’s a health nut, to the point where even Maggie thinks she’s a little drastic. And that’s saying something because she likes to be healthy, too. But with her girlfriend, it’s to a point where she can get judgmental.

And Alex picks up on it.

Her eyes narrow slightly, and Maggie can see the way her jaw sets. But she just blows out a breath before she shortly answers, “I’m aware. Thanks.”

It’s not a complete disaster but Alex is a little short in her replies and Colleen is increasingly defensive and – it’s not great. And Maggie is glad when it’s over, so it doesn’t have to happen again.

Colleen goes to the bathroom and she turns to look at Alex. Who has seemed uncomfortable all dinner, not that she can blame her. But now she looks downright miserable. Her eyes are big and dark and resolutely staring down at her cup.

And Maggie feels like a complete asshole; she thinks it would be impossible to see that face and not feel like an asshole. But when she’s kind of to blame? Guilt is immediate and she reaches out to touch Alex’s hand, “Hey.”

Alex quickly looks up from where she’s staring sadly at the table, and seems to make some sort of effort to shake off her sadness. But it doesn’t work, really, even with the small smile she puts on.

“Hey,” she takes a deep breath, “Sorry, I, um, spaced out a bit.”

“It’s okay,” she’s quick to say, frowning and worried when Alex’s eyes are big and almost teary, “Are you okay?”

Because she really hadn’t thought her girlfriend’s behavior had been bad enough to make Alex cry, but if it had –

But Alex quickly shakes her head, “No, yeah. I’m good. It’s just, been a long day, I guess. Some, uh, stuff at the lab, nothing important.” She closes her eyes and when she opens them again, she looks more like her usual self, “I’m glad you found someone you like.”

Maggie’s eyes narrow, a feeling curling in her stomach that’s somewhat suspicious and concerned. But then Colleen is back at the table and smiles, “Ready to go?”

 The bill is already paid – Maggie had grabbed it before Colleen had gone to the bathroom – and they had been getting ready to head out, but…

Alex stands, though, grabbing her jacket, her movements a little rushed, and Maggie’s apprehension only increases, “Yeah, I have to head out anyway.”

Alex gives her a smile and then a far less bright one to Colleen, and she doesn’t stop when Maggie tries to stop her.

“She’s… interesting,” Colleen settles on as they’re walking back to her apartment.

Maggie’s hands are buried in her pockets, and she’s irritated the entire walk, even if she isn’t sure why exactly. “You could have been a little nicer,” she tells her, meeting Colleen’s wide-eyed look with a bit of a scowl.

Even if she’s not sure if that’s exactly why Alex is upset, but still.

She spends the night at Colleen’s, and while her girlfriend is sleeping next to her, she lays awake, a deep frown on her face, thinking about her best friend.

//

They celebrate Alex’s twenty-sixth birthday at Alex and Kara’s apartment when she realizes it.

Flores drops her off in their squad car, asking, “Is this a party for the girlfriend or the wife?”

And Maggie elbows him in the ribs before she replies, “For Alex.”

“The wife then,” he jokes, because he’s taken to referring to Alex as “the wife” after having noted her – as her referred to them – stream of girlfriends whereas Alex was her consistent. The one she invited to the rare work occasion she actually attended.

It just made sense.

She likes Flores, though, and he really is a good partner; she doesn’t think there is anyone else on the force she would prefer to being stuck with. His references to Alex don’t bother her because she knows he actually really likes her. Even after Alex had hustled him at pool – and taught Maggie to.

“Shut up,” she shoots back, lightly, but still in a good mood. She’s been looking forward to this for a couple of weeks; it’s been over a month since she’s had time to get together with the group between some big cases at work and spending time with Colleen.

She’s only been able to grab small handfuls of time with Alex every week, even, because she’s been working like crazy on her research and to get ready for her TEDtalk. It’s been a month since their celebration for Alex’s accomplishments, and Maggie can sense that it’s left Alex a little… frazzled. She’s been thinking that maybe that’s what everything at dinner had been about.

Not that she was actually frazzled, really, but very focused on work. To the point where she would stutter over her words about it when she was talking about Maggie, and then would flush and look away. Which, Maggie knows, Alex doesn’t do that often, even if it is endearing.

She nearly bumps right into Alex when she steps inside the doors, and the smile that she can feel taking over her face is bright. But she feels like she hasn’t seen Alex enough, especially relaxed.

And Alex is definitely relaxed already; she can see that her friend is a little tipsy from having the festivities beginning over an hour ago. It makes Maggie tilt her head with affection, because she deserves it.

“Woah, watch out, Danvers,” Maggie rubs her hand over Alex’s arm, feeling her warmth under her sweater, “You trying to get the party started by knocking me out?”

Alex arches an eyebrow, “You walk into my space, and blame me.”

Maggie gestures around her as she kicks the door behind her closed, trying to contain the sounds of Winn and Lucy arguing about whose fault it was that they’d dropped one of the pizzas and the music coming from the speakers, “This here is my jurisdiction.”

“We’re in my apartment,” Alex reminds her with a smart and somewhat tipsy smile, “Your jurisdiction ends where I say it ends.”

The words almost sound flirty, and for a moment, they settle in Maggie’s stomach with a spark before she stomps it out. Because Alex is not entirely sober and is straight and definitely didn’t mean anything like that.

“It’s also my apartment,” Kara says as she emerges from the kitchen, and it’s only then that Maggie realizes exactly how closely she’d been standing to Alex, and she steps back a bit. “And now that you’re here, we can finally have cake.”

They both watch as Kara turns back into the kitchen in excitement, and Maggie arches an eyebrow in question at Alex, not even needing to ask before those dark eyes sparkle and roll, “She’s been waiting to slice that cake since she picked it up from the bakery.”

But there’s that affection in her voice that never quite goes away when she talks about Kara, and it’s that… devotion that always makes Maggie want to smile in response.

She does, and Alex grins back just looking at her for a few seconds before she says, “I’m glad you got off your shift early tonight.”

“To celebrate you, Danvers? I wouldn’t miss it,” there’s a promise in her words.

They do have cake, and dinner, and she realizes that Alex was a little tipsy on some expensive wine Lucy had brought back from a conference she’d gone to in Napa Valley. And she indulges, too. More than a little.

More than a lot, actually, and she’s feeling the effects – knowing that she is past a little drunk – a few hours later when they give Alex her presents.

She opens the bag that Maggie brought her, containing a bottle of Macallan 18 she’d gotten for Alex – she’d given her Lagavulin for her party a month ago, and somewhere along the line, gifting alcohol and trying to find labels that the other liked but didn’t really buy themselves became their thing – and the gift certificate to the shooting range that Alex had mentioned more than a handful of times wanting to go to.

And Alex gets this soft, big eyed look that resonates through her entire body and settles deep in her chest, as she murmurs, “Happy birthday.”

“Thank you, Maggie.”

The party itself is great and honestly just what Maggie has needed after a long month.

The next morning… is a different story.

Under hers, there is a warm body and the soft skin and the familiar fresh, clean smell she’s surrounded by, and it all settles in her softly in her chest and hot and low in her stomach. She still doesn’t open her eyes, because she’s feeling pretty good, actually, and still somewhere between being asleep and completely awake.

But she does move in closer, nuzzling her nose against the clavicle she’s been resting against.

She wonders how much energy it’ll take to turn her head and press her lips against the chest under her cheek. Because – she just really wants to.

She feels safe and contented and she’s not really an all-night, full-body cuddler – but she could stay where she is forever. Even as a morning person, waking up never feels quite like this. Nothing feels like this, her still tired brain filters in, and everything is just quiet for a few more moments.

Before she goes to turn her face a bit and press her lips lightly right against where she wants to place them over Alex’s chest and –

And she’s in Alex’s bed. With Alex.

She knows it’s Alex’s bed because this scent surrounding her, lulling her into this easy complacency, is Alex’s scent. She knows because she’s woken up here before, a month ago. Only that morning, she had no real memory of how she’d gotten into Alex’s bed, cuddled up to her best friend who had basically only been wearing her underwear.

She’d just known then that she should leave in case it got… awkward. Plus, she’d had to be at work then – there had been something to focus on.

This time, she remembers how she got here.

In bits and pieces, she remembers stumbling slightly with Alex into the bedroom, she remembers Alex giving her some clothes to wear as pajamas. She remembers sitting on Alex’s bed while she’d waited for her friend to come out of the bathroom, and then it gets hazy – hazier than just the fact that they were drunk-Maggie’s memories in general – knowing that she drifted off to sleep a bit on accident, only to be jostled awake by Alex climbing into bed next to her.

But she hadn’t questioned it at the time. It just felt good to have Alex slide easily, albeit a little drunkenly clumsily, into bed and lay on her back, tilting her head up just a bit as if she expected for Maggie to want to rest her head right there. And she did.

She doesn’t remember much of what Alex had said as they’d been lying in bed, in quiet drunk mumbles, other than, “She doesn’t like french fries? ’m just saying. It’s weird,” her voice had been slurred and exhausted.

“I know,” she’d murmured back, her head drunk and dizzy and Alex smelling and feeling so good as she’d rested against her. And she’d tried hard to not think about the first time this had happened, but it felt so natural.

Alex spoke again a few minutes later, and Maggie barely heard, “But, as long as you’re happy because I want you to be with mm… someone who makes you happy.”

“I know you do,” Maggie had sighed, already half asleep, and burrowed deeper into her.

So. She remembers that much.

Which shouldn’t be that bad. It doesn’t have to mean anything. She isn’t overly familiar with having a best friend, but she thinks that this isn’t necessarily a weird situation to be in.

And with a sudden desperation that floods into her stomach, she really hopes that this doesn’t mean anything.

Because this very similar situation had happened before, a month ago, and it hadn’t had to mean anything then, but this time… this time she can’t deny to herself that she doesn’t want to get up.

She can’t deny to herself right now that the way Alex’s hand is settled on her back is something she wants to keep there, and she can’t deny that even though Alex isn’t only in her panties and tank top this time, that Maggie’s hand was resting under her shirt and against her bare hip and how she could draw her thumb over the skin there for hours just to feel the softness.

She can’t deny that her heart is beating faster just existing here like this with Alex than any other woman has made it beat in any situation since moving here.

Even Colleen.

Fuck.

Maggie quickly pulls her hand away and out from under Alex’s shirt, glancing up to make sure she didn’t wake Alex as that desperation grows a bit stronger and heavier, lacing through her veins.

She didn’t wake her, dark eyes still closed while Alex breathes soft and even.

But still, she stares for a second, heart hammering in her chest at the way the light reflects off of Alex’s hair, all disheveled against the pillow, her hands itching to gently stroke through the strands.

And it’s not okay, she realizes quickly, a sinking feeling like lead weight in her stomach.

Having a little crush on her best friend because she’s as close to perfect as a human Maggie has ever met is – that’s acceptable. It’s beyond her control, it’s only natural.

But waking up pressed so close and wanting to never have to move away… that’s not okay.

Not okay and it’s not fair to Colleen – her girlfriend, or to Alex – her straight best friend, or, she thinks selfishly, to her own heart. She doesn’t want to tip over this line she’s teetering on between small, inconsequential crush and something way, way deeper.

A line she’s been teetering on for a while now.

Maggie hasn’t been one to ever lie to herself, because what’s the use in that? But she’s allowed herself to be blinded in what she felt here and now, with Alex, because she likes her life right now. She likes it more than maybe she ever has.

She gets out of the bed as quickly and efficiently as she can without waking Alex, refusing to let herself look at the way Alex is sprawled in her blankets, if only because she wants to look at her so badly.

And her hands are almost shaking with the panic inside of her when she leaves Alex a note telling her she has to go, quickly grabs her clothes, and leaves.

//

She makes it to the kitchen before she’s stopped by Kara.

Who is standing there in matching pajamas with cupcakes on them, her hair in a ponytail, and she’s humming under her breath as she flips pancakes on a griddle. And while Kara isn’t really someone Maggie would probably befriend without Alex having been their buffer, their glue – she’s known Kara for almost two years now, and they have their own decent foundation.

A decent enough foundation of friendship that Maggie would ordinarily never even think about skipping out from a conversation with her while her back is turned, anyway.

But she’s thinking about it now, because she’s also thinking about Alex laying in her bed just down the hall and how her body still feels so warm where she’d been laying nearly completely pressed against her.

The decision is made for her – about whether to try to sneak past her and out the door – when Kara turns around, announcing, “I’m making you birthday pancakes! Winn’s getting the smallest stack because he’s snoring so loudl –” She cuts herself off, blue eyes widening in surprise, “Maggie! I thought you were Alex.”

In spite of the fact that her hands want to shake a little and that she’s experiencing this uncharacteristic anxiety, she has known how to keep a strict poker face for many, many years.

So, she manages a small smile, “Sorry to disappoint.”

“Oh, you’re not,” Kara shakes her head easily, flashing a smile, as she waves the spatula she’s using around in small circles in the air, “I just meant, well, I thought you took an uber home, like Lucy, since you weren’t in the living ro…” her eyes flicker between Maggie and then down the hall where she came from – Alex’s room – and that crinkle between her eyebrows appears.

Her eyes dart back and forth again, and Maggie can see all of the cogs turning in her head before blue eyes widen in recognition. And she doesn’t quite get why Kara bounces up onto her tiptoes for a quick second before she says, “Did you sleep with Alex?”

They hold each other’s gazes while Maggie can feel her heart skip a beat at the words, even as her eyes widen. Because – Kara thought she…

“In Alex’s room! In her room! With her! In her bed!” she rushes out in fragments, her cheeks blushing furiously.

And for some reason, it’s enough to calm her down. Kara didn’t actually mean to imply that she’d slept with Alex, Kara has no reason to think Maggie would even had thought about that herself, and that blush spoke for itself.

Maggie wasn’t actually doing a walk of shame. She isn’t doing one, and she has no real reason to act like she is.

Other than the fact that she might have just realized she has feelings for her straight best friend after sleeping in bed with her, while her girlfriend was in her apartment across town.

So, she takes a deep breath and lets her shoulders relax as much as they can even as her mind is still reeling a bit, “Yeah, we fell asleep there after everything wound down last night.”

“Right. Yeah. That’s, yeah, what I thought happened, too,” Kara nods quickly, turning back around to flip the pancakes that Maggie is pretty sure are a little burned by now, but for this once, she is definitely not going to mock her for it.

“So, birthday pancakes?” she asks, even as she searches the floor for her shoes, and then toes them on while Kara’s cooking.

“Yep! Jeremiah, um, he used to make them for Alex on her birthday every year. Eliza told me once it was because it was all she would eat when she was like ten,” Kara tells her, a little distracted as she tries to assuage the definitely burned pancake situation.

Maggie doesn’t know if it’s because she so rarely hears about Alex’s dad – she knows at this point that he’d died when she was sixteen, and that was because Alex had mentioned it on their Christmas phone call. But then had moved on, and she couldn’t, wouldn’t, ask her to elaborate when she could still hear the pain in her voice – but hearing that little snippet makes her pause.

And smile, because the thought of little-Alex only eating pancakes is ridiculously smile-worthy.

“I was five, Kara,” Alex’s voice surprises her, though, and she barely manages to contain her little jump of surprise when her friend appears from behind her. “When you say I was ten, it makes people think I was slow to develop.”

She’s rubbing at her eyes, and her shorts and the shirt she’d slept in are rumpled, her hair still messy, and it’s not the first time Maggie’s thought Alex Danvers looks sexy as hell, but it’s the first time she’s thinking about it and still feeling the way her hand had so easily, subconsciously slid under her shirt to rub against her hip.

She licks her lips before she realizes it, and curses herself as she assures, “I have never thought you are slow to develop, Danvers.”

Kara snort-coughs and Alex sends a fierce glare at her sister’s back, and Maggie’s a little confused, but mostly just trying to keep her eyes on Alex’s face and trying to stop her mind from wandering and refusing to let this anxiety take over.

But then Alex is looking at her, and the glare is all gone. Instead, replaced by confusion, “I thought you… um, I thought you had to go?” she reaches back and rubs at the back of her head, “There was – you left me a note,” there’s something in her voice that sounds small, and it also makes Maggie feel inexplicably bad.

You did not have a one night stand, you are not sneaking out, you did nothing wrong, she reminds herself.

“You’re not staying for pancakes?” Kara turns around again, “I was still going to give Winn the smallest stack!”

And despite how much she needs to leave and just sort herself out, it feels so good to have this. To be included in these birthday pancake traditions, and have breakfast with the Danvers sisters still in their pajamas. And, maybe it feels too good, because yes this is a part of her life, but she – she has other parts. Colleen, girlfriend shaped parts.

Then she realizes with a start as Alex sleepily – adorably – tugs at the neck of her shirt, that the spot Maggie had so resolutely sought out and rested her head on last night had been just above her heart.

Maggie’s own clenches painfully, “Sorry, yeah, I – I do have to go.”

//

She goes to Colleen’s right after.

She’s not sure it’s the wisest decision, but she feels like it’s right in the moment. Just, maybe to remind herself of her real-life situation, of what she has in her life right now. To give some perspective.

“You okay babe?” Colleen asks as they settle on the couch a few minutes after she’d arrived.

“I… yeah,” she says, her voice not quite as steady as she would like. “Sorry. Long night,” she offers.

Her girlfriend accepts it with a smile, before narrowing her eyes slightly, “Are those new pajamas?”

And it takes Maggie a moment to realize that she hadn’t actually changed back into her clothes before coming over here. She looks down at herself, running a hand over the soft, worn orange shirt that should look ridiculous but it makes her feel kind of happy.

Well, it would, if she didn’t feel like she’d been hit by a mack truck of feelings not even a full hour ago. “Uh, yeah.”

They belong to Alex and they still smell like her.

God, she is so, so screwed.

//

Maggie gets dumped in the hallway outside of Colleen’s apartment.

They’re coming back from spending one of Maggie’s rare days off out and about, and it’s basically still the afternoon, not even five o’clock yet, so she’s up for spending the rest of the night with her girlfriend.

She’s been trying to do that lately; to make better, conscious efforts in the two months since Alex’s birthday to spend more time with Colleen. Not even less time with Alex, necessarily, but… god, her heart lurches in her chest every single time Alex smiles at her.

And then she feels guilty as hell, because she has a girlfriend. She has a Colleen, and she can’t – she can’t let this thing for Alex, these feelings that want to burst at her seams, take over.

Because – she can’t do it. She refuses to feel this way about her best friend. She can’t.

So, she does her best to be the best girlfriend she can be to Colleen, and tries to ignore the impossible-to-douse spark inside of her that ignites every single time she sees Alex, even when all they are doing is hanging out at the bar, drinking and playing pool.

She can do it, she thinks. No, the feelings that Alex evokes in her aren’t going away or lessening at all, but that’s not – the two things don’t need to coincide, she convinces herself. It’s better if she doesn’t touch these feelings she may have with a ten foot pole. It’s better if she does her best to be girlfriend to Colleen and best friend to Alex.

And when Colleen turns to face her just after she unlocks her apartment door and takes a deep breath before saying, “I don’t think we should do this, anymore,” she genuinely doesn’t understand what she means at first.

“Do you want to just hang out here instead of going out to dinner?” she asks, eyebrows drawing together in confusion.

A moment beats by and blue eyes narrow, “No, I don’t think we should do this anymore,” she gestures between the two of them, and then it starts to dawn on her.

“I – you want to break up?” and she can hear her surprise mirrored in her voice, but – she is surprised. Because, yeah, they didn’t have something perfect, but…

She’s been trying.

Colleen, apparently, can’t believe she’s surprised, either. Because she kind of lets out a little scoff and Maggie hadn’t known Colleen was bottling up anger toward her, but she has been because it starts spewing out, slamming into her chest with words of, “Insensitive,” and “Stubborn,” and “So fucking work obsessed, I can barely ever get a full day to have you to myself.”

And Maggie… is blind-sided, and she can’t help but just stare up at Colleen, trying to process, even as she feels each work like an actual blow.

She feels like a complete idiot, standing there, with her mouth open, because she didn’t see it coming. She’s been – trying.

Before she can even figure out what the hell to say or how to make the heaviness bearing down on her shoulders lighter, Colleen crosses her arms, “And don’t even get me started on Alex.”

That, though, that’s what makes Maggie’s head snap back, eyes widening as her stomach jolts, “What about Alex?”

The laugh that falls from Colleen’s lips is bitter and angry, and there’s just something about it – the fact that the derisive sound is about Alex that makes something coil tightly and angrily in Maggie’s stomach.

“Oh, like you don’t even know. Newsflash, Maggie, I’m… I was your girlfriend, and I couldn’t manage to get a whole day with you. But the minute – no, the second Alex comes calling or texting or for all I know, sending a smoke signal, you’re running to her side. And I’m fucking tired of it, of her. And of you.”

The words stab right through her, and then Colleen shakes her head at her, before turning into her apartment.

She stares at Colleen’s door, the way it slams in her face. And she doesn’t even know how to feel – what she feels.

The way that Colleen had just effectively listed off everything that was wrong with Maggie, without needing to even take a breath, not even warranting having this discussion inside of her apartment… the backs of her eyes burn with how much it doesn’t surprise her.

The list of people who have walked away from her so easily, exactly like that, is getting so long, and she just doesn’t understand why it never gets any easier.

She does know that she has a whole new plethora of words to add to the ones that spin around her mind from people in the past about how she isn’t good enough. She knows that apparently her trying is not enough, because clearly Colleen had seen these feelings for Alex despite how hard she’s been trying to push down and away.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, she thinks, as she turns and walks numbly down the hall, focusing on getting herself to M’gann’s and to a peach mojito – or five.

Because since when has her trying ever been enough, for anyone?

//

Alex takes her to yoga the next week.

And Maggie, who’s been hibernating in her apartment when she hasn’t had to be at work for the last days after her breakup, stares up at Alex in confusion when they’re standing outside of a studio she’s never been to.

“You’re bringing me to yoga?” she asks, slowly, tilting her head as she takes in the way Alex rocks slightly from foot to foot.

And Alex gives her a quick smile with an almost fidget-y shrug, “Well, yeah. I thought that was obvious with the mats and everything,” she teases.

Maggie grins, still confused as she narrows her eyes, “You hate yoga. In fact, you’ve told me several times that there are very few things that would make you sit around and twist yourself into a pretzel while trying to meditate.”

There’s a blush in Alex’s cheeks that she can’t stop watching even as Alex scoffs, “Yeah, well… you don’t.”

And then she looks down at her, eyes big and sincere, “And you mentioned when we were at the bar after the breakup that you were going to miss the yoga studio, and I thought you could use a new one.”

She only has very, very hazy memories from M’gann’s that night – including Alex telling her that everyone who walked away from her is an idiot and that Colleen was wrong about the stuff she’d said about her. Which Maggie doesn’t quite believe; she knows herself better than Alex does and has heard it all from almost everyone else in her life aside from Alex – but she doesn’t doubt it in the least.

Because she and Colleen had met at yoga, and given that her ex had been going to that place for over four years and was friends with many people there, that she doesn’t quite feel as comfortable going to that same place anymore.

“Danvers…” the corners of her eyes crinkle with a smile, “You didn’t have to do this.”

Maggie really wasn’t sure she deserves it. Actually, she probably definitely doesn’t. Because what Colleen had said about Alex and what Maggie had that morning, months ago, is so true. She does have feelings for Alex. And when having to choose between someone else and Alex, including her own girlfriend?

She’ll show up for Alex.

And Alex’s eyes glint down at her, “I know, but…” she bites her lip for a moment, “I said you have me, and I mean it. Even if it means yoga.”

In spite of everything she’s gone through in the past, she finds that does believe that.

“And I will buy you vegan ice cream, but I’m not eating it with you,” Alex cautions, and it makes Maggie laugh.

Her first true laugh in days, and she isn’t shocked in the least that it’s because of Alex.

It’s during yoga when it hits Maggie.

The instructor is leading the Marjariasana pose and Maggie’s transitioning into it, and she can’t help but turn her head a bit to catch a glimpse of Alex. Who is staring ahead at the instructor with her eyebrows furrowing slightly – skeptically, she thinks – but determined, as always.

Alex. Danvers.

The woman who can outdrink anyone she knows, the woman who tells her that logically, scientifically zombies are just more accurate than vampires, who has full discussions with her about how The Day After Tomorrow should really be taken more seriously as a look at how serious global warming is going to be.

The woman who, two weeks ago, had invited her to paintball with the entire group and had said loudly enough for everyone to hear, “We have to win this, because I’m not losing to an assistant, a lawyer, a tech guy, and a photographer.”

And when Maggie had laughed and said, “Dr. Danvers, what do you think you are, a secret agent?”

She’d responded in a mix between competitiveness and faith with, “No, but I have you.”

And then smiled warmly, an enticing glint in her eyes when Maggie had answered with, “Yeah. You do.”

The woman who shows up and brings her to yoga even though she hates it, even after having Maggie crying into her shoulder and literally telling her all of her shortcomings.

Alex is quite literally the woman she’s always wanted, and when that realization hits Maggie, her hand slips from her yoga mat onto the floor and her face nearly hits the floor.

“Jesus,” she hisses, her heart pounding in her chest. Not really with her almost-fall, but with everything else.

And she stares wide-eyed at Alex, who turns her considering face from the instructor to her, concerned, “Are you okay?”

Maggie doesn’t even know the answer to that, but she forces herself to nod, anyway.

//

They’re sitting at Maggie’s kitchen table a couple of weeks later.

She’s tried to process these feelings in that time, to talk herself out of them, to tell herself that it’s not actually love. Because these feelings, they’re strong and full and Maggie wants badly to not be the person who is falling in love with her best friend.  

Maggie’s been in relationships before and she’s been in love. At least, she thought she has been. But nothing felt like this.

Alex is sitting next to her, leaning into her a little, really, as they’re eating pizza, and she sighs, “I love eating pizza with you.”

And that’s all it takes for her heart to skip a beat, so… how messed up is that?

She’s been becoming so much more aware of statements like this that Alex makes – and, she really does make a decent amount of them. Still, she huffs out a laugh, “Uh, okay?”

“You’ve seen my sister! She can eat an entire one by herself in like twenty minutes. This, with you, I can just – take my time,” Alex explains, going from defensive to ending with a small smile.

Which Maggie mirrors and nudges her shoulder against Alex’s, content in quiet for a few more minutes, even while her mind is still moving double time. Because Alex had been at work early, and Maggie knew that because she’d also been at work early.

Then she hadn’t had a lunch break, because she and Flores had spent the entire day working on a case that felt impossible. And to top it off, they still hadn’t come up with anything, and she’d sent Alex a text stating as much when her friend has asked.

And, unprompted, Alex had showed up to her apartment with pizza and beer and a comforting smile.

“Weirdo,” she tells her, but shrugs, “But I could do a lot worse than this, too.”

She’s pretty sure she could happily eat pizza like this for the rest of her life, with Alex leaning slightly into her and leaning back comfortably.

The rest of her life is something that jars her, but she finds that it’s not inaccurate. She’d liked Alex ever since before she’d thought they’d gone on a date. She’d like her before they were friends, before they were best friends.

Her eyes latch onto the way Alex licks a bit of sauce off her thumb and Maggie licks her own with the wanting so damn badly to press her mouth there.

She doesn’t realize she’s staring until Alex catches her eyes and gives her a confused grin, “What? Do I have more sauce?”

And Maggie’s hand twitches where it is in her lap to grab Alex’s, to bring it to her own mouth, to lean in and kiss her; she wants it so badly.

But it’s that want that could ruin this. That could ruin them and this entire thing they’ve built.

She doesn’t think Alex would really turn her back on her, but confessing your love to your straight best friend isn’t a smart move for lasting friendships. Because she can’t lose this. She can’t lose Alex, she just can’t.

She drags her gaze away and back to the table, “No. No, you’re good, Danvers.”

Maggie just isn’t sure how she’s going to survive this.

//

She isn’t sure if it’s fortunate or unfortunate for her just how often Alex can act like the perfect girlfriend without even realizing it, and Maggie’s in the squad car when Alex texts her in the middle of the day.

Which she does whenever she has time and often about fairly mundane things, but it always makes her happy – especially if she has time to read it.

Danvers – 1:34PM
So glad I never took the job at Lord Tech…
Max Lord came by today to talk to the head
of our department and he’s unbearable.

Sawyer – 1:36PM 
How long did you even have to spend with 
the guy? 

She grins and Flores takes her out of this little world she’s in when he asks, “The wife texting you?”

The word jolts right through her, as it has ever since she’s really realized her feelings for Alex.

Her grin immediately falls and she narrows her eyes at him, “No.”

“Yeah, she is,” he says easily, wiggling his eyebrows, “She’s the only one you text in the middle of the day. Or smile like that about.”

Maggie releases an irritated breath and reminds herself that she likes her partner, and that she’d taken his teasing and comments in stride for months. And that, damningly, he isn’t wrong. Still, she’s a little embarrassed that she’s such an easy read.

“Stop looking at me and watch the road, Victor.”

Danvers – 1:39PM
Long enough for him to ask me out,
apparently.

And everything in Maggie grinds to a stop at that. Because she’s had it easy in that Alex seemingly really had no interest in dating. But just this reminder about the fact that anyone could see what she sees about her best friend is jarring, and it makes it tough for her to swallow as she thinks about Alex actually dating.

Actually, going out there and making connections that she deserves to make, even if it means Maggie feels sick to her stomach.

“What’s with the frown? She okay?” Flores asks, and Maggie can hear his actual concern, but she’s still picturing Alex out on a date with some guy and it makes her heart actually hurt.

Sawyer – 1:44PM  
And… you said? 

“She’s fine,” she grounds out.

Danvers – 1:45PM
What do you think? No way.

Danvers – 1:46PM
Of course not.

The relief that pummels through her is enough that has her sinking back into her seat, and she hears herself whisper, “I’m… I have feelings for Alex,” before she even realizes it.

And, god, she wishes she could take it back the second it’s out. The first time she’s admitted to even having any semblance of feelings for Alex, out loud, and it’s terrifying in its own way. It doesn’t matter that she likes Flores, that she trusts him.

She feels like she’d just unintentionally bared herself open to someone else and she feels an instinctive heaviness weighing down uncomfortably on her.

And he doesn’t blink, doesn’t even take his eyes off of the road.

“No shit,” is all he says.

//

She’s at Kara’s birthday celebration when everything turns on its head.

She’s talking to James in the living room – it had started as a debate about public information when it came to crimes, which was somehow how they’d started to bond months ago, despite being on opposing sides, but instead had evolved into him glimpsing down and his eyes widening, “You really wore your gun to Kara’s birthday party?”

There was mirth in his eyes though, and she rolled her own, “You never know who’s going to show up.”

In all reality, ever since her breakup with Colleen she’s been focusing a lot more on work and on making detective. She’d mentioned it to Captain Carter, who had been setting her up with helping out the Major Cases Squad – her preferred department – whenever possible. And she’d come right from work to Kara’s party.

She’d even lugged around the ice cream maker she’d gotten for Kara in the trunk of her and Flores’s car.

James laughs, rubbing at the back of his head, “I think you might be the most dangerous one here. Probably the only one armed.”

And she grins back at him, before she turns her head enough to see Alex out of the corner of her eye. Alex is looking at her, sipping on what Maggie thinks is scotch, as she’d been drinking it the last time they’d spoken a little while ago.

She’s staring at her hands, Maggie thinks, in a bit of confusion, because Alex doesn’t look spaced out. She looks focused.

But she also knows that she could spend far too long staring at Alex, so she turns back and faces James, trying to remember what they’d been talking about.

“I’m sure there’s someone who could give me a run for my money. Maybe Winn,” she jokes, and it works to take that unnervingly knowing look off of James’s face and get him chuckling.

She joins in lightly, before he excuses himself to go see Kara, and she hits him on the arm as he passes.

And, as if she’s drawn to her – actually, she is – she turns back to see Alex, who sips on her scotch again and catches her eye.

Maggie has no idea how she does it or when Alex had snuck past all of her defenses, but just one look from her and the entire room fades away. And she’s helpless to resist walking up to her friend, especially taken in by the way she has that line between her eyebrows like she gets when she’s deep in thought sometimes.

And she has it right now while looking at Maggie, and she can’t help but be curious. As if she isn’t always curious about what’s going on in that constantly thinking mind.

“Danvers, it’s a party. You look so… serious,” she kind of teases, but means it. Because Alex gets this look sometimes toward her and it makes Maggie wonder and makes her heart race even though she knows it really – probably – means nothing. “Is it because I wouldn’t let you use my gun at the shooting range?”

Alex doesn’t really respond to her teasing, though, not the way she usually does. Instead she gives a chuckle that sounds like less of a chuckle and more of a nervous tick, “Uh, not – not so much serious as a little nervous.” She closes her eyes and downs the rest of her scotch in one large sip, “Can I talk to you?”

She follows where Alex places the glass down and then back up to Alex’s anxious face. She can’t help but wonder how much Alex has already had in terms of glasses of scotch tonight, because she’s seen her have several. It makes her really feel like something must be wrong.

And seeing Alex so anxious makes her feel an incredible need to soothe her, especially if it’s causing her to stress drink a bit, so she gives her a light smile, “Of course.”

She doesn’t know where they’re going, but Alex is leading her away from the party. And Maggie is pretty sure something is actually really wrong with Alex that is making her act like this because she’s so silent as she leads the, away from the crowd.

It’s really only to get Alex to crack a semblance of a smile because this face she’s making right now makes Maggie feel like she needs to do or say anything to make her feel better, “It’s not really about the gun thing, is it? Because even though you are a pretty impressive shot, but I can’t –”

“No. It’s not about that,” Alex cuts her off and comes to a sudden stop in the hallway, just between the bathroom and Kara’s bedroom, turning so that they face one another.

And Alex rocks back and forth and takes a deep breath, “I – the thing is…”

Alex trails off and drops her eyes and Maggie’s honestly getting really damn nervous now. Because the few times Alex has ever outwardly been so unsure of herself had been a few times about her mother being disappointed in her, and that alone was enough to make Maggie want to grab Alex’s shoulders and hold her until she realized how good she really was.

But those times? They’d been nothing like this.

And she’s about to reach out and take Alex’s hands in hers to still their nervous fidgeting, and tell her that whatever it is, Alex can tell her, because there is nothing she can do or say that will scare Maggie away.

Before Alex stutters out, “I want to talk to you about – the thing is, I’m gay.”

And everything in Maggie’s entire world seems to dim then brighten, the sounds of the party just down the hall completely fading out of existence.

She has so many questions – how long has she been questioning? How long has she known? Why is she so nervous to tell Maggie, when she knows Maggie is a lesbian?

She barely has a second to try to wrap her head around it, around this entire revelation dropped on her, and she wonders if she should even be allowed to hope –

“I like…” Alex tries to continue, but trails off, breathing shallowly before she groans, seemingly in frustration with herself.

And then Maggie can’t move, can’t even speak.

Because Alex’s hands are on her jaw and her fingertips are stroking over her cheek and Maggie’s entire stomach is bottoming out as her eyes widen and her heart starts to thunder in her ears, because she – she didn’t see any of this coming at all.

She wants to say Alex’s name, she wants to ask the questions in her head, she wants to ask how much Alex has had to drink tonight, she wants to ask what in the world she is doing, she want to ask if she even knows at all how easily she affects her? How easily she has always affected her, even before Alex had any inkling.

But she can’t ask a word, she can’t let out a sound, because Alex’s hand is both soft and firm and tilting her head up and Maggie follows her direction, because since knowing Alex Danvers, when hasn’t she?

She knows what’s coming in that second, but she isn’t prepared for it. There is no fucking way she could be.

The moment Alex presses her mouth to Maggie’s, she isn’t even positive there’s still an outside world beyond them. Because, god, she has wanted Alex’s kiss for over two years now. She’s wanted this moment for so long and it’s even better than she imagined.

Her mouth parts in a nearly silent gasp, in surprise at the fact that it’s happening, at the way she swears sparks shoot through her entire body. Because she can feel the soft, seeking way Alex slots her mouth over Maggie’s, both confident and searching – she swears she can feel it all over her body.

She doesn’t realize that her hands have moved until they are cupping at Alex’s elbows for balance, feeling the responding way her fingers stroke against her jaw. She’s rubbing her thumbs against her, feeling Alex’s soft, warm skin, and when Alex whimpers into her mouth, Maggie has to bite back a groan.

It feels so good, Alex feels so good, and she can taste her. She can taste –

Scotch.

It takes a few moments for it to sink in, because Maggie’s entire body wants to press Alex back against the wall, but – she needs to stop, and the world comes crashing back in.

All at once, she can hear the music and the people talking, and she can see Alex with her lips a little darker and a little wet and don’t look at her lips, and she’s always been fast on her feet, but she can barely process everything that’s happened in the last five minutes.

Alex is gay. Alex came out to her. Alex struggled to come out to her, even after drinking enough that she’d stumbled over her words and after clearly being conflicted about it enough that she hadn’t told Maggie while she’d been figuring herself out.

She wants Alex. Heavily lidded eyes stare up at her best friend, at the flush on her cheeks, at the way she’s breathing heavily and Maggie has never wanted someone more. But – fuck, not like this.

Not when Alex has been drinking, not when Alex has only told her that she’s gay two minutes ago, not – not like this, she thinks again, anxiety rushing through her.

“Maggie…” Alex breathes out, her eyes looking dazed. Surprised, “I…”

Alex trails off, and she’s glad, because she’s honestly positive that what is going to come out next is an apology. Even though she knows Alex is going to regret this, that she has every right to regret this drunken coming out and kiss, she can’t hear it.

She can’t hear the actual words.

Her lips are tingling from where Alex’s mouth touched hers and everything had felt so good only moments ago, but it feels like it’s falling apart now. Because Alex has been drinking throughout this party and was… was trying to come out to her. And when she couldn’t get the words out, she’d kissed her, to make the point. Those are facts that Maggie knows.

As much as she wants to believe that Alex wants her, that she meant that kiss… how can she? How can she possibly let herself believe that?

Until minutes ago, Alex gave no indication that she was even into women, let alone into Maggie. And more than anything, Alex has seen the worst parts of her, she even knows some of the things her exes her said about her. She knows… she knows how bad Maggie is, in relationships.

It’s that realization, that makes it both the best and worst kiss of her entire life.

The kiss – it didn’t really mean anything, how could it?

She can’t let herself believe that Alex feels for her the way she loves Alex, because if she does… there’s a clenching in her chest that tells her she would ever recover from realizing that Alex really doesn’t.

The kiss feels like a tease, like a glimpse of something she really can’t have.

The sudden, frantic need to get out of there grips her. To leave this hallway surrounded by Alex’s subtle scent and big, glassy eyes, to leave party at the place where Alex lives, because she can’t… she feels like if she stays here for another moment, she’s going to burst into tears.

Everything is overwhelming in the worst possible way, in a way she hasn’t felt in years.

“Did you really mean that?” she needs to know.

“How long have you known you’re gay and why are you only telling me now?” keeps ringing around her mind.

“Do you even know how much you mean to me?” is all she wants to ask, desperately.  

“You’re drunk,” is what comes out.

//

She needs to go. It’s all she can think about, all she can focus on. She needs to go, and she bumps into Kara in the frantic need she has to leave. She barely recognizes that it’s Kara until she hears her say, “Maggie, is everything okay?”

And she can’t bring herself to look at Kara, not really, because all she is going to be able to think of is Alex’s face and how she’d looked right after she’d kissed Maggie, “I’m good,” she manages to get out, her voice breaking before she clears her throat, “You, uh, your present is over on the table,” she pushes out and tries to smile, but her face feels too tight.

“Happy birthday,” she chokes out, over her shoulder as she wraps her arms tightly around herself.

The second she leaves the party she falls against the door and drops her head back, trying to gulp in deep breaths but she feels like she’s not really getting any oxygen in. All she can hear in her ears is every single way she’s ever let someone down – her parents, Kate, Colleen, her college girlfriends, her high school girlfriend – every single way she’s messed up.

She doesn’t deserve Alex, there is no way she deserves her. There’s just no way, and there is no way Alex meant that, and Maggie can’t stay here long enough to hear the words; she’s not ready.

She needs to go.

//

Only, Maggie doesn’t know where to go when she leaves.

She can’t go back home because she knows that if she does, she’s going to sit on the couch and imagine the way Alex lays her head against her when she gets tired when they watch their movies, or sit in her kitchen because she’s going to remember all the nights they’ve spent drinking and eating and laughing.

She can’t even lay in her bed, because her entire body is still buzzing from that kiss and she knows if she lets herself think about it, this tingling sensation still on her mouth will travel. 

The bar is just – it’s so tightly intertwined with Alex, now, she can’t go there.

She feels like every single place in National City is associated somehow with Alex Danvers and for as much as she can’t help but like that in one way, it’s… she doesn’t know what to do.

Her stomach feels like it’s tied so tightly in knots that she knows she couldn’t stomach anything to eat or drink. All she can feel is Alex’s mouth on hers, all she can hear is a loop of, “I’m gay,” and “Maggie, I…”

So, she ends up at the precinct.

And she tells herself to get some of the paperwork done that she has waiting for her, but how can she fucking do paperwork when Alex is gay? Alex is a lesbian. She told Maggie – or, was about to tell Maggie – that she likes girls, before she’d kissed her because she couldn’t get the words out.

God.

Alex had kissed her. Alex’s lips were soft and wanting and on hers and even though Maggie knows that Alex had been drunk, she can’t stop thinking about every single moment. The way her hands had felt on her face…

“I thought you were at some big birthday bash tonight? Why else was I carrying around an ice cream maker?” Flores’s voice is jarring and her hands clench in the material of her shirt where she’s been pressing on her stomach to try to stop herself from touching her mouth.

“I did,” she answers shortly, her voice rough, but she can’t help it.

Even though she can’t focus on anything other than this kiss, she leans forward at her desk to pull at papers and try to get her partner to go away.

He doesn’t, and instead just places a cup of coffee down in front of her, “Saw you sitting over here like you’d just seen an entire army of ghosts, but you’re not sure if it’s terrifying or cool.”

She hates that it’s a somewhat accurate assessment of how she is actually feeling, and she rolls her eyes, “Definitely no ghosts,” she murmurs.

Only a real, solid human who might have ethereal qualities in terms of how amazing she is, but definitely living. God. She wonders what Alex is doing right now.

“So, then why did you leave a party go come here when you have the night off?” he asks and his voice is light in the way that she’s brushed off so many of his personal questions before that he knows she’s just not comfortable talking about too much.

And she surprisingly finds that she wants to tell him about the kiss. If only just because there’s a part of her inside that is screaming in disbelief that she has actually kissed Alex. But the voice isn’t loud enough for her to actually say the words.

It’s squashed by everything else, everything bigger and louder, telling her that Alex made a drunk mistake, that she’s going to wake up in the morning full of regret.

“I have stuff to do here,” she answers, her voice thick, and she feels like she’s on some sort of emotional rollercoaster and no matter how much she wants to get off, she can’t.

He doesn’t push, and she’s glad. But he does pull up his desk chair to sit opposite her desk, and brings his own paperwork. “I’ve got time.”

She tries to focus, which somehow is helped by having Flores sitting across from her, diligently doing his own.

But when she shivers because she swears she can feel the ghost of Alex’s fingertips on her jaw, the words tumble out, “She kissed me.”

Flores’s pen scratches to a stop and he whips his head up to look at her, “Alex? Danvers? Alex Danvers kissed you?”

The excitement in his voice is what makes her drop her head into her hands, rubbing hard at her eyes.

“This is a good thing, isn’t it?” and he sounds like he has no idea how it couldn’t be.

So she shakes her head and tells him the facts, “She… had been drinking, and she was struggling to tell me she likes girls, and – it wasn’t…” she bites back a groan at the way the words won’t come out.

He doesn’t seem to have that problem, “Just because she was drinking doesn’t mean she was drunk. And even so, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to kiss you! Sawyer, come on. You just left?”

She likes Flores, but she can’t voice to him how inadequate she’s been found by every other person she’d ever let be close to her. She can’t tell him that she truly can’t believe that Alex would like her.

Instead, she glares, her heart pounding in her chest.

She’s grateful when he seems to get it, and sighs as he sits back in his chair, “I’m just saying – you didn’t stick around to know.”

//

By the time Maggie goes home, she’s thought way too much about what Flores said.

And even though she doesn’t really, totally believe him, she can’t help but think – what if he was right?

What if Alex had meant it? Even if she was drunk? What if… what if it hadn’t just been a coming out kiss? What if Alex did see all parts of her and she still wanted her as more than a friend?

She’s been awake all night and she hasn’t stopped thinking about Alex once.

So, she takes a deep breath, and texts her.

Sawyer – 7:44AM 
Didn’t finish my paperwork until after 1… 
how are you feeling? 

And, she waits, her nerves feeling like they’re on fire. Maggie’s not the most impatient person in the world, but she certainly isn’t the most patient, either. Especially not when it comes to this. She needs to get a grasp on where Alex is in this. On how she’s feeling.

On what she thinks about everything that happened last night.

She showers, and checks her phone more times than she ever has while, well, showering. And when she hasn’t heard back from Alex after she’s dressed and tried to force herself to eat some toast, she takes a deep breath and tries again.

Sawyer – 8:31AM 
Oh, and tell Kara that I have some interesting 
flavor options for her ice cream maker. I  
forgot to put them in the bag. 

“Really, Sawyer? You’re can chase down armed perpetrators, but you can’t text your own best friend?” she mumbles to herself in irritation with her first message and takes a minute to force herself to write another.

Sawyer – 8:33AM 
That’s dumb; I can text her myself. Okay. 
You’re probably still sleeping but we should 
do dinner later? 

That was it. Simple and to the point. She wants to see Alex – she kind of needs to see Alex – and dinner is good. Something they’ve done together hundreds of times by now. She needs to be able to see Alex when they talk about this.

So, she puts her phone down and waits, her stomach still twisting far too tightly in anticipation.

//

She lays on in her bed and waits for Alex to respond, her nerves never dying down.

Alex never answers and Maggie can barely sleep while she waits, despite having been awake all night.

And when she gets a text back, it’s over a full day later.

Danvers – 12:33PM
Sorry. Yesterday I was really hungover and
you know how that can be. Maybe dinner
sometime later this week.

She’d known that it was a fucking mistake.

//

She’s at Lucy’s apartment the first time she nearly brings the kiss up.

It’s the first time Lucy has hosted game night, though the games were done with for now, everyone is still sticking around. There’s a movie on, that everyone is watching, and Maggie doesn’t realize that Alex had snuck away from where she’d decidedly sat down between Lucy and Winn until she comes out of the bathroom to realize she isn’t there anymore.

She finds her sitting outside on the fire escape, moonlight reflecting off of her hair, and her stare is pensive down at the street. And it takes Maggie a moment of staring, her stomach dipping low, before she shakes herself out of it and climbs out to join her.

“Movie too boring for you, Danvers?”

Alex jerks a little, enough to tell Maggie that she actually surprised her. Which doesn’t happen often, and she frowns as she tentatively walks closer.

It’s been over a month since that night, since Kara’s birthday, and Alex isn’t avoiding her anymore, and Maggie could not be more grateful. Because for the days that followed, her panic had evolved from worry about the kiss into worry about Alex being so mortified by the kiss that she was just going to – to cut Maggie out.

She couldn’t handle that; she’s been cut out by so many people in her past and she’s been able to survive it, but she can’t be cut out by Alex.

The relief she’d felt when Alex had finally met up with her after the kiss had been nearly enough to make her cry.

So, Alex is – probably – embarrassed by it. So, Alex – probably – regrets it. Alex – probably – has been trying hard to forget it.

And it keeps Maggie up at night, wondering about the what ifs, what ifs that she has never in her past let herself focus on, but they plague her now. The what ifs and the sensory memory of Alex kissing her that she thinks should have disappeared by now but hasn’t.

It makes her a little edgy, her blood rush just a bit every time she moves closer, moving to sit next to her.

Alex sighs, shaking her head, “No, it’s – well, actually, yeah, the movie is pretty bad,” she grins.

And Maggie grins back, so glad that even though Alex never mentions it that she didn’t completely lose this. She’d spent days waiting for Alex in the bar before she’d finally showed up and the last few weeks gently pushing for them to keep going on the way they had been before, even if they weren’t quite there yet.

“Our movies are better; if only our friends had better taste,” Maggie comments, settling back against the steps and brushing her shoulder against Alex’s.

She can see now that Alex is only wearing her sweater, despite the fact that it’s into October now. And she knows she must be freezing, so she can’t help but move just a little closer. She can’t pretend that she doesn’t feel the way Alex freezes for a moment.

Or the way she immediately relaxes.

“I’m not out here because of the movie,” Alex admits with a sigh, before she rubs at her forehead. “I’m just… thinking.”

She nods, slowly, “Okay. Do you want to share what about?” she tries to keep her voice light.

And when Alex looks down, closing her eyes tightly, Maggie desperately wants to know what is going through her mind.

“No, it’s fine. Just, work stuff,” Alex says, her voice a little tight, as she looks back out at the skyline.

She doesn’t believe it, not that that is all that’s on her mind. But Alex doesn’t say anything else, and Maggie can’t bite back, “Danvers, when did you know you were gay?”

And Alex’s eyes fly up to hers, her shoulder bumping into Maggie’s as she jerks and then swallows hard, “I – knew for a while.”

She can hear the way her heart pounds in her ears as she digs her hands into her thighs, “You… you know you could have come to me to talk about it, right?”

“I know,” Alex’s voice is low and soft, and she slowly turns to look at Maggie again, a vulnerability in her eyes that is different than the one from moments ago.

And she’s not pulling back but she’s not leaning in, and Maggie can feel the tension radiating from Alex the same as she can feel it in herself, and she would do anything to just know. To know what that kiss meant, to know if it meant anything. The words are burning in her throat with the same heat that Alex’s body is pressed closed to hers.

Then Alex coughs and pulls back a bit, and it’s enough to make all of her words fall back down her throat.

Maggie has never been shy about letting any woman know that she was interested in her, she’s never been too afraid to make a move, let alone ask a question.

But she looks at Alex and her heart clenches tightly and she knows that she’s also never had so much to lose.

//

She’s walking home from the food truck at the end of her block a few weeks later.

In one hand, she has a bag filled with food – more than either she or Alex usually would have in a typical evening, but full of Alex’s favorites – and she uncomfortably has wedged the beer that both she and Alex were drinking the night they first officially met under that same arm.

And in the other she has her phone pressed to her ear, waiting for the woman in question to answer her call.

Because the not knowing is too much. The not knowing is killing her, and she’s just – she needs to do it. She needs to bring up their kiss and just know. Maybe Alex will be embarrassed, but this time Maggie has a plan.

She’s not going to run, neither of them are going to be drunk, and she’s just going to ask.

Because at the end of the day, even though she doesn’t really deserve for Alex to love her – what if… what if she really meant something in that kiss?

It definitely didn’t help having Flores’s voice in her ear all day in the squad car, telling her, “Alex fucking loves you!”

And even if she doesn’t – she really, really can’t let the butterflies that induces take hold – Maggie can’t keep wondering. Not when just a couple of weeks ago Alex and the group had taken her out for her twenty-seventh birthday and Alex had grinned at her so much that all of the strangeness between them disappeared completely because that smile was all she could see.

Not when there are nights like last night at the bar, where Alex had just stood there watching her as they’d played pool, her eyes all big and dark and sad and hungry and…

She just needs to know.

So she has the courage, she has the food, she has the beer, and she has the bundle of horror movies they’ve been making their way through. The bad ones from a collection she’d bought at the store because there were ten movies for twenty bucks, and she had just known that Alex was going to have amazing commentary about them.

She wasn’t wrong.

Now, she just needs –

“Sawyer?” Alex picks up the phone, sounding a little out of breath.

And Maggie can’t help but smile, “Hey, Danvers. You out of work already?”

She knows that it’s a little early – not even five, yet; she was feeling a lot of nervous energy – but, she could wait until Alex was ready in a bit. Besides, Maggie didn’t live too far from NCU.

Alex lets out a nervous sounding breath, “Uh, actually yeah. Got out a little early today.”

“Yeah?” Maggie’s stomach is full of butterflies and she swears that she hasn’t been this nervous about asking a woman about anything involving their potential love life since fucking high school. She hadn’t even been nervous the first time she’d thought she’d asked Alex out, way back the first time they’d met.

But, so many things had changed since then; Alex had become so much more important than she could have anticipated.

“So, are you up for some dinner and a movie? I figured we could continue into Chupacabra Terror, I can’t wait to know how it rates on the Danvers Plausible’O’Meter,” she teases, and she’s beyond thankful that there are no nerves in her voice. How damn embarrassing would that be.

Alex makes a strange sound in the back of her throat, though, that she has no idea how to categorize and she frowns at it as she presses her phone between her shoulder and ear to unlock her apartment door.

Then Alex clears her throat, “Um, I – I wish we could. I wish I could, I just, I have this thing.”

Maggie can’t help the small, disbelieving frown she has as she closes her door with her hip, “I thought Kara was working late all this week?”

“And I could only have plans with Kara?” Alex challenges a second later, and for a second, she thinks it’s teasing before she hears actual fire in Alex’s voice.

She puts the food and beer down on the counter, frown deepening as she feels a confused sort of guilt tug at her, “No, Danvers, that’s not what I meant. I was just… I mean, Kara and I are your usual suspects.”

For a moment, she waits on a frozen breath before she hears Alex exhale deeply, “No, sorry, I shouldn’t have gotten all – defensive. You’re right, you two are my usual suspects,” she adds in a quiet, somewhat warm voice. “We should do the Chupacabra movie, the next time I’m free.”

Maggie blows out a deep breath, sharing at the food and the beer and she doesn’t want to wait anymore with this weighing on her. She doesn’t want to barely sleep another night wondering if there could be something between them.

For a moment, for one blissful moment, Maggie lets herself think about everything they could have together. Movie nights curled up on her couch that don’t end with Alex pulling back and going home. Times where they play pool and Alex can press against her to give her tips instead of directing her from a few feet away.

Fulfilling all of the times they’ve stood so close that Maggie can feel the heat of Alex’s hand near hers and the longing she has to take it in hers and just... hold. Fulfilling all of the times she’s thought about backing Alex into a wall and kissing her, then down her neck.

“It’s just, I… well, I have a date,” Alex says, her voice small and nervous and of course she’s nervous because she has a fucking date. “My, uh, first one with a woman.”

Alex is going on a date with a woman, of course because she is gay, and – and what gay woman wouldn’t want to date Alex?

She’s frozen, though, chest tightening and clenching so painfully that she thinks she might fall over from it. Her free hand braces against the counter and she closes her eyes tightly, trying to ward off the ridiculous tears burning in them.

“Oh.”

It’s all she can say. It’s all she can force out of her throat because it’s so tight she feels like she can’t breathe. She feels like if anything else is going to come out of her mouth, it’s going to come out on a sob, and it hurts so fucking badly.

She hadn’t been prepared, she thinks. She hadn’t been prepared for this, no matter how much she thought she had been. No matter how much she’d told herself that Alex hadn’t meant the kiss, there’d been this part of her that held out a hope.

A hope that Alex, for some reason Maggie couldn’t name, wanted her back.

It died at the same moment her tears started to fall.

//

She spends the night crying on the couch.

She doesn’t remember the last time she’s cried this much, because it’s never even happened for a breakup. Maybe when her parents kicked her out. Maybe when her aunt died. Those are the only contenders.

Fuck, but this hurts. Her entire chest fucking hurts, her heart hurts, and it’s dumb. It’s so dumb.

Because Alex is the best and Alex deserves the best and Maggie certainly isn’t the best, so she should be glad that she’s going out with someone who could be.

The guilt she has weighing her down for being so unsupportive on the phone is eating at her, too,

So, Maggie tries to be there for her.

Sawyer – 6:13PM 
Have fun! 

It’s a good thing Alex doesn’t want to date her, she tries to tell herself. Because Maggie is both not enough and too much, because she’s confusing and even someone who had dated her for two years doesn’t know what she wants, because she is stubborn and insensitive and obsessed with work.

Sawyer – 6:16PM 
Be safe 

The idea that Alex could ever see in her what Colleen and Kate and everyone other woman in her past see in her chills her to the fucking bone.

Because everything is wrong with her in some way, and she can’t let Alex see that. She would rather spend every single night having to feel like this if it meant Alex would never see her the way everyone else has.

If it means Alex will never see everything that makes everyone want to leave her.

Sawyer – 6:21PM 
If you need an emergency exit, 
codeword is chupacabra 

She hits send and she can barely breathe from the way her throat is choking around her tears.

//

Maggie never officially meets Natalie, but she knows that Alex goes out with her more than once.

She knows because Kara posts a picture of them and herself and James at the CatCo trivia night. She knows because Alex gets all flushed when she mentions her.

She knows the day after they have sex, too, because she and Alex are having lunch, and Alex keeps ducking her head and smiling and Maggie feels like she is going to be absolutely sick when she realizes it.

“So, you spent the night with Natalie last night?” she can’t help but ask even as she pushes her sandwich away.

Alex gives her a shocked look, even as she blushes and Maggie doesn’t understand how it is that she finds Alex so cute even when she feels sick at what they’re talking about, “I – what – how did you know?”

The laugh that scrapes out of the back of her throat is somehow both genuine and forced, “You aren’t the best of liars, Danvers.” She pauses because she doesn’t want to ask, really doesn’t want to know, but she’s her best friend. So she does, “How was it?”

And she’s not some possessive idiot who is upset at Alex for sleeping with someone else, but damn if Maggie hadn’t dreamed about being the first woman Alex wanted to touch her, to blow her mind.

She’s so thankful when Alex, still blushing, ducks her head before those eyes meet hers and she says, “I think… I finally get me.”

Maggie wonders what kind of woman Alex is that she answers her question like that, but she knows it’s the one she fell so far in love with, she can’t even see above her own head anymore.

Her smile isn’t forced despite the fact that her stomach is still in knots, because… Alex looks happy. She isn’t happy with her, but, Maggie wants that.

“You deserve that,” she tells her.

She goes back to one of the clubs she’d favored back before Colleen that night because she needs it. She needs someone to get her mind off of Alex, to get her mind off of touching Alex, off of someone else touching Alex.

Her heart isn’t in it in the least, but she’s approached by a woman who’s a little taller than she is and has hair the same length as Alex’s, and she deflects because she knows she’s going to like it way too much for the wrong reasons.

A blonde approaches her, shouting in her ear, “My name’s Amber,” before they dance and go to the back of the club.

She makes Amber come fast and hard and that is all this is, and that’s what she wants, even as Amber turns her back against the wall and returns the favor.

She’s still thinking about Alex the whole time, and she’s never been so unsatisfied.

//

She and Alex are playing pool again when Maggie’s final shred of optimism is completely gone.

Because she can’t help but ask, “So. How’s Natalie?”

It’s not something she really wants to know. But she can’t not ask – because she’s trying to be supportive and also because she’s apparently a masochist.

She hopes that Alex isn’t going to tell her that they’ve become more serious in the last few weeks after sleeping together, because her poker face really might crumble a little bit.

But then Alex shrugs and takes a sip of her drink as she says, “I don’t think we’re going to see each other again; it wasn’t that serious.”

Alex isn’t even looking at her and she isn’t even upset in the least. Maggie can hear it in her tone that she’s genuinely fine with the fact that the first woman she’s ever been with happened and fizzled out in less than a month.

And of course. Of course she’d be like that, because it’s just so Alex. To completely blow past every expectation and every norm set in front of her. She just can’t help the way she can feel herself smile like an idiot as she stares at her.

“What?” Alex asks a moment later, almost self-conscious when she must realize Maggie’s staring.

God. She shakes her head, unable to stop smiling a bit as she tries to explain, “Nothing… it’s just. You come out, then date and sleep with your first woman. And two weeks later you’re all it’s not that serious.”

Her impression of Alex is, as always, awful, but she can’t help it. And she can’t help bit grin even wider as Alex stares at her, face scrunching up a bit in confusion, eyes wide.

She rubs her hand at her chin and takes a deep breath, “A lot of the time, the first woman you sleep with is someone you get stuck on, you know? Like, the first one that makes you feel… whatever. And then those things never really work out…” she trails off for a moment, and – and she can’t help but think that maybe since that was Natalie and since Alex wasn’t overly invested in Natalie, that there could be… someone else.

She shakes her head, trying to draw herself out of those thoughts before she gets too caught up in them, continuing, “But here you are, shrugging and going, it’s not that serious.

And Alex fidgets slightly from foot to foot, chalking up her cue as she takes in Maggie’s words in that thoughtful way she has. Before she lifts an eyebrow because she knows Maggie has more to say in that way she just effortlessly has.

“And it’s badass,” she finishes, wondering if the reverence in her tone is just as apparent to Alex as it is to her, “You’re just – you’re special, Danvers.”

She doesn’t know if she’s ever meant something more than that.

But that thought she’d had, that Alex had her first woman out of the way and what if… what if? What if that could mean something? It’s circling her head, moving faster and faster.

She turns to face the pool table, lining up her shot but completely unable to take it as she asks, “So, if not Natalie and you have that first lady out of your system… you have your eyes on someone else? Some other lucky lady?”

Her voice shakes and if that hadn’t given her away she doesn’t know what possibly could. But just when she thinks she has no more hope in this, can’t hold out for Alex Danvers anymore, her mind proves her wrong.

It’s not right. Alex doesn’t deserve this, doesn’t deserve Maggie’s entirely selfish inquiries into her love life. She definitely doesn’t deserve Maggie thinking about her when she’s in the back of a bar getting fucked, doesn’t deserve her hoping that Alex could want to date someone as damaged as she is.

But then Alex answers, “No.”

And Maggie deflates, heart sinking all over again, but thankfully no overwhelming tears this time.

“I have a lot happening, with taking on more classes to teach in next semester and that grant proposal I’m working on. Just – too much going on right now to think about being in a relationship,” Alex tells her, so serious and so responsible and just… badass.

She makes herself nod, blowing out a long breath while her shoulders cave in slightly with this sadness, this disappointment. She takes the shot she’s been lined up for, for minutes now, because she realizes she’s been standing here like an idiot for way too long, and she doesn’t even look to see how bad it was. She doesn’t care.

“No, yeah. I get it,” she says as she straightens and turns slightly away from Alex because looking at her face makes her want to smile even as her heart aches and it’s so confusing for her to process. So, she just nods, “That’s – you know – smart. You’re going to change the world. Doctor doctor Danvers,” she finishes in a murmur.

Alex Danvers, double doctor, is going to change the world, of that she has no question. And Maggie is going to be there to see it, no matter what.

//

She meets Emily at a crime scene, and she honestly doesn’t think that much of it.

She’s been assigned to a case involving art fraud and a black market scheme that Captain Carter assigns her to work on with the Major Case Squad, and the FBI is working it with them, and it’s the biggest case of Maggie’s career so far.

It’s the end of her day, and she’s flying pretty high because Detective Reese – her current superior – informs her that he’s impressed with the work she’s done and it should help her to really make strides in becoming a detective.

She’s responding to a text Alex has sent her about meeting up at the bar, and she honestly can’t think of anywhere else she wants to be right now after a long day.

So, she’s texting and not paying as much attention to her surroundings when her shoulder bumps into someone, and she promptly looks up, an apologetic smile on her lips, “Sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

She’s met with a small smile from the woman she’d bumped into. Pretty, with long brown hair, and dressed a blazer. And when their eyes meet, she smiles just a little bit wider, “No, it’s okay. I wasn’t really looking, either.”

They both reach for the front door at the same time, and Maggie quickly reaches out, opening it for her, and she gets a lifted eyebrow in response, “Thank you… detective?”

“Officer,” she corrects with a small smile, “Already changed out of my uniform.”

“Art dealer,” she gets in response, before the woman smiles and rolls her eyes at herself, “That is, Emily Rhodes. Art dealer.”

“Maggie Sawyer,” she supplies, offering her hand, and she doesn’t necessarily miss the way Emily’s eyes linger on their hands, before meeting her own. And she doesn’t necessarily dislike it, either. But she still drops her hand.

Emily tilts her head to the opposite direction of the sidewalk that Maggie’s heading in, “I’m this way. But I hope to see you around, Officer Sawyer.”

And she does see her around. Several times, actually, always during work hours.

They get coffee a few times, too, and Emily is surprisingly helpful with the investigation. Very cooperative and always has a smile for her, and most of the time has a bit of a flirting vibe.

Which Maggie is hesitant to return, for multiple reasons. Because she’s at work, for one, and she has a lot of plans for her career, and she’s not going to jeopardize anything by being involved with someone during an open case.

And, because every time Emily smiles and flirts with her it feels… nice. It feels the way it’s always felt when a pretty woman that Maggie likes flirts with her, but now she knows what it’s like to feel the way she feels for Alex, and suddenly this with Emily – and every other woman – doesn’t feel as good as it used to.

The last day of working the case, Maggie’s walking away from a meeting with one of the detectives from her precinct, and Emily approaches her from where she’d been standing in her office.

“Case is over, officially,” she says, smiling a bit at Emily, “You must be relieved to have us all out of your hair.”

“More relieved that the original artworks have been found,” she counters, smiling brightly as she tilts her head down a bit, “And, I’ll be sad to see some of the amazing law enforcement officers be leaving. One in particular.”

And, she’s surprised at the fact that the words kind of get to her. It doesn’t make her heart race, not like Alex does with just existing, really, but it’s nice to hear. Nice to feel.

“Just a small 9-1-1 call away,” she jokes, flashing a smile.

Emily laughs lightly, before shaking her hair back slightly, “So, now that this case is wrapped up, do you have big plans for tonight?”

She knows that in her typical single stage – and she is single, she reminds herself. Just because she’s in love doesn’t mean that it’s requited or ever will be – that is an opening to possibly make plans.

But she thinks about this weird techno bar she and the rest of the group had been invited to because of Winn’s light show, and she might not have a vested interest in that… but she has a vested interest in seeing Alex for the first time this week.

Would it be unfair to Emily, to go out with her, despite the fact that she is smart and pretty, knowing that she’s more excited to see her best friend who certainly doesn’t want to date her? Probably. Does Maggie want that on her conscience? Probably not.

She sighs lightly, shaking her head even as she continues to smile just a little. Enough that Emily knows it’s not really a rejection rejection, “Yeah, a friend mine has this thing at a bar…” she rattles off the name from the text she’d gotten from Winn earlier in the week.

When Emily’s smile dims a bit and she nods and says, “Oh, that sounds like fun,” Maggie does not expect her to show up at the bar. She doesn’t expect her to buy her a drink in a place where she’s so clearly not very comfortable or to slip her card into Maggie’s hand with a, “Call me if you want to go out sometime.”

//

She doesn’t call for over a week later, when she’s at her desk at work.

All she can think about is the way Alex had looked at her when they’d played darts the night before, Alex wearing a leather jacket and boots and looking gorgeous enough to kill and sometimes if Maggie’s not careful, she could almost imagine they were there together.

But they aren’t.

And if she ever wants to find that, to have that for real, she knows that she needs to eventually make herself try to see beyond Alex. Because Alex isn’t going to love her like this; Alex is going to use her genius brain to change the world, Alex is too good, and Maggie needs to at least try to move on.

So, with a deep breath, she dials Emily’s number.

“Maggie? I was hoping you’d call,” she answers on the second ring.

“Yeah, sorry it took me a few days. I’ve been really busy at work,” she blows out a deep breath, leaning back in her chair in the precinct. “So, how do you feel about Thai food?”

“I love it,” Emily tells her and she thinks she can hear her smile through the phone.

Which, is good. She can do this.

//

They go for Thai food on their first date, to a museum on their second, and before Maggie realizes it, they’ve been dating for a little over a month and are becoming a little more serious.

It’s surprisingly easy, and Emily isn’t the breath of fresh air that Alex has been since the moment she’d stepped into her life, but she’s solid. And she likes her.

She can’t deny that she still feels this thing for Alex, but she’s been doing her best to try to get over her. But unlike when she’d been with Colleen, she isn’t going to go into this only to have her feelings for Alex blow back, this time her eyes are open, and she’s honest.

Which is what makes it so perfect when she and Emily are walking back to Maggie’s place after their fourth date, and Emily pauses, her hand that’s holding Maggie’s tightens for a second, before dropping, and she says, “I have to tell you something.”

Maggie tilts her head with a grin, “Do I need to help you hide a body?”

Emily’s eyebrows draw together in confusion for a moment before she realizes what Maggie’s saying and let’s out a quick, tinkering laugh, “No, no. It’s not that serious. I just, well, I want to be honest with you.”

“Okay,” she straightens her shoulders, entirely unsure of what to expect, “Go for it.”

Emily lets go of her hand and takes in a deep breath, looking more nervous than Maggie usually sees of this very composed woman, before she says, “I think you should know – I like you. I really do, and I want to keep seeing you. But I have to be honest and let you know that none of my past relationships have worked out, all for the same reason.”

Maggie thinks, only one reason, that’s nice, but says, “All right. Emily, you don’t have to tell me.”

But she shakes her head, “No, I want you to know that my work is very important to me. Like, very, very important. I work long hours – I always have – sometimes I travel, and I don’t feel guilty about it. I love what I do. But it has caused… several problems in the past.”

Emily looks so genuinely unsure about saying this to her that it almost makes Maggie want to laugh. It’s not that she doesn’t appreciate Emily’s honesty, because she does. But – if Maggie was going to dump all of the reasons why she’d been dumped on Emily’s shoulders right now, she doubted she would ever hear from her again.

The least of which being Colleen’s Alex reason, that turned out to be entirely true and, well, still was.

But she’s doing her best with that.

She does chuckle, a little bit though, and Emily gives her a wide-eyed look, like she can’t believe she’s laughing.

“I’m not laughing at you, I promise,” she assured. “I’m just… trust me, I don’t mind that you work long hours. I work long hours, too. Long hours and I have a history, too. Trust me. Some stuff that’s even a little more intense than that,” she admits.

Emily is looking at her with a hopeful look, though.

They agree to keep dating and keep in mind that maybe they don’t have to rush into anything serious, and it’s possibly the best agreement Maggie could have possibly thought of.

//

She doesn’t plan on ending the night she meets Emily’s brother stumbling into her apartment, a little drunk, with Alex.

But she had felt a little wary at the way Emily’s eyes had lit up at her earlier when she’d invited Maggie to spend more time with her brother and her brother’s wife. They were still going nice and slow, slow enough for Maggie to really realize that she likes Emily, that dating her was good and consistent.

And she’d only really gone to dinner because Emily had assured her that, “I just want to prove to my brother and therefore my parents that I can actually maintain a happy dating life.”

Dinner had been… fine, even if Maggie never wanted to go to Mario’s uptown again, feeling grossly out of place, and had a better time texting Alex when she’d been in the bathroom than she had making conversation with Emily’s pretentious brother. Emily had her moments – acceptable, sometimes even endearing – but her brother was far worse. She’d been looking forward to leaving as soon as she’d gotten there, almost.

And she hadn’t known Alex was going to be at the bar, but she’d just felt like she would be. When she’d seen Alex Danvers leaning over the pool table like she owned it in her dark sweater that Maggie’s sure she’s seen handfuls of times, she looked better than anyone in the fancy, stuffy restaurant she’d had dinner at tonight.

“I’m just saying, if people didn’t want to be hustled at pool, why would they approach me?” Alex asks, her voice almost indignant, and it makes Maggie laugh.

They’d been very kindly asked by M’gann, who had offered to pick up their tab, if they wouldn’t mind freeing up the pool table after Alex had been apparently set up there all afternoon and evening before Maggie had arrived. And instead of going back to the bar, they’d tipped their friend, and gone back to Maggie’s. 

“It’s not like everyone goes to that bar all of the time, Danvers, not like us. They probably don’t know what a shark you are,” she can hear the affection in her own voice as she puts their glasses in the sink.

It’s after midnight, and Alex’s eyes are drooping a little – she’d had more to drink tonight than Maggie had, and she looks adorable – and it’s barely even a thought to offer, “You want to sleep here tonight?”

Big, brown eyes turn to her, looking a little sheepish and surprised, she thinks, “Yeah?”

“Why do you sound so unsure about that, Danvers?” She arches an eyebrow, but a smile still on her lips, in spite of the serious question. It’s not like they’ve never spent the night together, after all.

“No? What? I’m not,” Alex scoffs, her hands fiddling in front of her for a moment, before she shrugs, “I just – I didn’t know if maybe you were going to meet back up with Emily again tonight or…”

And like that, Maggie’s stomach clenches just a little. Like it always does whenever Emily mentions Alex or vice versa. Just. It’s hard to keep everything in order, the way she’s trying to sometimes. Clearing her throat, she shakes her head, “No, not tonight.”

Truth be told, she and Emily – taking things slowly, despite the fact that it has been a few months and they were using the girlfriend label – only spent the night together maybe once or twice a week, tops.

Maggie liked this pace.

Alex turns away, swallowing before she says, “Oh, okay.” She’s tugging a bit at the hemline of her slightly too-large sweater, “Can I borrow something to sleep in?”

“No, I’m going to make you wear what you have on for a good night’s rest,” she rolls her eyes as she leads Alex into the bedroom.

When they’re in there, she’s rooting through her drawers, and she knows that the one drawer that Emily with some of her clothes would fit Alex better, but the thought of that makes her stomach lurch uncomfortably.

She slams a drawer a little too hard when she turns back around with the clothes in her hand to give to Alex, her own pajamas in another.

“All yours,” she extends her clothes to Alex, trying to ignore the way she feels when Alex grabs them and looks toward the bathroom.

And she pulls her own hand back to her chest, “Ah, the whole room is yours for the night. I’ll change out here and take the couch.”

She doesn’t let Alex argue with her, beyond, “Maggie, that’s –”

“No arguments, Danvers. Besides, I’m shorter, as you have reminded me several times,” she rolls her eyes for effect, hoping it works.

Because even though they’ve shared a bed before, god Maggie never forgets how it had felt waking up in Alex’s bed, she can’t do it now. She wouldn’t sleep a wink laying in bed with Alex but not touching her. And she can’t touch her, because…

She wants to climb into bed next to her, to just sleep next to her.

But. She has Emily. And even if she wouldn’t be doing anything, it feels like a betrayal, and she has been doing so well with controlling her Alex-impulses.

“Goodnight,” she gives Alex a small smile, ignoring the big, dark eyes that she can feel watching her as she leaves her bedroom.

//

The weekend she spends at Lucy’s beach house is the first time she’s at the beach for more than an hour or two.

In all honesty, she has no idea what to really expect from the weekend, for several reasons.

First, because Emily had asked, upon learning about it, if she would mind her joining, with the reason of, “I love the beach… and I’d really like to get to know your friends a bit better.”

And – that’s fine. Maggie likes that Emily wants to make some effort with her friends. Who she’s already met a few times in the last six months and it’s gone well. What makes her nervous is the eager look in Emily’s eyes and her willingness to take the whole long weekend off from work.

She likes the way things have been going with them; she likes Emily. She knows her flaws, she knows her strengths, she knows they can work well together. But she isn’t exactly sure what to think or how to feel about this new step. But if she ever wants anything to work out, she knows she needs to let it progress.

The second thing she’d had no idea what to expect was Alex, and she thinks she shouldn’t be surprised by that.

But the first thing she sees when she arrives is Alex surfing like a – well, a California surfer, and she knows she’s staring even before she hears Emily say, “Wow. That’s impressive.”

“Yeah,” she hears herself says, distantly, making herself look away.

She doesn’t mean to avoid Alex, necessarily, but… being together in the same place with Emily and Alex was okay to do in the brief increments she’d gotten used to in the last six months. Not in situations like this, where Alex is tipsy and in a bikini and – yeah.

So, she does her best to focus on Emily, and it works until later that night when everyone is gathering around the fire. Thankfully, Alex is now more clothed, wearing shorts and a hoodie, and she sits across the fire from her. Maggie does her best to ground herself using Emily’s hand in hers and to look at her girlfriend and try to focus more on the way the moonlight reflects off of her hair than the way she can see the slight pink on Alex’s cheeks from the sun and how cute it is.

They start out playing Would You Rather, because of Winn had started off asking, “Hotdogs or hamburgers… for the rest of your life?” at the end of dinner and it had spiraled from there.

So she holds on to Emily’s hand and does her best not to look too much across the fire and she learns that when it comes to “Would you rather have to say everything on your mind or never say anything at all?” posed by James, that she and Alex are the only ones who say never anything at all.

And then when Winn asks, “Would you rather meet your soulmate and spend a year with them or be content with someone else for a lifetime?” Maggie feels like it’s a personal attack.

She even stares at him to check, but he is looking normal and – of course he is. He has no idea about Maggie’s feelings.

The general consensus for Lucy and Emily is that they’d rather be content for a lifetime, James and Winn say soulmate for a year. When eyes land on her she feels caught, but then can’t help but say, “Soulmate,” her eyes flickering over the fire to Alex before her heart stutters in her chest and she turns away.

And Alex’s jaw is set when she mutters, “I think I’d do better alone.”

“That’s not an answer,” Winn objects and then receives a glare from both Alex and Lucy, and rolls his eyes, muttering, “Fine.” But then brightens and suggests, “How about Never Have I Ever?”

Maggie thinks that is going to be better, but it’s actually worse. Because no, she doesn’t feel this heaviness in her chest, but she does have to see Alex give Lucy a fucking lap dance. And she wants to say she’s not captivated by the way her friend’s hips move and grind or that she isn’t jealous of Lucy Lane but both of those things would be a lie.

She can’t look away.

And she’s still thinking about it when she’s in bed with Emily later that night. It’s a twin bed, the only spare that Lucy had, but – she’s in bed with Emily laying far too close, she can’t get comfortable still picturing Alex fucking Danvers performing a lap dance, and she feels like she’s suffocating laying here.

She needs to get up, to get some water. To just… distract herself.

She doesn’t expect to see Alex sitting out on the beach. She doesn’t expect to feel so drawn to her that she can’t resist going outside. She definitely doesn’t expect to cry into Alex’s shoulder and spill her guts about her parents, but she does.

The even more surprising thing? Is that when Alex tells her “Your parents were wrong, Maggie” and that she’s “one of the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life” and that “anyone else for walking away” was wrong, too… Maggie finds that a piece of her believes it.

When she goes back upstairs and slips into bed, Emily is awake. Groggy, but awake, “Where’d you go?”

And Maggie can’t help but feel guilty, even though she knows she didn’t do anything, “I sat outside on the beach,” she murmurs back, still able to feel the way Alex’s arms held her, pulling her sweatshirt tight and warm over her shoulders.

“Okay,” Emily whispers and soon falls back asleep. Maggie stays up.

She’s really not sure what to expect the second night they spend there when she goes outside again. Emily is fast asleep upstairs; after playing beer pong and coming into a surprising near-win against Alex, her girlfriend had been fairly drunk. And handsy. Either way, she’d fallen asleep very quickly.

She’s can’t help but grin when she slides open the door and sees Alex standing, illuminated in the moonlight, “I was hoping you’d turn up.”

Alex’s back is still toward her when she approaches, but she hears her say, “I was here before you,” in a teasing tone.

And it makes her smile, “Yeah, but who’s older?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Alex finally turns to face her, and her voice is exasperated, but there’s a laugh in it.

Maggie shrugs, “It’s hard to argue against.”

Alex rolls her eyes, but then they focus at a point in the distance as she says, “I was thinking about going on a walk tonight,” her voice is quiet, “If you want to come.”

She thinks she would probably go wherever Alex goes, and that’s probably a dangerous thought, but it’s true, “Lead the way.”

They’re quiet for a few minutes as they walk down the stretch of nice, private beach. The ocean hitting her feet and calves makes Maggie shiver a little, but it’s soothing. She has no idea when she started to associate the ocean with Alex – maybe it was because the first time she’d gone was the first week she’d met Alex, maybe because of that Christmas phone call where she’d heard it in the background for hours, maybe because of yesterday – but she does.

It’s nice.

Alex’s eyebrows are furrowed and her eyes are big, focusing on the sand in front of them as they walk, and she’s biting at her bottom lip. She thinks that there might even be a sheen of tears in her eyes, and Maggie can’t help but need to know what’s on her mind.

She keeps her voice as light as she can, “What’s going on in that big brain of yours?”

Alex sucks in a deep breath, “What? What do you mean?”

And Maggie rolls her eyes gently, “You’ve looked like you got home and Kara ate all your leftovers – every day for a month – all night.” And that is putting it mildly. Because she’d even looked like that when she’d beat Emily at beer pong, and winning something was usually a real celebration for Alex.

She’s silent for a few moments and Maggie can’t help this feeling of apprehension that’s growing inside of her, because she would kill to stop whatever it is that puts that look in Alex’s eyes.

But then Alex takes a deep breath, “I’m thinking, just, something about my dad.”

Maggie nods, purposefully brushing her shoulder against Alex’s, if only in a small show of support. She wants to reach for Alex’s hand, even, but they’re in the pockets of her sweatshirt. “I’m sorry if our conversation last night was… too heavy.”

But Alex quickly shakes her head and then her hand comes out of her pocket, to grab Maggie’s, “No. No, I’m glad you told me all of that.” She takes a deep breath, “I’m just – I was thinking about something my dad told me once. About physics.”

Maggie arches an eyebrow, a small grin playing at the corner of her mouth, “Nerd.” But she flexes her hand in Alex’s, urging her to continue.

She does, “I can’t stop thinking about this theory – the multiverse theory.”

Maggie quirks an eyebrow, “Like, the theory that there are multiple universes?” and she can hear the skepticism in her own voice. “Like, in Fringe?”

“No,” Alex is quick to say, then frowns, “Well, kind of, actually. I mean, it can’t be proven, obviously but real scientists believe in it, too. I mean, Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Erwin Schrödinger –”

“The man with the cat,” Maggie supplies, mostly just to see Alex grin because she looks so pensive and serious and sad.

It works, a little, “And others. But it’s just… there are a few theories about how it could work, but I – I can’t stop thinking about imagining if there were other universes. What life could be like.”

Maggie’s hand suddenly feels cold and it’s because she hadn’t even realized she and Alex were still holding hands; it had just felt so natural to do. But she feels it now, the emptiness, watching as Alex drags her hands through her hair almost a little desperately as she pauses to stare out at the water.

And Maggie’s stomach hurts, her heart pounding a little at the fucking longing in Alex’s voice. She doesn’t know what to say, and all she can do is stare.

“I mean… only one thing could change your whole life,” Alex doesn’t even sound like she’s talking to her right now. More like she’s talking to herself, wishing for something with herself, and it sounds like it’s hurting her to talk. “Can you imagine – just how different everything could be if that one thing changed?”

Maggie can imagine it. She can imagine if her parents never kicked her out and she spent her life growing up with them. She can imagine if her aunt never died and she still had some family left. She can imagine if Kate never broke up with her and she stayed in Gotham. She can imagine if she never fell in love for Alex.

She can imagine if Alex loved her back.

And as much as she tries to push the thought away, it takes hold and feels like it’s strangling her.

Alex reaches up to rub the heels of her hands against her eyes, and Maggie wants so much to wrap her arms around Alex but she swears that if she touches Alex right now, everything will come spilling out and – she can’t do that.

“Is this about your dad?” she manages to ask, because she hasn’t said anything.

Alex’s voice breaks when she says, “Y-yeah, it’s about… that,” and she turns to start walking back to the house, her shoulders hunched. “I – we should get back.”

Maggie needs to talk another few moments before she follows.

When she gets back to the house she lays in bed with Emily and curls around her. She doesn’t have another universe; Maggie learned years ago that she cannot focus about all of the what if’s and if only’s. She knows you have to figure out how to make yourself happy with the hand you’re dealt.

She doesn’t have another world where anything went differently, she has Emily for now.

It doesn’t make her fall asleep easier.

//

Alex grins at her at breakfast the next morning, her eyes tired, and Maggie doesn’t bring it up, only tops off her friend’s orange juice with a soft smile, resisting the urge to brush her hand over her bed hair, before sitting next to her girlfriend.

//

She and Emily have their first real fight less than a month later, in Emily’s apartment.

It starts with something that seems small.

“You didn’t have time to go to my friend’s gallery showing tonight, but you had time to go have a drink with Alex at the bar,” Emily tosses at her when Maggie is barely inside of the living room.

And she’s – kind of surprised with the anger in Emily’s voice, her eyebrows drawing together, “I didn’t leave work until after nine; the showing started at seven. I figured we could get a drink and I’d meet you here. Like we agreed?”

Because ever since the weekend at the beach, Maggie’s been working even more – there’s going to be an opening on the Major Case Squad in the next few weeks, and Maggie’s determined to make it hers – which means less time with both Alex and Emily.

Which was probably a bit of a good thing in a way; she’s needed some time to gather her thoughts and keep the girlfriend/best friend dynamics clearer in her mind.

Still. She couldn’t help but miss Alex, and a night at the bar seemed like something a lot easier to handle after a twelve hour work day than going to another art gallery showing with Emily’s friends. Friends that she didn’t dislike, but still.

“You know I wanted you to be there!” Emily rarely raises her voice, but it easily makes Maggie’s defenses rise.

“And you know that I’ve been working like crazy and didn’t want to have to run home and change and go to a show,” she can feel her exhaustion and frustration with so many things bleed over into her voice.

Emily crosses her arms at her, nailing Maggie with a dark glare, “I thought you didn’t mind going to art shows.”

She grits her teeth, “I don’t.” She doesn’t, really, that much, every once in a while, “But sometimes it’s nice just to relax, and sometimes your outings with your friends aren’t super relaxed.”

All of the time.

“Well, maybe your hangouts with Alex are a little too relaxed,” Emily shoots back, and the entire world freezes as Maggie’s stomach drops.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” her heart is beating so hard in her ears, and she just – she doesn’t want Emily to say it. She doesn’t want Emily to say –

“I mean that she is in love with you!”

Not that. What?

“What?” All she can hear is the way her blood is pounding in her ears, every muscle in her body taut, “That’s… that’s not true,” she manages to get out, even though her voice shakes for a second because her heart is not beating right.

And Emily rolls her eyes, “Yeah, right. You don’t know the way she looks at you.”

Maggie’s hands are shaking and she feels like she’s going to be sick as she repeats in a firmer voice, “That’s not true.”

She’d spent too long wishing it was and too long accepting that it wasn’t and too long trying to move on to believe it. It’s just literally not true.

“Fine. Maybe it’s not,” Emily clearly doesn’t believe that, though, “But she’s always waiting around for you, always at that bar – which, she’s a successful woman, shouldn’t she be spending less time at a bar? Don’t you ever wonder why she’s not dating? Don’t –”

There’s a vicious feeling in her stomach and it’s stronger than the fear of Emily breaking up with her and losing this easy thing they have. Stronger than if Emily were to start shitting on Maggie’s long hours or annoying qualities.

It’s unstoppable, and it makes her voice come out on a quiet snap, “Stop.”

Emily’s eyes are alight with anger, voice with exasperation, “Stop? Stop. Right. Because how dare I – no, how dare anyone – imply that Alex Danvers isn’t perfect.”

And Maggie can’t even argue with it.

But how can she possibly even try to explain to anyone, let alone her girlfriend, that Alex is… everything?

Alex is mornings with heavy, whiskey colored eyes and coffee, Alex is nights of laughter and sitting so close during horror movies. Alex is the woman Maggie never even could hope to dream of. Alex is beautiful, every part of her, and she gave Maggie a constant that she hasn’t had in so long, maybe not ever.

They stand across from each other, arms crossed, and Maggie’s emotions are running high and she still can’t believe this escalated the way it did.

And then Emily sighs and rubs at her temples, sounding defeated, “Look. I’m going to New York for an interview –”

“A job interview?” she can’t help but ask in disbelief, which is stupid, but… she hadn’t even heard about it before this, and shouldn’t she have?

Emily looks a little guilty, “Yeah, I… it’s a small gallery but they called me a few weeks ago and – I’m going to go on the interview and then visit my parents. And I think we both need to take some time,” her voice is quiet.

And Maggie’s stomach has bottomed out on her and why does she never see these things coming?

//

So, Emily goes to New York.

And it’s hard. It’s harder than Maggie thought it would be, because… she’s come to rely on Emily in her life. She likes what she has with her, she’s stable, and when she’s on the verge of walking out of her life, Maggie feels like she’s let down yet another person.

Like there’s yet another person who’s going to leave because she wasn’t good enough.

The only night it doesn’t completely weigh her down is the night she celebrates making detective.

She invites Alex to the celebration party, because why shouldn’t she? Especially since Emily isn’t even in town. Because she’s in New York, and Maggie hasn’t heard from her since their fight and they’re “taking some time.”

And Alex brings her that ale, and she’s always thoughtful, and at the end of the celebration, they go on a ride out into the desert.

They stop at a place Alex directs them to, though both still sitting on their bikes, side by side. And Maggie runs her fingers down over the badge she still has on her belt as she says, “My dad was a cop, you know.”

Alex is surprised, she can tell, her eyes almost comically wide and it gives Maggie some levity in the way her voice is raised, “He was?”

Because by all accounts, her dad isn’t really a good person, and Alex knows that. She can see how the mention of him makes Alex’s hands tighten, and it makes her feel cared for in a very peculiar, Alex-centric way.

“Yeah. I used to grab his badge when I was younger and carry it around…” she trails off with the memory, it giving her a strange sense of both good and bad nostalgia, “Anyway. I thought after everything that happened, maybe I shouldn’t become a cop. And then, for a while, I wondered if I became one just because I wanted to prove that I was better than he was, or something, and not just to be a good cop.”

“I think you’re a great cop,” Alex interjects, both serious and encouraging.

It makes Maggie smile warmly, still tracing her finger over the badge for a second, “Thanks. And thanks for, you know, being here. And coming to the party.”

“I’m always going to be here, Maggie,” Alex tells her for not the first time and Maggie loves that she knows it’s true. “Besides, I like the parties with your coworkers.”

She snorts, shifting back to sit more comfortably on her bike seat, “Yeah, you only like it because you geek out with the forensics guys.”

“Not true,” Alex cocks an eyebrow, “I also like beating Flores at whatever game he decides to challenge me at.”

And Maggie can’t stop her laugh; it’s the most lighthearted she’s felt in weeks and the only time Emily’s absence isn’t weighing on her.

//

Maggie nearly avoids meeting up with Emily when she gets back two weeks later, because she just knows what’s going to happen.

She knows she’s going to hear all of the reasons why Emily wants to end things between them, why she wants to move to New York, and how it’s Maggie’s fault that she’s going to be dumped, again.

Only, that’s not what happens.

She opens her door to Emily, her stomach uncomfortably tight, as Emily is giving her a small smile. And – okay, that’s confusing.

“How was New York?” she asks and her voice is clipped, but she doesn’t want to show her nerves.

“It was… fine,” she blows out a deep breath, “Can I come in?”

Cautiously, she steps back and Emily’s hands intertwine in front of her as she takes a deep breath, “I did a lot of thinking in New York. And the thing is, I attacked Alex because I felt – feel – like you sometimes prioritize her over me. And us.”

Maggie wants to argue with that, but she can’t even form words or a defense. Her shoulders slouch in guilty defeat, “I… I’m not going to argue that.” Drawing her hands through her hair, she continues, “But I thought – we agreed in the beginning of this that we both have lives and everything that we sometimes put before relationships, and we agreed we were okay with that.”

She closes the door, but they still stand in the hall as Emily takes in her words slowly, sucking at the inside of her cheek before she nods. “You’re right. We did. We both agreed on that, and at the time it was true.”

Before Maggie can say anything, Emily holds her hands up, “Just, let me get through this, first.”

So, she nods, even as she feels her stomach start to flip with nerves.

“I’m in New York, contemplating taking this job, when I realized… I want to be with you more than I want to make the career move. And that’s never happened to me before, so I’m a little nervous about it. I know you have your own past that makes you nervous, too, but – I turned down the job because I want to see where this, where you and I, can go,” Emily finishes, a slightly nervous but proud, small smile on her face.

And all Maggie can do is stare in shock, trying to wrap her mind around it.

Finally, she manages to ask, “You, you stayed for me?”

She can hear the disbelief in her own voice because – none of her girlfriends had ever stayed. None of them had ever chosen to stay by her side when the going got tough.

It makes her lightheaded when Emily nods, “Yeah. I did. I want to try with you, but… we both need to try. So, I need to know if you want this, Maggie.”

For another few seconds, it’s all Maggie can do to stare.

“You stayed for me,” she repeats, and it’s that fact and the hopeful look in Emily’s eyes that shakes Maggie to the core.

Maybe this isn’t the same feeling she has with Alex. But maybe she needs to finally accept for good that what she feels for Alex can’t be replicated. She would have been content to be with Kate or several of the women in her past before she’d known what it feels like to love Alex the way she does, and she could love Emily in that content way, too. One day.

“I want to try,” she tells Emily, and she means it. If she doesn’t try now, she never will.

//

She doesn’t go out with Alex nearly as much in the next few months.

It’s hard but she does it. She needs to do it. She needs to pull back from this all-consuming thing she feels for her best friend if she wants to make any romantic relationship ever work. It’s on her to do that.

So, she makes general rules for herself – motorcycle rides, horror movie nights, and working lunches.

Those are things that she keeps up with, because those are their things and it’s not like she can just cut out Alex from her life. That would only serve to hurt them both.

M’gann’s was their thing, too, but… putting in this effort with Emily meant making sacrifices and cutting back. Less going to catch a drink with Alex after work because it’s fun and easy and instinctual at this point, and more going to meet up with Emily.

It works. Kind of.

She misses Alex. A lot.

Alex seems to understand, when Maggie tells her about Emily staying for her, those dark eyes light up in that happy, supportive way Alex has, and she genuinely tells Maggie, “You deserve this,” when Maggie explains how she’s trying to make things work out.

She clears out a few more drawers for Emily’s stuff and tells herself, it’s worth it.

//

Maggie spends one of those working lunches with Alex at the café at NCU.

They usually grab lunch somewhere between the university and the precinct, but Alex has been working ridiculously long hours – not that Maggie can judge; she and Alex see each other maybe once a week and she’s been working a lot, too.

Plus her research on genomics is crazy impressive and she’s making strides that make Maggie proud as hell.

She listens even as sometimes she gets a little lost with the technical jargon, only playfully interrupting once with, “In human speak, Doctor Doctor Danvers, even with a minor in biology in college it’s a little hard to follow.”

But she mostly says it to get Alex out of the headspace she can delve into when she’s too focused.

It works and Alex cuts herself off, taking a deep breath, “Sorry, I’ve just been spending too much time in the lab lately, I guess.”

The works feel like almost a dig at her, even though she knows it wasn’t and Maggie’s stomach sinks in guilt. It’s not like she hasn’t been working long hours since making detective and it’s not like she’s been actually avoiding Alex.

But, still.

Fighting it off, she shrugs and forces a smile, “It’s all good, Danvers, I was just teasing.” She takes another bite, before she clears her throat, “And what’s this I hear about you going out to a trivia night with Winn?”

Alex groans, exaggeratedly, “Ugh, god. I didn’t want to! I just it happened once, and then he asked me to come again, and well. We kept winning,” she offers, even as a hint of a smile plays at her mouth.

“It’s hard to imagine you not winning,” she tells Alex in all seriousness. “Except for when you’re playing against Kara in Monopoly.”

“She cheats!” Alex almost-shouts in indignation and Maggie can’t help but laugh. She loves the way Alex’s eyes light up and the affection in her voice even as she accuses not-here Kara of cheating.

She loves how brilliant she is, how dedicated, and how easy it is for Alex to make her happy like this. And it still hurts, she realizes, her heart clenching tight in her chest. It hurts in such a good way.

She looks at the way Alex laughs, her hair falling forward a bit as she tilts her head down, and she misses this. She misses seeing her more, even if she knows it’s her own doing, even if she knows that it’s for the best.

And she can feel the tickets, the ones Flores had gotten for her to see the Barenaked Ladies in concert because she’d made him listen to them more than once in the car and he knew someone who worked at the venue they were playing at, burning a hole in her pocket.

She has her rules, she knows, and she’s been good. She’s been good about pulling back on Alex time and amping up on Emily time, and she doesn’t feel like she’s suffocating. It’s good. But she wants more of this feeling, with Alex, even just as her best friend.

“How would you feel about going to see the Barenaked Ladies next week?” she asks, tilting her head.

And not being disappointed in the way Alex’s eyes widen, “Wait, really?”

It makes her laugh, lightly, “Yes, really.”

Friends went with friends to concerts, all of the time. Especially when they had a well-established mutual love of the band, she assured herself. It was fine. She’d been fine.

Alex takes in a breath, but then it sounds like it gets caught in her throat, “Uh, but wouldn’t Emily want to go?”

Maggie feels her stomach drop only slightly. It’s an improvement, she tells herself, and she takes a big sip of water before she says truthfully, “We haven’t seen each other as much lately; I miss you. Besides, you deserve this after slaving away in the lab for so long.”

Her teasing comment is enough to get Alex smiling again, and she smiles back, assuring herself that everything is going to be fine. Everything is going to be okay. Emily doesn’t even like the Barenaked Ladies, anyway.

//

She’s picking up a pizza when she actually sees Alex on a date.

The concert a couple of weeks ago had been fine and okay, it had been more than that. Granted, Maggie might have had a little bit too much to drink by the end, and she doesn’t even really remember anything from a few songs before the last until she’d woken up in bed the following morning with Emily in her apartment, but – strangely, she thinks – the slightest scent of Alex’s perfume in her hair.

Still. Being there with Alex had been stress-free and fun, and ever since then, Maggie thinks she finally has the hang of this. She thinks she can really do this, be friends with Alex and just live with how much she means to her, but also be content with Emily.

Emily, who stayed for her, Emily who is steady.

Emily, who is waiting at her place for Maggie to pick up their dinner, “Pick up for Maggie,” she tells the girl at the register, who nods and tells her it’ll be a minute.

She nods back, tucking her hands in her back pockets as she side steps to get out of the next customer’s way and –

“Danvers?”

Because there Alex is in all of her glory. Really. Fitted jeans that make her ass look amazing – not that Maggie’s looking but she knows those jeans and just the way Alex looks in them – and a leather jacket, and a tiny bit of makeup and…

Maggie tries to ignore the pull in her stomach as she tilts her head and grins, “You came all the way to my side of town to get some pizza?”

It’s only then that she sees the woman next to Alex, who is beaming and a little flushed and is smiling up at Alex all prettily, and there’s a sinking feeling in her stomach that is way beyond her control.

Alex’s eyes are wide, “Sawyer! Uh, hi. Hey,” she nearly stumbles over, and the woman standing next to her leans in closer.

And Maggie’s did not become a detective by being unobservant, so she notices, and narrows her eyes a bit even as she tells herself not to.

Still, she keeps her smile in place, “You going to introduce me?”

Dark eyes widen even more before Alex sighs out a breath, “Yeah. Of course. Sarah, this is my friend, Maggie. Maggie, this is Sarah. My, um, my date.”

All of the breath leaves Maggie’s lungs in a rush and there’s a ringing in her ears. Date. Alex’s date. This pretty brunette is Alex’s date.

“Nice to meet you,” and she keeps her voice in check, she hopes. She thinks she does, because Alex doesn’t seem to notice anything amiss.

Then again, Alex is blushing and Maggie thinks it’s adorable, but then again, her date probably thinks so, too, and her stomach drops to the floor again.

“You, too,” Sarah says with a bright smile in her voice and, why wouldn’t she? She’s on a date with Alex Danvers.

Maggie’s hands, still in her pockets, are balled tight as she wills herself to keep as calm a façade as possible. Because it’s none of her business if Alex dates. It’s none of her business. Alex can and should do whatever she wants.

But why hadn’t she at least told her? Maggie doesn’t know. And she can’t ask while this other woman is here.

She really doesn’t think she can handle staying here, anyway, and she is so damn relieved when the cashier slides a box over the counter toward her, “Order for Maggie.”

Thank fuck. “Thank you.”

Her hand wants to shake when she reaches for the box, but it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. Because she has no right to feel this jealousy, she has no right to feel – anything. She has no right to feel anything other than happy for Alex.

Still, her stomach turns at the idea of having even a bite of this pizza when she sees how Sarah’s hand holds lightly on Alex’s elbow. And since Alex is moving lightly from foot to foot, looking a little unsure, Maggie thinks that maybe she’s being a little too transparent.

She needs to get out of there, “Well. Have a nice date.”

“You, too,” Alex says, before grimacing a bit, “I mean, with Emily. A nice night.”

The smile she gives to Alex is the fakest one she’s ever managed to do, but she can’t help it.

//

She drags Flores out of bed before seven in the morning to go on a run in the park.

She needs to get out of her apartment to somewhere that doesn’t have Emily or Alex reminders, she needs to try to deal with this awful feeling in her stomach because it’s keeping her up all night. She needs to be able to push it out of her mind and outrun it.

“I know you must miss sitting in the squad car with me, Sawyer,” he pants out when they take a break at the two mile mark in the park, “But, damn, couldn’t we just get breakfast together like we did a few weeks ago?”

Maggie’s hands are on her hips and she’s just a bit out of breath, as she shakes her head. Her hair in its ponytail, brushing over her shoulders, as she says, “Get yourself together, Flores. And keep up for the next couple of miles.”

He grumbles, but does keep up. It’s not the first time they’d gone running together in the last couple of years, and Maggie never expected him to actually become a friend, but here they are.

At the three mile marker, he’s still keeping pace, but groans loudly, “If you don’t tell me why I’m out here with you on a Saturday morning, I’m running back to my bed.”

And she presses her elbows tightly into her side, the words sticking in her throat. Because she doesn’t want to talk about it. She doesn’t want to talk about how she’d run into Alex on her date, she doesn’t want to talk about how in the last few weeks, she’d learned from both James when she’d run into him getting coffee and Alex herself about the many dates Alex was going on.

But she had dragged him out here, if only because she hadn’t wanted to be alone with all of her thoughts. And she grunts out, “Alex is dating.”

If anything, the words make her run a little faster, the burning low in her stomach of jealousy that she has started getting accustomed to.

And he barely keeps up, “Uh, okay?”

She doesn’t say anything back, only clenching her jaw. Because that should be her reaction. It shouldn’t matter to her if Alex is with anyone else. Well, it matters because she doesn’t think that any of these dates are good enough for her best friend in the least, but that isn’t the only thing keeping her up at night.

“Yeah, it’s okay. That’s it,” she says, not even looking over her shoulder as she pushes on a little faster. Before she shakes her head, “No, it should be okay. You know, it really should be, but I don’t…”

She cuts herself off in a frustrated breath. Frustrated with herself.

And she’s glad when he doesn’t say anything. It only lasts for a few seconds before he says, “It’s okay to be jealous.”

Maggie nearly stumbles over her own feet. She doesn’t, but she does stop abruptly in the middle of the running trail, “It’s not,” she argues, her voice challenging. “I don’t have the right to feel like this.”

She’s not sure if she’s challenging him or herself. Both, probably.

Flores does stumble a bit before he, too, comes to a stop. Breathing heavy, his eyes annoyingly perceptive, “Yeah, well, feelings aren’t really about right or wrong, Sawyer. A woman who is a huge part of your life, that you’ve had feelings for, is dating. You’re allowed to feel however you feel.”

His words don’t make her feel any better, though, and she rolls her shoulders, not saying anything. Because she’d thought everything was going well, she thought she’d had a handle on it.

And then he continues, “But, you’re with Emily. Shouldn’t Alex have the right to have that with someone?”

His words are nothing she hasn’t told herself a thousand times, and it still makes her ache to hear them, even as she says seriously, “Yeah. She does.”

Because she wants that for Alex. She wants Alex to be happy, she wants her to have someone who is as perfect as she is, someone who deserves her. She doesn’t want Maggie, and she shouldn’t.

Everything is better the way it is, she tells herself.

It burns uncomfortably tight in her stomach, and she can barely stand it, so she turns to start running again.

She wants Alex to be happy. It’s the truth.

She also wants herself to be happy with Emily, another truth. And she isn’t unhappy with her girlfriend, either. She likes her, she’s attracted to her, she thinks she can be content with her.

She wishes things were as easy as she wants them to be.

//

The first night Maggie gets injured as a detective, it’s barely with a graze of a bullet.

Still, she got sent to the hospital, and a little too much drugs pumped into her for something so small, she thinks when her world starts spinning a little bit.

She’s only just starting to fade in and out a bit when the door opens and Alex comes in, her hair wet from the rain outside and a panicked look on her face that makes Maggie want to reach out a calm.

“Danvers,” she sighs out, and – yeah. Okay. She’s feeling the drugs a little bit, and she can feel her smile, before her head shakes in confusion, “What are you doing here?”

She and Alex have resumed their nights at M’gann’s in the last couple of weeks. She doesn’t know if it’s the best decision, but she does know that between Alex dating around and possibly soon going to find someone to really date, added with the unspoken strain in her relationship with Emily, who has mentioned more than once in the last couple of weeks her desire to move back East, that she needs to feel something familiar. Something comfortable.

“Apparently, I’m your emergency contact,” Alex tells her, her face so serious that her lips are getting into that serious pout-frown and that line between her eyebrows appears. But her eyes are wide and dark and concerned, and Maggie thinks she can see galaxies in them when they look into hers, “What were you doing out there?”

In truth, Maggie had been a little distracted.

“My job,” she tells her, her head spinning a little bit when Alex huffs out a breath at her and moves too quickly as she reaches for Maggie’s jacket and gently draped it over her shoulders. And – huh, Maggie hadn’t even realized she was a little cold.

Alex’s voice is gentler when she looks back at her and her face is so close to Maggie’s, “You lost some blood, it makes sense to be a little cold.”

 Maggie hums lightly, under her breath, “Sorry I never told you that you were my contact.”

“No, don’t apologize,” Alex tells her quietly, before warm hands land on her shoulders, and Maggie feels her thumbs stroking through her shirt, “I was just – I was really worried about you.”

There’s relief evident all over her face, and Maggie scoffs at herself, lightly poking at her own side, “Pffft, don’t worry. I’m all good.”

Okay, so she sucks in a breath when her finger touches at where exactly she’s been stitched up.

And Alex grabs her hand, “All good, I don’t think so,” she murmurs, “But apparently, they’ve got you on some good stuff to keep your mind off the pain, and you’re already discharged to go home.”

She feels Alex’s hand hover lightly over her bandage, just the heat from it, before she pushes away Maggie’s hand gently.

“’m sorry if you were on a date tonight,” Maggie mumbles before she hisses out a breath as Alex helps her stand.

“I wasn’t,” Alex tells her, an arm wrapping around her waist, “But even if I was, I’d rather be here.”

She doesn’t remember the drive home, only wakes up – still feeling dazed and a little hazy from the pain medication – when Alex helps her into her own apartment, stumbling a bit on the way into her bedroom.

Alex lays her down in her bed and her hands are so gentle, and Maggie thinks, those are doctor hands.

“You have nice doctor hands,” she hears herself say.

And Alex’s laughs, “Yeah, okay. Well, they spend all day in a lab. Okay, sit still while I take off your shoes.”

When Alex kneels in front of her, Maggie’s mind is – too occupied on the image, and she wants to fall back onto the bed so that she can stop herself from looking, but the pulling in her side stops her.

It also stops her when Alex finishes taking off her shoes and pauses, leaning back on her heels as she asks, “Do you want me to call Emily?”

Alex’s eyebrows are a little scrunched up and Maggie’s stomach sinks a little bit, “No. She’s in New York, still.”

Alex’s mouth pinches together a bit in the way she has when she wants to say something but is going to hold it in. And Maggie wants to ask what it is, but her words fall away as Alex sighs, “Okay. I won’t call her.”

She leans up a bit, her hands on the blankets next to Maggie as she folds them down. And Maggie can see the concentration on Alex’s face and the way the lamplight hits her eyes and once again, she thinks eyes with the whole galaxy in them.

And then she thinks about, “Remember the multiverse?”

Alex pauses, slowly pushing herself up, as she looks down at Maggie with a look she can’t place. But it’s warm, she thinks, “I do.”

“Do you think…” she struggles to get the words out as her head feels like it’s spinning a bit, “Do you think other Maggie’s…” she trails off, because she can’t put it all into words. And even despite the pain meds, she knows that she doesn’t want to really say these things out loud. Not to Alex, or anyone.

Do you think that other Maggie’s aren’t a mess? That’s one she’d be curious about.

Do you think that other Maggie’s are also in love with Alex Danvers? That’s one she thinks she knows the answer to.

Alex presses down gently on her shoulders to get her under the blankets she’d just tugged down, and Maggie does easily, as Alex says, “I’ll stay for a while in the living room. Let me know if you need me.”

The words are more comforting to Maggie than anything she can imagine hearing. Alex’s voice telling her I’ll stay, and it makes her eyes close.

She feels Alex’s hands softly stroking at her hair, and she wonders about other universe Maggie’s again.

She wonders if in their universes, if their Alex Danvers climbs into bed to hold them at night, to kiss them for real. She wonders if they deserve it.

//

It’s not a surprise, for once, when she and Emily’s relationship fizzles out spectacularly in her living room.

Maggie slams the door to her apartment closed behind her after Emily has already stormed in, and she is seething, her mind reeling.

Because Emily’s only been back from New York for less than two weeks and has barely spoken about it, until she decided to show up to Kara’s party at M’gann’s and tell Maggie that she got the job. And that she wants to go. And that she wants Maggie to go with her.

That? Is what has her mind reeling.

And it has her seething that she can still hear Emily turning accusatorily toward Alex as she’d said, “Because it’s never only been the two of us in this relationship anyway, right?” and she can see the way Alex’s eyes were wide and hurt and confused still in her mind.

That’s what sets her off, “You had no right to bring Alex into this.”

“She walked into it. Unsurprisingly,” Emily tosses out, her eyes alight with anger, “Just like always.”

Maggie’s fists clench and she narrows her eyes, “If you say again that Alex is in love with me, I’m –” she cuts herself off. Because she can’t handle it. She can’t.

“Would you move to New York with me?” Emily interrupts, and her voice is almost curious quiet, and solemn, as she crosses her arms.

And Maggie’s eyebrows draw together in confusion at the switch, some of the fight leaving her. Because she still can’t believe that Emily had asked her to move to New York with her – well, more like shouted that she wants her to go.

But they hadn’t even said I love you yet, and Emily had been avoiding her, and Maggie had been gearing up for Emily to leave, and it’s confusing as hell.

“I don’t… I just made detective,” she says, because she’s always felt this urge to run whenever things like this happened. Whenever her life felt like a mess, whenever she felt like she would rather have a fresh slate, she started over somewhere new. But for once, she doesn’t feel like that.

She wants to stay here, because in the last four years, National City had become somewhere she didn’t want to say goodbye to.

And Emily scoffs, “They have plenty of detective jobs in New York.”

“What do you want from me?” she needs to know. Because she has no idea what Emily wants right now, and it’s – she needs something in her life to make some fucking sense.

“I want to live with you in New York. I want to take this job that’s worth double of my current salary, only a drive away from my parents. And I want you to admit that what’s keeping you here isn’t your job,” Emily ticks off, her voice growing more agitated as she goes, before she finally finishes with, “I want you to admit that you’ve been cheating on me.”

“I’ve never slept with Alex!”

“But you’re in love with her,” Emily fires back and then –

Silence. Because Maggie is positive that Emily can hear her heart beating from where she’s standing across the room and her stomach twists so unpleasantly, and it’s the first time that it’s been said out loud.

“I…” she can’t say anything. She can’t – won’t – lie. Not to Emily’s face. Not when she can see the anger and the pain, not when she caused it.

“I love you,” Emily says and her voice is shaking and accusing and knowing, “And you love her.”

And Maggie can feel her entire body shaking a little, and all she can say with her voice thick with tears is, “I’m sorry.”

//

She spends the entire next day holed up in her apartment feeling like the world’s shittiest person.

Alex has texted her, and she can’t even bring herself to really answer them, no matter how much she wants to. Because Alex is her biggest comfort but also the biggest hurdle she’s ever faced. And a part of her tells her that she should leave National City, because maybe leaving is the only way she’s going to move on from Alex.

But the bigger part? The part that slips on the sweater that Alex had left in her apartment months ago when she’d spent the night, but had forgotten to take home the next morning because it makes Maggie feel comforted, that part refuses to entertain the idea.

When Emily comes over to collect the stuff she’s left at Maggie’s, she grabs a handful of the shirt and hopes Emily doesn’t recognize it for what it is, as she lets her in, “I’ll just stay out here,” she mutters, as Emily silently strides past her and into the bedroom.

She’s blowing out a deep breath when her door gets another knock, and she narrows her eyes a bit before reaching out and opening it – only to see Alex.

“Danvers?” It should be criminal, she thinks, the way Alex can make her feel better just by seeing her, and it takes her a moment before she shakes her head. Because no, now is not the time to be staring at Alex like this. Now is not the time to be thinking about how good she looks. Not when her ex-girlfriend, who knows exactly what Maggie feels for her, is in her apartment, “It’s not really a good t –”

“I wasn’t drunk,” Alex interrupts her with, and she sounds a little breathless, before she shakes her head and narrows her eyes at herself, and Maggie – Maggie’s confused as hell.

She tells herself to ask Alex to leave, that they can talk about whatever this is later, when Maggie hasn’t spent all day both feeling somehow relieved and guilty about her relationship with Emily ending. When Maggie hasn’t spent all day wondering what she was going to do about her feelings for Alex or if it was every going to be easier.

But then Maggie is pretty sure she’s having an out-of-body experience because the entire world fades into white noise as Alex says:

“I wasn’t drunk that night, the night I kissed you.” And “I was trying to tell you that I liked you.”

And, “Love. I love you, Maggie Sawyer.”

And, “You’re my route to happiness. All of my routes to happiness lead to you, because I haven’t found anyone else that can even come close.”

Shock races through her entire body because she doesn’t even remember when she’d ever told Alex about her thoughts about how to find happiness but apparently she had. And – and is this even real? She wonders if she fell asleep on her couch earlier, but when, “Alex,” is breathed from her mouth in surprise it sounds pretty real.

But Alex isn’t finished because apparently she manages to continue into, “I’ve stayed through having my heart broken and watching you love someone else because being your best friend is worth it; loving you is worth it. And I’ll still be here if you don’t love me back, but I can’t… I need you to know.”

Watching you love someone else plays in Maggie’s mind on a loop, because – who in the world has Maggie ever loved since knowing Alex? Or before?

And then Alex is staring at her and she’s crying these tears that Maggie wants to stroke away with her thumbs more than anything, but she can’t move. She can’t – she can’t even move. Not even when Alex smiles, and it’s so beautiful – she is so beautiful, Maggie feels like she’s been punched in the stomach.

All she can do is stare and wonder if this is really happening, but she thinks it must be because never in her wildest dreams could she imagine Alex actually feeling that way. The reality of it finally hits her, and Maggie wants to speak, she wants to open her mouth and tell Alex, “I love you, too.”

But when her mouth tries to open, she finds that she can’t get anything out. And her throat is so tight with this clawing hope and need and desperation and disbelief that it doesn’t matter how many times she swallows, it’s not working for her.

It’s not until she hears the sound from behind her of something hitting the ground that Maggie is actually jarred into real life again.

A small jump and then – Emily. Emily is here, Emily is in her apartment, and she heard all of that, after everything that was said last night.

And Maggie is fucking frozen.

Frozen with the shock of Alex actually… actually feeling this way, actually saying these things. Because she can’t believe it, even after hearing her say it. It’s terrifying to believe it after so long of telling herself it would never happen, and Emily is behind her and staring at them, she can feel it.

“I just – I wanted you to know that,” Alex whispers, and her voice is wrecked and something in her tone, in that moment, in hearing the way Alex is hurt claws deeply into Maggie’s chest.

It’s what finally propels her into action, being able to speak over the sound of her beating heart in her ears when Alex is walking so fast away from her, “Alex!”

But Alex doesn’t stop, and is already down the stairwell before Maggie can even make herself move. And – and that’s all she can see. All she can see is Alex’s back turning. All she can see is Alex walking away, Alex leaving her.

And it’s all her own damn fault.

“Wait!”

A panic grips her, seizing her chest tightly, and she tears down the hallway after Alex, socked feet pounding against the baseboards so heavily, until she nearly slips and falls into the wall, but Alex is already disappeared from sight.

Her heart is pounding so hard, Maggie can feel it against her ribs, and she turns and runs back into her apartment, and all she can think is – shoes. She needs shoes. And her keys.

And then she comes to a stop, her hands trembling a bit, when she sees Emily. And she feels guilty, she does. But everything Maggie thinks she’s ever wanted is getting farther away from her just when she feels like it’s slipping through her fingers.

“Just go,” Emily tells her.

“I’m – sorry,” she manages to get out again, “I am.”

She’s sorry about the way everything between them has gone. She’s sorry that she hurt her. She’s sorry Emily heard all of that.

But every second she spends in her apartment feels like another second she could lose this moment, and all she can think about is Alex as she stumbles to find her closest pair of shoes and the keys to her motorcycle, and she is barely aware of anything around her, and all she can think of is Alex.

//

Her stomach is clenched so tightly with nerves when she arrives at Alex’s apartment, she doesn’t think she’s ever felt like this before – actually, she knows she hasn’t, because she’s never had this much on the line – and she doesn’t even remember the ride here.

Only the urgency to see Alex now.

And her hand is shaking when she knocks, waiting for Alex to answer. God, she wants to see Alex’s face, she wants to be able to finally get the words out that she loves her, too. That she has wanted her from the moment she met her.

She has so much she wants to tell Alex. So much she wants to say, so much she wants her to know –

And then Kara opens the door, and Maggie’s anticipation both rockets up and falls.

“I need to talk to Alex,” she says and she can hear the desperation in her own voice, her eyes flickering up and over Kara’s shoulder, into the apartment. Where she doesn’t see Alex, and this sense of worry ratchets up inside of her.

“Well, that’s too bad,” Kara tells her, and no, they’ve never been best friends, but in the last handful of years, Kara’s never spoken to her like this, and it’s – it snaps Maggie out of the one-track mind she’s on.

She narrows her eyes in confusion, and Kara’s jaw is jutting out at her, “Kara, it’s – it’s important.”

“Alex said you rejected her. She’s been in love with you for years, Maggie, and you just… you just turned her away? Just like that?” the disbelief in Kara’s voice is so strong, she could have heard it a mile away.

And it feels like a slap in the face, “No!” her stomach twists, “Not – it was… I love her, too!” the words leave her and she hasn’t been the one to say them at all yet, but there they are between them, and blue eyes widen.

They’re scary. It’s scary to feel, and it’s really scary to say. Especially to Alex’s little sister, who is blinking at her.

“You do?”

Yes, Kara,” and now that she’s said the words, she needs to tell Alex. All she can picture is that look on her face at Maggie’s apartment, that heartbroken look, the way tears fell from those big, brown eyes and, “Where is she?”

Kara’s arms fall from being crossed over her chest and instead, she wrinkles her eyebrow, a worried look on her face, “I don’t know. She didn’t come home yet, and she hasn’t answered my texts or calls after telling me that you…”

“Rejected her,” she finishes, her voice falling flat, even has her heart sinks.

Kara lets her in, “You can wait here.”

//

Maggie feels like she’s climbing the fucking walls waiting for Alex to get home.

Kara had been waiting with her for a while, but eventually had gone into her room to get some sleep, because she had an early morning.

And she waits. For over two hours. Alternatively pacing and then trying to make herself calm down, sitting on the chair even while her feet tapped, and she’s never been an outwardly anxious person before in her entire life. But she cycles through being angry and terrified and wanting and nervous –

She’s overwhelmed and there are several times where she has to wipe at her eyes to stop herself from crying.

What if Alex was hurt? What if… god, she’d been so upset when Maggie had just let her walk away from her apartment, and if she was riding around on her Ducati like that, and accident wouldn’t be something crazy to imagine.

She’d never forgive herself.

And what even was this disappearing act Alex pulled, tonight of all nights? She comes to Maggie’s and drops this huge, incredible, life-altering news, and then disappears for hours?

When the key scrapes in the door, her heart leaps in her chest, and she sits up so fast, and all at once, she thinks about every single thing she wants to tell Alex. Everything she’s thought in the last two hours, everything that sums up how she’d been feeling for the last three years.

And then it all leaves her as soon as she sees Alex, and all she can think of is thank god. Because she’s here, and whole, and in one piece. And she’s too far away for Maggie to really see the expression on her face.

Hearing her voice is enough to tell Maggie how surprised she is when “Maggie? What are you doing here?” leaves her on a rough whisper.

It takes everything she has inside of her to control the way her heart leaps in her chest just at the thrill of seeing Alex, right here in front of her. But she still has a hold on the desperation that’s taken up residence inside of her for the last few hours, “Where were you?”

And she can hear the roughness in her own voice, but she can only feel this desperate worried feeling she’s had for the last few hours still ebbing out of her body.

Alex stares at her, and she can hear how strained her voice is, when she answers, “I – went for a ride. What are you doing here?”

It’s almost crazy enough to make Maggie scoff, but she’s still too keyed up from it all, “You come to my apartment and say all of that and then leave and disappear for hours? Not even Kara knew where you were.”

She’s incredulous, but she can’t even keep the edge in her voice as she grips tightly at her knees, willing herself to stay where she is, as the worry she’d been wracked with starts to really loosen it’s hold.

She doesn’t expect for Alex to stare at her for a few long moments, before her voice is so quiet it barely carries through the apartment as she says, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I… I didn’t want to cause any problems for you. Or, between you and Emily. I just –”

When Alex breaks off, she turns her head, and her hair falls, disheveled, and all at once, everything she’s felt in the last few hours completely flies away, as her heart flutters in her chest.

Because Alex.

Of course, she takes that on, Maggie thinks. Of course, Alex has had her heart broken and had been wearing the saddest look Maggie’s ever seen earlier, but apologizes for causing any problems for Maggie, and there is no way in hell Maggie could have ever not loved her.

She doesn’t know how she didn’t know that from the beginning.

“Alex, Emily and I aren’t together anymore,” she starts, because Alex needs to know. Because in Maggie’s mind, their breakup feels like a lifetime ago, and she doesn’t even know or care what that says about her right now, because Alex still doesn’t know. Alex still thought they were together, that Emily had asked her to move, and that Maggie could ever possibly consider leaving her, “When you came by earlier, she was packing up the stuff she had at my place.”

Alex’s hands that had been fidgeting slightly in front of her slow to a complete pause and she just blinks at Maggie from where she stands, all the way across the room, still at the door, “What? Because of earlier? Because of me?”

There’s a defeat in Alex’s words that makes Maggie’s stomach lurch painfully, and it only gets worse when Alex sags back against the door. Like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders.

She needs to tell her the truth, “Because of me. Because last night when we left M’gann’s, Emily accused me of cheating on her.” It still makes her stomach tie itself in knots and there’s this part of her that doesn’t even want to say it to Alex, but she knows it’s something she needs to hear. She wants to see Alex when she says it. She needs to be able to see her, to quell these nerves that she shouldn’t be feeling inside, “And she was right.”

“What?” the utter confusion in Alex’s voice, in her face, is so clear.

The complete faith that she has in Maggie, that she doesn’t believe Maggie could or would do that to Emily almost makes her want to cry, but she swallows tightly, walking closer to Alex until she can finally see her face, even in the dark apartment.

“I didn’t have sex with anyone else,” she manages to say, and she just – she doesn’t know why she’s nervous. She doesn’t know why she feels these nerves inside about telling Alex she loves her, when she knows that Alex loves her, too, but her breath still catches in her throat when she admits, “But emotionally, yeah. Because I’ve been in love with someone else for… the whole time.”

She needs to pause, to take another deep breath, her hands twisting together so tightly it hurts, but she needs to focus on that – on that and on Alex’s face and the way her chest is moving faster, like she can’t catch her breath, as Maggie finishes with, “Someone I could never leave.”

Someone completely unattainable, who Maggie still can’t quite believe isn’t.

She’s smiling now, just a little, because her chest feels so light. Her shoulders feel so much lighter than they have in years, and she just – she needs Alex to say something.

She needs Alex to affirm that she still loves her, that it didn’t go away, that it wasn’t some sort of spur of the moment admittance or something.

And when Alex’s eyes latch onto hers, Maggie’s breath catches in her throat at the way they look so hopeful, and she can’t believe that’s for her. She really can’t.

“You were?” Alex asks, and her tone, like she can’t believe Maggie is saying this completely throws Maggie off in the best way possible.

“I am,” she confirms, and she feels like she’s jumping off a cliff, and when she reaches down to take Alex’s hand in hers, she can feel herself shaking and her heart hammering.

And she’s never been prepared to jump with anyone before.

//

Maggie spends the night in Alex’s bed, but she doesn’t sleep.

She can’t sleep, because she can’t believe this is all real, and she’s terrified that the second she closes her eyes, it’s going to be gone.

So, she stays awake even as Alex sleeps. She has one arm laying over Alex’s stomach, her hand stroking at her side softly, while she’s propped up on the other, watching as the morning sunlight filters in over Alex’s face. Thinking about all of the things she wished she’d said to Alex the night before, the things that had so easily gotten lost.

And when Alex stirs, dark, sleepy eyes blinking open as she moves in instinctively closer to Maggie, she tightens the arm she has around Alex because she never wants to forget this feeling. This feeling of being so close and being allowed to enjoy it.

Because she still can’t believe her luck. She can’t believe it, and it’s making her stomach flip with nerves.

At first, Alex smiles at her a bit and it makes Maggie’s heart warm, but then blinks her eyes a little more, becoming a little more alert, “Did you stay awake all night?” her voice is a little scratchy and – god, so appealing.

Maggie doesn’t know if it’s just because of the extremely high emotions of the last few days combined with how little she’d slept, mixed in with – everything she’d been thinking of throughout the night, but she feels the backs of her eyes burn a little with tears that want to fall.

She doesn’t let them, though, instead, she nods and whispers back, “Yeah.”

And Alex, because she’s Alex, looks more awake as soon as she registers what Maggie’s said, and she pushes herself to sit up a bit, so that they’re eye level. The concern in her eyes is enough to make Maggie’s heart skip a beat even as it feels heavy, and she has no idea how she didn’t see this before.

“What’s wrong?” and the insecurities in Alex’s voice, in the way she looks like she wants to reach out for Maggie like she would have all night, but in that instant doesn’t… it kills her. “Did I – did something change?”

There’s a pleading there, a pleading and a fear, and it shows in Alex’s face, in the way her eyes drop away from Maggie’s. Like she’s about to lose something precious.

And quickly, Maggie shakes her head, and can’t stop herself from reaching out for Alex’s hand. She can feel the slight shaking in it, not as strong as her own, when she touches there, holding tightly. And she shakes her head, “Alex, no,” her voice is emphatic, because… “I’ve wanted this for so long.”

Alex’s eyebrows furrow, her face so confused, and Maggie squeezes her hand for another second before she finds the strength to say, “I’m afraid.”

The admission burns her throat.

Immediately, the hand holding hers tightens, like Alex could give Maggie strength just from that, “Of me? Maggie… I’d never hurt you.”

“Of this,” she corrects, moving her free hand between them, swallowing tightly, “I’m – Alex, something is wrong with me,” she admits, and her heart is pounding in her chest with the fear of actually saying it out loud. Saying it to Alex, when she’s finally here, with her, with the potential of having everything she’s ever wanted. “Everyone I’ve ever wanted to stay has left.”

Alex moves so swiftly, to sit in front of Maggie. Her sleep clothes are wrinkled and her hair’s a mess and there’s a look so warm in her eyes, it could probably give the sun a run for it’s money.

But before she can say anything, Maggie shakes her head and reaches up to rub at her eyes, hard. Because god, they burn, and she’s been thinking about this for too long, “I know you’re going to say that they were wrong. I know you even think that and I – I love you for that.”

God, she does. She’s never meant anything more.

“I love you so much, Alex,” it feels so good to say that it almost hurts. Like it’s been inside of her mind and held back from being said aloud for so long, that it scrapes out, “I love everything you are. I love how deeply you care, and I love that you think the best of me. I love that you’re competitive and that you fight for what you want. And I know that out there, in other universes, there could be hundreds of thousands of different Maggie’s, maybe ones who weren’t kicked out by her parents, or whose aunt didn’t die. Whose past girlfriends didn’t all break up with them for so many different reasons, for every reason.”

She can feel tears dripping from her eyes, and she quickly reaches her arm up to try to wipe them away, while her heart feels like it’s beating so fast, and it makes no sense because she’d already told Alex that she loves her, but this feels different.

“And maybe all of those Maggie’s had a different life, a better life. But I wouldn’t ever choose a different universe like that, because I want you. I would choose everything that’s happened to me, every day, if it meant having you,” she manages to get out, and her hand is so tight around Alex’s she’s almost worried, until Alex just squeezes back.

Alex’s eyes are big and teary and searching hers even as she leans in closer, “Maggie, why does it feel like…” she breaks off to swallow, “Like you’re about to tell me you don’t want to be together?”

“Because everyone who’s ever gotten close to me leaves, and I can’t even blame them. Because there’s something wrong with me,” she repeats, needing Alex to understand. She can hear the almost desperate tone of her own voice, even as it gets thicker with tears, “And I don’t even mean all of the stuff people have said to me, about me. I mean, that I’ve never wanted any of them to leave, Alex. I never wanted it, but there’s a part of me that never lets them in,” her voice drops to a whisper.

And it’s a truth that she’s never been able to admit out loud before.

Alex shakes her head already, but Maggie squeezes her eyes closed and tries to take a deep breath as she says, “Something inside of me is broken, Alex. It’s why I can never really let someone in, it’s why everyone leaves. It’s not their fault, it’s me. It’s… I’m…” she can’t find the words to finish.

She feels Alex’s hands, warm and soft and sure, cupping her jaw, and thumbs moving over her cheeks, wiping at her tears. And Maggie’s head is shaking, she didn’t realize it until that moment.

But she needs to say this last part, and she reaches up to grab Alex’s wrists gently, opening her eyes to see that Alex is only inches from her, “I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone. I can’t – losing you…” it would break her.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Alex tells her, and her voice is strong and sure, like she has no doubt at all in her mind that she’s going to be with Maggie, through everything. And it’s something Maggie wants so badly to believe, but she – she always could ruin it. And she can’t ruin Alex.

Her hands grasp at Alex’s wrists, “I… Alex, I can’t hurt you.”

Alex leans in, pushing up enough to brush her lips over Maggie’s still damp cheeks. It’s soft and loving, and she doesn’t pull away as she says, “You changed my life the second I met you, Maggie. I’ve never had a friend like you. Ever. I’ve never known anyone like you, ever. And I’m not going to be one of the idiots who lets you go.”

Any of the argument that could possibly still be inside leaves her, as she feels Alex’s warm breath hit her lips, and stares right into her eyes. Eyes so deep, she could drown in them, and it’s not the first time she’s ever thought that.

But it is the first time that she can fulfil the need that wells up inside of her to be closer.

She slips her hands out of Alex’s loose grasp and brings them up to stroke lightly up Alex’s neck, moving her even closer as she whispers, “What did I do to possibly deserve you?”

And she presses her mouth to Alex’s, moving her lips against hers, feeling the softness that she doesn’t think she will ever have enough of. After last night – their kissing against the door, and then the small amount in Alex’s bed before Maggie had put a stop to it – she’s positive that she’s never going to stop craving feeling Alex against her.

She starts slow, just rubbing her mouth against Alex’s, just to feel. Before Alex makes a small sound in the back of her throat, and her lips part against Maggie’s, taking in her bottom lip and sucking.

She sucks a little harder, drawing Maggie’s lip between her teeth in a way that makes her entire body twitch, her hands sliding to grasp at Alex’s waist and digging in there, trying to balance herself.

Then Alex releases her, leaning in closer and pressing a featherlight kiss to Maggie’s jaw, then moving down until she’s at her earlobe. Kissing again before breathing against her and saying, “I hate to tell you this, but… you already let me in a long time ago. I see you, Maggie. And I want all of you.”

The words completely break her. Break through the fears she’d been unable to let go of, breaks through these insecurities, and really, it’s the feeling of Alex so damn close and warm in her bed and breathing into her ear that breaks the last bit of everything holding her back.

She uses her grip to push Alex back, and she moves with Maggie’s hands, with what she wants, seamlessly. Falling onto her back so that Maggie can climb above her, pressing her hips against Alex’s in the perfect way that lets her feel just how well they fit together, how Alex’s hips jerk into hers instinctively, like she can’t be close enough.

When she feels Alex’s hands, fingers searching and confident both at once, sliding under her shirt, and up her back, she feels herself shudder and presses her mouth into Alex’s throat. God, she’d spent long minutes kissing and sucking here last night, and she could spend hours now, she thinks.

She sucks at the warm, smooth skin, and feels the way Alex’s breath hitches, then nips her teeth just – god, because she can. Because she has Alex under her and Alex wants her and loves her, and it’s so perfect.

She moves up, cupping Alex’s jaw to keep her in place as she leans down, using her thumb to pull lightly at her bottom lip just as her mouth covers Alex’s, moving against her, tongue slipping inside for short, teasing moments. Before she pulls back, sucking at Alex’s lip the same way Alex had on hers, just to feel it. To feel the way it makes Alex gasp and hear the way she whimpers.

“I thought you wanted to wait until you took me on a date first,” Alex pants the words out against Maggie’s mouth, and Maggie’s entire body shivers.

And she drops her forehead to Alex’s shoulder with a laugh that shudders out of her body, pressing so close to Alex’s…

“Yeah. I do. I want to take my time with you,” she says, her voice low as she ducks back down to press another kiss to Alex’s mouth, this time softer, slower. Savoring her.

Because for once in her life, neither of them were going anywhere.

//

She realizes even before they move in together that the home she’s spent forever trying to find is simply, Alex.