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forever & please don't go

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SEPTEMBER

Sam is awoken, on a bright beautiful autumn morning, by the intense, irritating beeping of an alarm close to her head.

Her eyes barely crack open to see that the sun has just barely come up through her blinds. It’s far too early to be up on a weekend. She burrows down into the blankets, hoping to drown the noise out without having to bring her arm out from under the warm covers.

Then a realization hits her.

That’s her alarm sound for important events.

Work events.

“Oh shit -” Sam curses, tumbling out of bed. Snatching her phone off her bedside table she reads the words ‘meeting with shareholders.’

How had she forgotten that? How in the hell had she forgotten that.

“Shit!” She hisses again, pushing up off the ground. Going to her bedroom door, she yanks it open, “Ruby?” she calls down the hall, before wandering back to her closet and finding a pair of pants to wear and quickly jumping into them.

She snatches her favorite hoodie up off the chair in her room for the time being, rushing out of her room.

“Ruby!” She knocks on the door twice and when she receives a grumbled response from the other side, smiles slightly and pushes the door open. “Come on, Rubes, you gotta get up.”

“But whyyyyy?” Her daughter whines, pulling the covers further up herself.

“I hate to do this, but I forgot an important meeting that I can’t reschedule.”

This makes Ruby sit up slightly. There’s a slight sag to her shoulders that Sam can tell isn’t just from being tired. “But we were supposed to marathon Buffy today.”

Sam feels her shoulders fall slightly. She hadn’t forgotten about that and the idea of disappointing her daughter again made her heart sink.

“I know and I’m really sorry. Make it up to you later?”

Ruby sighs, but finally nods.

“Okay… Good. Good. Thank you. Get dressed please, we have to leave in a few minutes.”

“Am I going with you again?”

Shit-” She’d completely forgotten about that too. Weeks ago when she’d scheduled this meeting she’d planned to ask Ruby to make plans with a friends for that Saturday, but of course they’d decided to keep it open for a Mother-Daughter day.

As much as Sam loves having Ruby around, she knows how much it must suck for a kid to spend their weekend inside a stuffy office and in a situation like this, the shareholders may find the presence of a kid completely unprofessional.

She turns around and looks at her daughter, who has a sort of dejected look on her face.

“You don’t really want to do that, right?”

Ruby shakes her head and Sam nods.

“Okay… Okay. I’ll figure something out. Get dressed.” She closes the door behind her and rushes into the kitchen, mind racing so as to figure out a solution.

Lena is going to be with her at the meeting, so that’s not going to work-

She pushes two waffles down into the toaster and then rushes back to her own room to find appropriate clothing options.

Jack lives way too far way for Sam to feasibly get Ruby there and get back to work on time. She’d have to have superpowers to make that kind of trip.

She throws on a button up and one of her black blazers, rolling the sleeves back and tucking the shirt into her slacks.

“Shit-” she mumbles again as she stumbles into the bathroom, finally getting a good look at her hair. Quick as she can she starts trying to pull it together.

And then there’s- there’s… That’s it. She pauses. Lena and Jack were really her only options?

Then the thought of her mom popped into her head and just as fast as it entered she pushed it away.

Wow, she really needs more friends.

Suddenly, Sam remembers the cop that lives down stairs. The one with the nice smile who’d run Ruby’s lunch, which Sam had accidently set down in the lobby in her rush, out to them right before they’d driven out of the parking lot, who had always teased or encouraged Ruby in some way when they had to share an elevator at some point, who’d helped Sam with a few boxes late at night as they were moving in, refusing to let her carry them up alone…

Sam sighs, setting the brush down on the counter.

Considering the other options, that would have to do.

“Hey, Ruby?” She asks, coming out of her room to find her daughter in the kitchen preparing their waffles.

“Yeah, mom?”

Sam smiles slightly at the sight. “Hey… Thanks for the breakfast.”

Ruby grins back. “Yeah, I just thought I’d get it out of the way for you.”

“I appreciate that. Now, we need to talk about where you’re gonna go today.”

“Yeah?”

“Do you remember the cop from down stairs?”

Ruby’s eyes lit up slightly. “Alex?”

Jesus, Sam didn’t even know the woman’s name and she was about to ask a huge, imposing favor of her.

“Yeah… Alex. I’m gonna go try and ask her if she can watch you for a few hours, okay? Just until I can come back and then I promise we’ll go out to lunch and I’ll be all yours for the rest of the day. Sound good?”

“Sounds good.”

“Okay. You eat, I’m gonna go talk to her.”

Sam walks from their kitchen, through their tiny living room and to the front door and she slips her feet into a pair of slippers. Then, she stops, remembering something, “And a raincheck on the chocolate chip and banana pancakes until tomorrow?”

“Yes!” She hears Ruby’s exuberant shout and feels her love for the girl grow somehow, impossibly, bigger than it already was.

Sam unlocks the multiple locks, throws the door open and goes out into the hallway. All it takes is a glance to one side to see the big cardboard ‘out of order’ sign hanging on the elevator.

“Of course,” she mutters and turns on her heel to rush down a flight of stairs.

She walks down the hallway until she nears the apartment in the exact same position as their own a floor up.

Suddenly she feels very nervous and ponders, just for a moment, not knocking, but she pushes through and raps her knuckles against the wood.

Her stomach churns, trying to tell her just how improper this is.

Jesus, they’ve only been living there a little over a month and here Sam is, standing outside a stranger’s, albeit a very nice stranger’s, door asking for a huge favor.

She takes a step back and forces her hands into her pockets, trying hard not to fidget.

There’s a long pause, but eventually Sam hears a muffled shout of “just a second,” and a few moments later the door flings open, revealing her neighbor.

“Hi!” Sam greets, cheerfully.

The woman- Alex - blinks in surprise. “Hey,” she says, wearily.

Sam takes in her appearance, oversized sweater, sweatpants, bare feet and her short hair ruffled messily as though she’d just rolled out of bed. Suddenly Sam feels even worse about knocking on her door, especially at this early hour. Then it dawns on her how hard Alex’s job probably is and how little sleep that might get her. “Oh, did I wake you up?”

Alex sighs and nods but her lips curl slightly in a smile. “It’s fine, what’s up?”

Sam hesitates, wondering if she should just back out now and leave this woman to go back to sleep, but something about Alex’s relaxed demeanor and the reminder of how her already limited time is ticking away keeps her going. “Okay listen… I know you don’t know me, but I’m about to ask a huge favor of you and I totally understand if you say no.”

“Um,” Alex leans up against the door frame by her shoulder, “Okay, sure.”

Sam takes a deep breath, “So, I have a daughter.”

There’s a hum of laughter. “I’m aware.”

“And I really hate to do this,” she repeats, “but we moved here because I got a really amazing job offer at a company and-”

“That’s great-”

“- it’s still all so new and I’m still trying to make good impressions and today is a really important meeting with shareholders who I haven’t even met yet and if I mess it up that could be it-”

“I’m sure that’s not-”

“- and I forgot about it until about… Twelve minutes ago? So now I’m panicking and trying to get ready, but I have a problem.”

Alex nods, like she’s done with trying to interject and can’t tell if Sam is going to start talking today.

“And I accidentally made plans with my daughter today because I forgot… So all of her friends are busy or out of town and I work with all my friends so-”

“You need a babysitter?” Alex asks.

“Yeah… And normally I’d never do this but I’m in a pinch and you’ve been so good with her all the times you’ve talked… And you’re a cop... So I figure you can keep her safe.”

Alex breathes in deep and crosses her arms. “Yeah… Yeah, I can do that.” She forces a smile and nods.

“Really? Are you sure? I don’t want to impose.”

“It’s totally fine. I took care of my little sister for years; I know how to keep kids entertained.”

“Yeah… Now I hate to get all crazy on you but-” Sam changes her demeanor, willing her mama bear instincts to come to the surface “That girl is the most important thing in the world to me. I’d do anything for her and if anything happens to her I don’t care if you're a cop-”

Alex lets out a laugh, a real laugh, and nods. “Got it. Nothing happens to the kid or no one will ever find me. I get it. I feel the same about my sister.”

“Good…” Sam clears her throat. “So I’ll bring her down in a few. She likes movies and tv shows, if you can get her hooked on something you should be good for a while. I should be back by at worst three.”

“Sounds good.”

So we’re on the same page?”

“Totally,” Alex smiles but there’s something behind her eyes, something she can’t quite place. Nothing that makes Sam feel bad about the situation, but makes a part of her wonder what that look that has hints of sadness in it means, what the story there is.

She doesn’t have the time to pry and they’re nowhere near close enough for that.

“Okay… So, I’ll see you in a few.’

She rushes back up, relief flowing through her.

She’s got this under control and more importantly, Alex is very calm and seemingly caring. She hopes she’s right about that.

Maybe they’ll even be friends by the end of this.

She pushes the door to their apartment open, immediately heading for the kitchen.

“Rubes?”

“Yeah, mom?”

“So, Alex is game to watch you… Are you okay with that?”

“Totally! Alex is really cool!”

Sam nods, “And you know what to do if anything goes wrong?”

“Get out of the situation and then call you or the police, depending on the circumstance,” Ruby recites, rolling her eyes but smiling.

There’s a burst of fondness in Sam’s chest and she suddenly feels very grateful to have raised such a beautiful daughter.

“Good girl.” Sam closes the distance between them and hugging her daughter close. “I love you, you know that right?”

Ruby groans, “Yeah mom, I know.”

Sam responds by digging her fingers into her sides, tickling her.

“Mom!” she giggles, swatting her hands away.

“Now go on, get your stuff.”

Ruby runs off to her room to get her backpack and Sam goes back to her bedroom to grab her briefcase and put on heels instead of slippers.

Her and Ruby exit their rooms at the same time and immediately head for the front door, bags in their hands.

“Mom, don’t forget your breakfast.”

“Oh, right!” Sam takes a few long strides back to grab the waffle.

“I’ll get the keys!” Ruby calls back, prompting another fond feeling in Sam.

When they come face to face again at the door, Sam gratefully takes the keys from her daughter. “Always looking out for me, huh?”

“Gotta repay the favor.”

Ruby’s dimples come out in full force and Sam practically can feel the words yank on her heart. She ruffles her daughter's hair, “Yeah…”

They rush down the flight of stairs again and down the hall.

This time when she knocks on the door, Alex is there to open it immediately. Her hair is brushed out and she’s swapped the sweatpants for jeans and she looks much more awake, smile bright on her face as her eyes land on the pair.

“Hey! Ruby, right? Did you know that rubies are one of the strongest gemstones? Only-”

“- Diamonds are stronger! You’ve told me that one already, Alex!” Ruby laughs and Alex shrugs.

“I guess I only know so much about rubies. I’m gonna have to do some more research.”

A weight lifts off Sam’s shoulders as she feels some of her worry drift away because of the interaction.

“Okay, so once again I hate to do this but… I really have to run, I’m barely gonna make it as is.”

“I get it. We’re gonna have a great time, right?”

“Totally!”

Sam nods, but turns to her daughter, squatting slightly to be eye level.

“You gonna be okay?”

“I’m fine, Mom.”

“Good. Good… Have a good time, okay? I trust you.”

She pulls her into a second hug, holding her just a little longer and tighter. When they let go she presses a kiss to her daughter’s hairline. “Love you. I promise I’m all yours for the rest of the weekend when I get back, okay?”

“Buffy?”

“Yeah, so much Buffy our brains might melt.”

Ruby’s grin is blinding as she leans back into her mom, giggles concealed into her shoulder.

“Can I go inside now?”

Sam signs, still feeling the slightest bit reluctant to let her go. “Ask Alex, yeah?”

“Alex?”

When the two glance up, Sam makes note of that look again, the one that looks like it conceals a painful story behind it. It takes a moment for her to register she’s been addressed, but when she does she shakes her head. “Yeah, of course.” She moves out of the way to let Ruby enter.

“I’ll see you later!” The young girl calls out from inside.

Sam’s next breath is shaky with her daughter out of her sight.

“She’s in good hands, I promise I’ll watch out for her.”

“You better… Sorry, that was harsher than I meant it to be… Just… Thank you?”

“No big deal.”

“I’ll see you both in a few hours?”

“Sounds good.”

“Okay… Okay, bye.”

Sam starts to take a few reluctant steps away, eyes not leaving Alex as she wanders back towards the stairs.

“I’ve got this.” Alex sounds very self assured and her eyes are so calm that Sam feels inclined to believe her and finally, in a leap of faith, waves and turns to head down the stairs, a sense of calm soaking her to the bone.

 


 

When the door closes, Alex takes a deep breath, knowing she’s alone with a kid for the first time since she was a kid.

When she turns around she sees Ruby staring at her expectantly. She takes a deep breath, suddenly feeling like she might be in over her head.

“So, uh, what do kids like to do nowadays?” She asks, trying to remember how she’d tried to keep Kara entertained when they’d first met. “Wanna go stargazing?”

Ruby giggles. “It’s eight in the morning.”

Alex wishes she’d meant it as a joke. “Aha, right!”

There’s another significant pause where it starts to get awkward.

Then she remembers what she, Kara and Clark had done to pass the time when he was stuck at their house over the holidays.

“Wanna learn how to play cards?”

Ruby grins and Alex softens, this she can handle.

“Get comfy on the couch and I’ll go get them?”

“Yeah!” Ruby goes bounding over to her tiny living room, immediately flinging herself onto her ratty couch.

Alex shakes her head and goes to pull the cards out of the hall closet. Upon her return, she sits criss-cross-applesauce on the ground across from Ruby.

“So, you know how to play any games already?”

“Go fish?”

“Okay! Okay, that’s a good start, um…” Alex shuffles the cards up in her hands, carefully using her fingers to make sure all the edges align into a neat stack as she holds them tight, regarding the girl as she tries to figure out the best plan of action. “Since it’s so early and I’m not all that awake yet-”

This time it is meant as a joke, so when Ruby laughs Alex feels a rush of pride.

But really, she’s barely been up for thirty minutes and her coffee’s still brewing in the kitchen, so she’s not quite sure she has it in her just yet to explain anything too complicated.

“- I figure we can start with something equally as easy as Go Fish and then work our way up from there?”

Ruby nods excitedly, sitting up attentively.

“Okay so,” Alex straightens up too, getting closer to the coffee table, “this is called War.”

She pushes up the sleeves of her maroon knit sweater and begins to deal them their cards, explaining as she does. “Every deck of cards has fifty-two cards, in War, we’re each going to get half that, which is-”

“Twenty six!”

Alex wasn’t expecting her to jump in quite that fact. “Yeah… Yeah that’s really good! Um, so we’re both gonna get twenty-six- Don’t look at them - and then we’ll each flip a card over at the same time and the person who has the card with the bigger number gets both cards.”

“That sounds easy!” she practically jumps forward, already going for her cards.

“Hold on!” Alex chuckles, holding her hands up to slow her roll. “If we both pull up a card and it’s the same number then we go to War, which means we’ll take two more cards from our piles, one face down, one up. Whoever has the higher card between the two new face up cards gets all six. Whoever ends up with all the cards wins, cool?”

“Cool, let’s go.”

By the time they go through their first round, Ruby ending up with all the cards - beginners luck , Alex remarks, teasingly - they’ve both relaxed, competitive banter flowing easily. Alex shuffles again. They start into a second round and this time the cards are in Alex’s favor, but half way through Alex’s coffee is ready and she goes and grabs it. Upon her return, Alex finds Ruby lifting the edges of her cards.

“Hey!”

She quickly moves back, head whipping around to look at Alex with an faux innocent expression.

“Don’t think I didn’t see that, cheater!” Alex laughs, coming back to sit down across from her.

“Who says I was cheating!”

“I witnessed the crime!” Alex jokes, scooping the deck back up into her hands now that their game was tainted. “You should know better than to try and trick a cop… Don’t worry though, cheating is a part of cards.”

The young girl lights up with pride and with her own burst of excitement at the fact, Alex begins dealing again.

“War again?”

“Nah, I think you’re too good for that.”

Another pleased smile, this time a dimple appears on Ruby’s cheek.

“We’re gonna move to something more complicated. Something you won't pick up so easy. Something harder to cheat at!” Alex reaches forward and pokes Ruby’s nose gently between setting a card down and picking another up.

“Don’t worry, I’ll find a way.”

Alex shakes her head, stifling a laugh. “Yeah well, good luck with that.”

“What is it?”

She glances up, pausing to build tension. “Ever heard of Blackjack?”

Ruby’s eyes go wide.

 


 

The elevator door opens and the first thing Sam sees is Lena pacing.

Sam doesn’t slow down as she approaches Lena, the other woman having to go from full stop to keeping up with Sam at in full important-business-woman-walk mode, which is a mode Lena is used to, except between them there is a drastic difference in the amount of leg they have.

“You’re late. They’ll be here any minute,” Lena says, nearly jogging to get to the same speed as Sam.

“I know. I forgot…” Sam keeps her gaze level, moving through the building like she knows exactly what she’s doing.

Lena sighs, but falls into step with her, having no trouble keeping up her own composure.

“Where’s Ruby?”

There’s a significant pause as Sam isn’t quite sure of what to say. Finally she clears her throat. “With a friend.”

“A friend?” Lena’s eyebrow raises. “Jack?”

“No… Not Jack.”

“Well, I’m here, so who else could it be.”

“There’s a cop that lives the floor below us, always really nice to Ruby.”

What? Sam, are you feeling alright?”

“Look, Alex is really nice and a cop and she’s really good with Ruby-”

Lena makes a sound, like the last pieces of a puzzle have just clicked into place and stops in her tracks. Sam stops too, turning impatiently to look at her friend whose expression is far too smug for this early in the morning.

“So, she’s a girl cop?”

Sam rolls her eyes and continues on their path. When Lena catches up again, she replies, “for you information, there’s nothing going on there. She was just the only option and she’s helping me out, okay? Not a big deal.”

“It is when it’s your daughter, who you love more than life itself.”

By now they’ve reached the doors to Sam’s office and she sighs turning to Lena again. “Lena, seriously. There’s nothing going on. She’s just really nice, good with kids, a cop and my neighbor who’s doing me a huge favor seeing as she was really my only option this morning.”

“Okay, okay!” Lena holds up her hands in surrender. “Message received.”

“Besides, maybe I’m trying to make more friends,” she pushes into the room, walking over to her best and placing the briefcase down.

“Maybe you should be trying to make more than friends.” Lena crosses her arms across the room, giving Sam a pointed look.

Sam scoffs and shakes her head, gathering the various handouts she would need for the rapidly approaching meetings as well as her other needed materials. “Lena…”

“Really, I mean it! When was the last time you had someone in your life?”

Sam sighs, setting her planner down forcefully, suddenly feeling very tired. “I have Ruby.”

“But that’s not the same! I know you love her and there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s always going to be the most important person in your life. And I’m in no way saying she shouldn’t be… But you deserve romance and love… Maybe even a little help in the parenting area- not that you need it,” she amends at Sam’s glare.

“... Being a mom, having this job and having you and Jack as my friends… That’s enough for me. You, Ruby and Jack are all I need.”

“Don’t you ever get lonely?”

“You’re so interested in talking about my love life, why don’t we talk about yours? Hm? When was your last failed attempt at finding a girlfriend?” Sam teases, crossing her arms.

Lena huffs out a slightly offended laugh. “You’re lucky I love you or I might’ve taken offense to that.”

Sam grins back, finally having all of her materials open just as Jess’ voice comes through the phone, informing them that the shareholders have just arrived.

The two women share an excited look, as much stress as this job had placed onto Lena’s shoulders and now upon Sam’s, there’s a thrill to it they both love at the heart of it.

“Showtime,” Lena smirks as Sam walks over to join her at the door.

 


 

Two hours hours later after a few rounds of Blackjack, Poker, a modified version of Spades and a few more scattered games of War, Alex and Ruby are starting to get very worn out on cards. Alex has moved onto the couch now, the two of them sitting on opposite sides of it so as to protect their hands. Ruby’s head is resting in her palm, looking bored out of her mind, Alex can’t blame her, she’s been at that point for a few rounds now too. In the middle of the game, Alex throws her hand down onto the table, revealing what she has.

“We’re over this now, right?”

Ruby sighs happily, exposing her own cards now too. “Oh definitely.”

“You did really well by the way! You might just have a future in gambling.” Right after she says it, Alex realizes that might not be the best thing to tell a kid even as a joke. “Wait, don’t take that seriously please, don’t gamble it’s illegal… Don’t tell your mom I said that.”

Ruby giggles, “I won’t, pinky promise.”

“Deal,” Alex leans forward, locking their pinkies together. It feels like she is fifteen again with Kara when they’d promised not to rat each other out for things they’d done to their parents.

Once they’re both satisfied with the promise, they settle back into the cushions staring at each other.

“So… What now?” Ruby questions.

Crap. Alex should’ve thought that out before putting an end to their card game.

“Um.” She takes a glance around her apartment, trying to find another activity to take up a few hours. On her second scan of the living area, Alex’s eyes catch on the shelf beneath her TV and the DVDs box set resting atop it.

The X Files.

Suddenly, Alex feels herself brimming with excitement. She remembers when her dad had first sat her down, VHS in hand and explaining that once she watched this, she’d never be the same. How he’d sat down next to her and how quickly she’d been sucked into it, hanging onto every detail as if her life was depending on it, wanting so desperately to be solving the mysteries alongside Mulder and Scully. She remembers turning to her father beside her after that first episode and asking a million questions, to which his response had been to just keep watching. At that point they was no stopping her. She never stopped. Not after she’d watched all the tapes Jeremiah had owned of the show, not after she’d gone and gotten the ones he didn’t from the library, not after she’d religiously watched every episode as it aired on TV, and not after it ended, when she’d bought those DVD’s sitting on the very shelf before her.

She wants to give that experience to someone else.

Wants to watch someone else get sucked in by the mystery and conspiracy of her favorite show.

“Did your mom say something about watching Buffy this morning?” Alex asks, turning her gaze back onto Ruby.

“Yeah?” Ruby sounds confused.

“Want to watch something similar? And dare I say better...”

“Better than Buffy? No way! My mom says it’s the best show ever made!”

“Your mom has good taste, but she’s wrong. This show is the best show ever made.”

“What is it?”

“The X Files.”

A thrilled feeling fills Alex’s chest as she sees that Ruby’s never heard of it.

“What’s it about?”

Alex shrugs, “I don’t know…” She crosses her arms, hoping this will further spark Ruby’s interest.

“Come on! Tell me!”

“You’ll have to watch to find out.”

“Just put it on. Let’s go!”

Alex grins and jumps up off the couch, pulling a blanket down off the back of it and throwing it over Ruby’s body. She turns on the TV and the DVD player, setting it up so it will play through the DVD trailers.

“Want me to make popcorn? Order some pizza?”

Ruby perks up again. “Awesome!”

Alex feels a burst of something else, the fact of how well this is going filling her with uncomparable joy. “Okay! I’ll be right back! How do you take your pizza?”

“Pepperoni!”

 


 

They shake hands, all of them congratulating Sam on the job and the work she’s now doing as the CFO.

As they watch the shareholders leave the building, success and pride clinging to the both of them like electricity as they watch the shareholders leave the building.

“Also, going back to our argument from before,” Sam murmurs, leaning over slightly so only Lena can hear. “I know how to settle it. It’s mutually beneficial for both of us to be single.”

Out of the corner of her eye she sees Lena look at her and she turns her own head to look at the other woman.

Lena’s eyebrow quirks. A question.

Sam smirks. “If either of us were in a relationship, who would the other call when they’re in need of a little… Stress relief between friends?”

Lena rolls her eyes, chuckling as she walks back to the office. “Shut up, Arias.”

 


 

At the beginning of the first episode, Ruby lounges as comfortably as she can against the couch, both feet resting upon Alex’s lap. As the minutes tick by though, the nonchalance disappears from her demeanor as she slowly gets wrapped up Mulder and Scully’s endeavors. First, her feet come off Alex lap as she sits up in place, knees tucked close to her chest, eyes intently focused on the screen. Second, she shifts so as to face the TV more fully, so her eyes don’t have to leave it. Third, her feet touch the ground, leaning intently forward, knees against the coffee table. Finally, she begins asking rapid fire questions as the credits roll, eyes wide and desperate for answers, Alex answers all of them with a simple “keep watching,” just as her dad had done.

Just as the theme begins playing for the second time, the doorbell rings and Ruby jumps, caught up in her excitement.

“Get the pizza and come back,” Ruby commands, eyes not leaving the screen as the cold open starts.

Alex grins at the reaction and jumps up to do as she says.

 


 

Despite the success and swiftness of the meetings, Sam gets back to the apartment building at four PM. After the shareholders had left, she’d had all kinds of things to wrap up that had been brought up at the meeting and that she then needed to get done as quickly as possible to show her work ethic. After that there had been problems with the merger she’s been working on for the past few weeks and she’d had to deal with that too. Now she’s just tired and wants to see her daughter in one piece.

When she gets to Alex’s door, she realizes just how worn out she must look because she can feel the stress of the day pulling her down.

She knocks anyway, knowing that this will make her feel better.

The door opens and Sam starts into a greeting, expecting to be met by Alex but then she’s getting toppled into by her daughter, nearly knocking her flat.

“Mom!” She shouts, throwing her arms around her.

“Hey, baby,” Sam breathes, overcome with relief. She holds her tight.

After a few moments, when she’s sure Ruby’s okay and in one piece, she opens her eyes, finding Alex watching them from the doorway casually.

“Did you have fun?” Sam pulls back from the hug to look Ruby in the eye.

So much fun,” she says, still unaffected by the teenage instinct to act like one likes things less than they really do to appear cool.

“Oh yeah?” She gives Alex an impressed look at the assessment. “What did you guys do?”

“Alex taught me how to play poker and blackjack-”

Sam raises her eyebrows and looks up at Alex at that, but lets Ruby continue.

“- and then we started watching The X Files.”

Another look passes between them, but now Sam’s lip quirks up at this detail. Alex rubs at the nape of her neck, looking sheepish.

“It was just really awesome.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Sam says, looking at Ruby but talking to the both of them. “Have you eaten?”

“Yeah! Alex ordered pizza!”

“Oh? Nice, huh?”

“Totally.”

Sam smiles down at her, patting her on the shoulder fondly before looking back up and remembering Alex is standing there. She really needs to talk to her about all this. Thank her, apologize again, ask if it was okay for her too, thank her again.

She fishes her keys of of her pocket, holding them out to Ruby.

“Hey, go up to the apartment and settle in okay? Give Alex and I a minute to talk?

This elicits an excited squeal from the girl before she’s snatching them away and running up to the apartment.

“Be careful!” Sam shouts after her. When she turns back to resume conversation, Alex is looking at her with that same look from earlier.

“What?”

Alex shakes her head. “Nothing. Nothing,” she says, in a way that sounds like it’s definitely not nothing.

After it seems like Alex isn’t going to reveal anything, Sam starts into her shepell.  “I know I’m a little later than expected.”

“No no, don’t worry about it. I get how it is. I spend a lot longer at work some nights than I mean to. Stuff comes up.”

“And I just wanted to thank you again. For everything. You didn’t have to and I know it was a huge thing to ask of you.”

“Hey,” Alex stops her calmly, smile coming to her easier than it had this morning. “It’s no big deal, I promise.”

Somehow, after she’d spent an entire day with a child that wasn’t hers, who was the kid of someone she barely knew, Alex had managed to look more relaxed than she had that morning.

“Can I at least pay you for-”

“No way! It was my pleasure. I had a good time . You’ve got a really great kid there, hell, if you ever need me to watch her again I’d be more than happy to!”

Sam shakes her head, smiling at the other woman. “You’re too kind.”

“Nah, I just like kids.”

“Seems like you’re good with them.”

That makes her faces drop a little as she nods, placing a hand on her own shoulder. “Yeah…”

There’s a tension that that makes Sam wonder again, but instead of prying, she decides to lessen the mood.

“So, I really need to go and be with her, you know I kinda bailed on her today… But I want to thank you again… and uh, ask you one more question?”

“Shoot.”

“Gambling? Really?”

“Not gambling!” Alex shoots off quickly. “No money was involved and I explained that it’s illegal. I know I probably should've asked-”

“Alex… I’m kidding.”

The woman visibly relaxes, air escaping her in a rush. “Oh, okay. Good.”

Sam stares at her for a moment, feeling very grateful for her help. Then she realizes she’s already stolen most of her day away and feels bad again.

“Hey, I don’t want to keep you,” Alex steals her back from her thoughts. “I know you want to spend time with Ruby. Tell her I had a good time.”

“I’ll tell her and I’ll let you get back to your day… Bye, Alex.”

“Bye Sam.” Alex pats her hand against the door.

Sam gives her a curt nod and turn to go up the stairs.

The second Sam enters the apartment, the first thing she hears from Ruby is: “Do you think I could hang out with Alex again?”

 


 

Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, when the focus should be just a mother and her daughter, Sam thinks she hears the name Alex come out of Ruby somewhere over one hundred times.

“I wonder if Alex like this show.”

“We should go play more cards with Alex soon!”

“Alex would-”

“How do you think Alex is doing?”

“Are you gonna let me hang out with her again?”

Alex, Alex, Alex .

And it’s not that Sam minds, but it’s just hard to have a seemingly never ending conversation about a person she barely knows.

This both raises her opinion of Alex to a new level, because anyone her daughter likes is good in her book, and makes her feel the urge to repay Alex for doing her this favor that’s obviously made a huge impact upon her daughter’s life.

One day late in the next week, when Ruby is at school and Sam has a minute to spare, she sits down and thinks about what she knows of Alex and how she can use that to do something nice for the other woman.

Turn out, Sam really does know next to nothing about Alex. All she can pull from her mind is that she’s a cop, has a sister, she’s really good with kids, is very willing to help others and Sam has talked to her a few times in the lobby as Alex has been leaving for drinks with friends.

The only thing Sam can really think to do is get her a bottle of really nice liquor as a thank you. So she calls Jess and requests for her to have a bottle of top shelf liquor delivered to her office before she leaves for the night, a bow tied around its neck.

Later in the day, right before she actually is about to leave the office, Jess delivers it to her, a blank card already in hand, prepared despite Sam not having thought of that.

Sam gives her a warm smile, taking the bottle gently from her hands. “You’re a lifesaver.”

Jess’s spine straightens further with pride, she smirks, “I try my best.”

So, later, when Sam’s finally picked Ruby up from her friend’s house, taken her home, cooked dinner and put her into bed, she quietly slips out the front door, a hundred dollar bottle of whisky in her hand.

The plan is, place the bottle at her front door with the note beneath it, leaving it for Alex to find when she goes or comes back from work, but of course, it can’t quite work out that way.

The hall is excessively quiet at this late hour, abnormal for an apartment building and right as Sam is setting the bottle down, crouched in front of Alex’s door, the woman in question rounds the corner, nearly giving both of them heart attacks.

“Oh my god!” Alex jumps, surprise written all over her face.

“Shit-” Sam stands as quick as she can, bottle clutched in her hands awkwardly. “Hey!”

“Um, hi?!”

They stare at each other for a long moment before Sam sighs and relaxes. “I promise I’m not just lurking outside your door.”

Alex nods, still looking confused at the situation.

“Look, my daughter is practically obsessed with you. She had a really great time and she really likes you and I’ve been thinking about it a lot and you did something really nice for me, and I know I’ve already thanked you to death, but I figured I could do something nice for you back.”

Sam takes one of the steps between them, so as to put the bottle into Alex’s hands. They maintain awkward eye contact for a moment before Alex looks down at the label. “Jesus- Sam you didn’t have to-”

“Hey,” Sam raises her hands up, like she’s saying ‘no take backs.’ “it’s yours.”

Alex’s shoulders relax and she sighs, bows her head, like she’s thinking, and then she’s focusing her gaze back on Sam. “Well, if you’re gonna give me this incredibly expensive liquor at least don't make me drink it alone?”

Now it’s Sam’s turn to be unsure. She sways back and forth slightly, which reminds her of the ever present pressure of her feet inside her high-high-heels and how she’s been wearing all of these clothes for what must be nearing fifteen hours and she hasn’t quite stopped moving in that time either, which is starting to feel like a description of her whole life. And she should really be getting back up stairs to sleep so that she’ll be prepared for her next day of tireless, stressful work.

She decides that she really can’t stay.

But instead, what comes out of her mouth is, “I think I can manage that.”

Before she can even comprehend what she's just said, as she’s just trying to get through her own moment of shock at her words, Alex is maneuvering around her to get to the door.

“Good, cause I could use one after today.”

Sam stands in the same spot, still wondering what in the hell had possessed her body, the very thing that seemed to be complaining from every direction, to agree to this. She listens to the key turn in the lock, the way Alex has to jiggle it to get it to work and then the sound of it rushing open and Alex’s feet crossing over the threshold. The light clicks on inside and she can hear the electricity buzz for just a moment before it fades into background. Everyone’s used to that around here.

“You comin’?” Alex asks, from inside.

Sam nods to no one and turns around to follow. She stops in the doorway, thinks about withdrawing her agreement with some sort of excuse - a reason really, because her body seems to be aching shoulder down at the moment - but right as she’s about to voice this, she really sees Alex, focuses on her.

She looks about how Sam feels. Her shoulders are tense, eyes tired like she hasn’t slept well recently. She moves faster than usual, like she’s trying to get every action, even just taking off her leather jacket, out of the way as quick as possible. Sam wonders if it’s because of the stress she can see resting between her brows and in the rigidity in her hands.

Instead of backing out, Sam finds herself stepping in and shutting the door behind her.

Part of her, a very faint part, in the back of her brain that is a little selfish and really wants her to fall into bed right now, screams ‘No! You can still get out of this! You can still go to sleep and not come out of this with a slight hangover! You can chat another time. Not now. Not now. Not now!’

“Are you okay?” She questions instead and that part of her brain quiets down, the more compassionate parts winning it over.

“Hm? Oh, yeah I’m fine.” She sounds distracted.

Her fingers have been in a state between clenched and unclenched since she’d walked into her apartment and that kind of rigidity can not be comfortable.

“Uh, you sure about that?” Sam follows her into the kitchen.

Alex pauses, setting the bottle down on the counter and looking back at her, sighing as a small but sincere smile comes upon her lips. “Sorry, stressful day.”

“Okay well, you’ve just invited me in for a drink,” Sam moves past her to get to the bottle and crack it open, “and I’m trying to do something nice for you so get me a bottle opener and you can talk about it all you want. I’m not saying I’ll have any advice because my brain’s running on half capacity as well but-” Alex places the device into her hand and she starts gesturing with it as she talks, “- I can listen.”

A silence follows and after Sam is done opening the bottle she turns to see Alex looking at her, expression unreadable.

Sam stands up straighter. “Or we don’t have to talk about it?”

Alex suddenly seems to realize what she’s doing and clears her throat. “No, sorry I was just uh… I guess I don’t get asked about my day that often except by my sister.”

“Yeah me either, except it’s my friend asking,” for a moment, her minds jumps to her lack of family, to her mom. She shoves the thoughts away. “We’re gonna  need something to put this in.”

“Oh, right!” Alex maneuvers around her again, opening a cabinet and pulling out the glasses for them. “Here, sorry.”

“It’s okay! I get it, you’re worn out.” She quickly pours them each drinks before passing one over to Alex.

Sam follows her out of the kitchen and into the living room, copying her as she sits at the dining table. More silence passes between them as they take their first sips.

She takes the moment to take in Alex’s apartment. Its set up is nearly a mirror of her own, but it’s less filled out. Although having exceptionally comfortable looking furniture, with blankets thrown across the couch and chair in the living room, the place doesn’t look very lived in. There’s nothing on any of the walls and on her few shelves there are gaps between her books and dvds. She can only spot one picture frame in the whole place. It reminds her of when she’d been moving out of her old place, how when half of her stuff had been boxed away the other half looked wrong barely filling up the space. Alex’s apartment gives off the same feeling, like stuff has been removed and not replaced. Sam briefly wonders how long she’s lived here.

“So, why was today rough?” Sam asks, when Alex sets her cup down nearly empty.

Alex takes a deep breath, “Well, for one, I don’t have the easiest job in the world… It’s hard to relax sometimes. I made a few arrests, had to assist in some others.”

From what Sam knows of law enforcement, this doesn’t add up to why Alex would be so wound up. “Sounds like a pretty standard day?”

“Yeah, well…” It sounds like Alex is just going to brush her off, but then she glances up, their eyes meet and Alex sighs, like she can’t bring herself to lie. “My ex has been around.”

“Ex?” Sam hadn’t even known Alex was anything other than single. They run into each other enough she supposed she’d just assumed since she’d never really seen Alex with anyone. Suddenly the lack of pictures makes sense.

“Bad breakup?”

“Yeah, you could say that. We used to work in the same precinct before.”

“You’re both cops?”

“Made the odd hours easier,” Alex supplies. “Yeah, she’s transferring so she’s just been wrapping up some of her cases and passing off the others. Picking up stuff.”

She . Jesus, Sam really does know nothing about Alex.

“Sam?”

She’s staring, shit. “Yeah, sorry… Sorry. Picking up stuff?”

“From her desk, from here.” Alex sighs, shaking her head.

“You guys lived together?” How hadn’t Sam noticed that? “That must be awful. How long were you two-”

“A year and a half.” Alex pulls her hands back towards herself, lacing her own fingers together uncomfortably. “We broke up a month ago.”

Sam’s only been here a month and a half, she was probably only just meeting Alex as things were falling apart. “Jesus. I’m so sorry.”

“Nah… Don’t- Don’t be. We wanted different things.”

“Like?”

Alex looks up at Sam and for a moment, it seems like she’s about to say something. “You know, I’d really rather not talk about it?”

Sam sits back in her chair, sighing slightly. Whatever it is, it must be pretty huge to have Alex this way. She won’t pry if Alex doesn’t want to talk about it though. “Of course.”

“Thank you for understanding.”

“Who wouldn’t? Everyone has their share of bad breakup stories right?”

Right .” Alex forces a laugh. “It’s just gonna take some time to get over I think…”

“I totally get it. If you ever need someone to talk to I’m here, although I’m probably not the best to ask about breakup advice… As I said before, I can listen.”

Alex nods, smiling at her slightly. “I appreciate that.”

More silence as they stare at each other.

“What about Ruby's father?” Alex asks, “Is he still in the picture?”

“Nope. It's just me and Ruby,” she takes another sip, feeling slightly uncomfortable at the mention.

“Wow. Raising a daughter by yourself, that's incredible.”

“Yeah.”

“I mean, how do you do that?”

“Uh, not very gracefully. It obviously requires a lot of help,” she gestures to Alex, who smiles slightly at her. “I'm always behind on something . It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it… You’ll see when you have kids.”

Alex seems tense again for just a moment, before sighing and whispering, “Yeah,” like she can’t quite make her voice any louder.

Sam watches the odd reaction and wonders if maybe that was the wrong thing to say. Now that Alex is freshly single, a fact that definitely still hurts her, maybe having kids is the absolute furthest thing from her mind.

Alex clears her throat and Sam looks up, eager to move on from the awkward moment, to find her standing from the table. “Do you want me to fill that for you?”

Sam shouldn’t have another. Once again, it’s getting later and she has work tomorrow and - “Sure.” She hands her glass over.

“So,” Alex starts, walking back into the kitchen, “What do you do? You said you moved here for that new job right?”

“I work at L-Corp.”

“No kidding? What exactly do you do there?”

Sam gets nervous about this part. Telling people she has such a high ranking job can often get her rather polarizing responses. She takes a deep breath, “I’m the CFO.”

Alex is about to hand back her drink at this point and she freezes in her spot. “Oh wow… What are you doing living in our building?”

Sam can’t help the sudden laugh that forces its way out of her at the bluntness of the question.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to-”

“No, no. I get it… Like I said I just moved here. I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself by getting anything too fancy and ending up over my head. I want to wait a year. Save up and make sure the job is stable before I go getting a nice place. Just incase this blows up in my face.”

“Smart,” Alex says, looking impressed.

“Plus, I got some pretty good neighbors out of the decision.” Sam takes a sip of her drink, giving Alex a pointed look.

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, one of them is really nice to my kid and likes The X Files?”

Now, Alex actually looks sheepish. “It’s my favorite and I heard you mention Buffy that morning so… I figured Ruby might like it too.”

“Funny… Buffy is my favorite show.”

“Looks like we have a similar taste in TV.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Popular cheesy 90s shows with supernatural elements.”

“Hey,” Sam raises her hands up, “At least it’s not Friends.”

Alex groans, throwing her head back. “My sister loved Friends.”

Sam laughs, “I remember everyone loving it but I could just never get into it.”

“Same! I feel like I have some of those episodes memorized from the amount of times she made me watch them.”

“Sucks for you!” Sam teases, enjoying this easy banter between them.

“What, you didn’t have any annoying siblings?”

“Uh… No. Only child. I was adopted.”

“Oh wow, so was my sister!”

Sam finds a smile fighting its way to her lips. “What a coincidence.” Then as she’s glancing down, she realizes she’s finished off her drink and catches sight of her watch all at once. It’s late and tomorrow is going to be uncomfortable if she has any more.

“I should probably go. More work to be done tomorrow.”

Alex really laughs this time. “Isn’t that every day?”

They walk to the door together, Alex opening it for her.

“Thanks for the drink,” Sam slips past her.

“You’re the one that bought it!”

“But that was a gift for babysitting, so really you did me a favor.”

Alex’s lip tugs into a smile and she shakes her head a little, looking a little unbelieving. “Whatever you say.”

“Bye Alex.” Sam shoves her hands in her pockets as she begins to back up.

Alex waves back, watching her go. “Bye, Sam.”

Sam turns and follows the stairs up, a pleased feeling that she attributes to the alcohol radiating through her.

Chapter Text

OCTOBER

The last few weeks of September go by with them only seeing each other in passing, in and out of the building, stopping for quick, rushed conversations but each vowing to figure out a time to hang out soon.

By the time October rolls around it feels as though they’ve shifted back into their previous roles, talking in the halls, elevator or on the stairwell when the elevator is broken down two days after it’s fixed.

Only now, they talk a little more in that time, filling up every available moment of their spare time together with conversation.

And really, Sam is so busy. She has Ruby’s soccer games each weekend, meetings multiple times a week, school projects to help with, and issues to deal with on countless contracts. She’s also trying to spend every moment she can with Ruby to make sure this job doesn’t come between them. Trying to divide her time between the two, especially when so many things can go wrong, is difficult at best.

Despite their conflicting schedules, Ruby still mentions Alex a lot.

Sam is starting to think that maybe she should ask Alex about them hanging out again just to get it out of Ruby’s system, but on the other hand, Sam gets it . From the few moments shared between them, she sees the allure of Alex, her occasionally standoffish personality paired with a kind nature, a quiet, shy demeanor and a softer side that comes out on rare occasions. Not that she thinks Ruby really notices all of that, but she gets it. Alex gives off something that makes her a magnetic force.

 


 

It’s so frustrating.

The fact that Alex can’t just keep moving and act like everything is normal really throws her off her game.

Alex feels borderline restless in her scarce apartment. At first it had been fine, like she hadn’t really processed Maggie leaving, like all her stuff would eventually be right back in those spots she’d taken them from. Now it’s been two months and it’s all gone: the stuff, the work they’d both put into one another, the time, the connection. Her. Everything.

The vacant space reminds Alex of how it used to be, brings back good memories turned sour by the departure of the girl she’d shared them with.

The partially gutted feel of the rooms that had once felt so lived in, like home , remind her of how she’s now one half of a whole. Maggie had been the one to bring her out of her shell, helped her discover what it felt like to love and be loved, made her feel alive.

It’s better than it was of course, the weeks following the breakup had been brutal . She’d cried everyday for weeks, tears bursting forth at random moments throughout the day, which was so unlike her that it had scared anyone who witnessed it save for Kara. Now, she’s back to her stoic work persona and her friendly although standoffish casual personality, but she still feels so restless when it’s just her in the apartment.

She’d forgotten how quiet living alone was.

But when she thinks about starting over, about doing it all over again, it makes her want to scream and cry and hit a wall.

She fears falling again. From her one experience of liking someone, the whole thing was a painful journey.

The part before, when she didn’t know if her feelings were appreciated.

The start, when they’d been together and it had been terrifying to know how much she could feel for someone who wasn’t family.

The middle, when everything was so comfortable and perfect and Alex wasn’t falling anymore so much as settling into the place she thought she’d remain for the rest of her life. Besides, Maggie really was family after all, or at least she would be after Alex proposed. It was on a whim, the things they hadn’t discussed resting dormant between them. Unknowing of the dangers lurking beneath, Maggie said yes .

The beginning of the end, when at work Alex spent time with children involved in a case, making sure each of them had what they needed and cheering them up and Maggie remarked didn’t know you had such a way with kids. Alex had laughed and responded it’s a secret talent, you’ll thank me one day when we have kids and Maggie’s face had dropped. Which set the uncomfortable feeling of something being off between them alight in Alex’s chest, a feeling that had been seemingly left behind at the start of their relationship resurfacing like a bad dream.

The end, the real and gut wrenching end, came and went with a few hushed, emotional arguments, each of which ended with the same outcome. Maggie was never going to want kids. The falling part was painful, Alex could practically see the parts of them where they’d fused so close snapping apart and splintering like fragile wood. The final sentences they shared felt more like gunshots than goodbyes; I never would’ve gotten here without you and you’re going to be a great mom.

And now Alex is in the after. The after is just as uncharted as the before and the during and it’s equally as terrifying. But this time she has no one to guide her through it, and being alone is so much harder than she ever remembers it being.

It makes her restless in her bones and her muscles itch to burn, which is what leads her to the apartment building’s gym at 10PM on a weeknight in old sweats she’s sure she’s had since her college days.

That idea that she’s going to have to relearn who she is on her own and start anew makes her ache to run and jump and exerte her muscles.

Her bare feet hop back and forth against the mats around the punching bag she’d dragged out into the middle of the floor, preparing slightly as she slips back into a well programed fighting stance from her academy days. She twists her neck back and forth, and rolls her shoulders back trying to loosen up before bringing her bandaged fists up in front of her face.

She takes a deep breath, filling her lungs with air, and then, with all the energy she can muster, lashes out, knuckles connecting with the bag with a satisfyingly sound. Then she can’t stop, over and over again she pushes her arms out and brings them back, trying to go harder and harder as she moves.

She can already feel the tension between her neck and shoulder loosening. It feels as close to calm as she’s been since that day she’d hung out with Ruby, and it reminds her why she’s going through this pain in the first place. She wants kids. She’s always going to want kids.

Exercise, it seems, is one of the few things she can use to release this tension she feels is constantly building in her muscles.

Alex only stops when it finally starts to burn throughout her back and forearms, dropping her stance and walking forward to rest against the punching bag, relishing the ache in places other than her heart.

 


 

Sam is still in her work clothes when she gathers her laundry and walks out of the apartment, basket perched on her hip.

Walking down the quiet hallway is a welcome calm in comparison to the bustling office she spends her days in.

She rubs at her tired eyes with her free hand stifling a yawn as she enters the amenities area of the first floor. The hallway is well lit from the lights inside the fitness center and she can’t hear any washing machines going, meaning she’ll have them all to herself. Sam resists the urge to do a happy dance at the small fortune of it, feeling a little better about waiting so late.

She’s not even thinking as she glances over into the gym, catching sight of someone inside and continuing on her way. It’s not until she’s just past the windows of the gym that it registers who it was. The realization prompts her to take a step back and look.

There’s Alex, maneuvering side to side around a punching bag as she lashes out at it, the muscles in her arms straining as she pushes herself. Judging from the state of Alex’s hair and clothes, she’s been going at this for a while .

Suddenly, Alex halts, taking a deep breath that Sam can only see in the rise and fall of her body, before she slumps against the bag, leaning against it on her forearms, shoulder blades sticking out from underneath her black tank top and Sam can’t help but take note of just how defined her muscles are-

She forces herself to stop staring by taking the step back forward and placing Alex out of her sight.

Huh, she thinks and forces herself to continue on her way.

 


 

Kara really needs to stop stress baking.

Now that Alex is throwing herself into exercise instead of wallowing, she’s not eating much junk food (as opposed to right after she and Maggie had broken up and she’d gone out and bought all the non-vegan versions of the foods she’d been substituting for the past year and a half).

Alex is trying to get herself back on track, and Kara showing up and passing off containers full of cookies because she’s stressed about deadlines is not helping.

And now, with Kara gone and her apartment barren, Alex feels the urge to open up that container and eat a few, and she knows it won’t really be a few.

She’s about to do it too, her fingers curved to pull the lid up off the tupperware before her willpower wins out and she takes a step back, sighing. She needs to get these out of here.

She doesn’t want to throw them out because one, it’s wasteful and Eliza had taught her better than that, and two, because Kara would throw a fit.

Then a clear solution hits her.

Kids like sweets.

She smirks, gathering up the container, leaving her apartment and stomping up the stairs to the hall above hers.

She knocks twice on the door and waits, leaning against the wall. She’s expecting it to be Sam who answers, but when the door opens and no one appears at Alex’s eye level, she looks down.

“Alex!” Ruby greets excitedly, dimples popping up in the wake of her smile.

Quickly, Alex maneuvers the snacks behind her back, wanting to hide them until she can hand them over as a surprise.

“Gemstone!” Alex says back, nickname coming to her in the moment. The other girl laughs at it, bringing a proud warmth into Alex’s chest. “Where’s your mom?”

Ruby’s face falls a little, “She’s on the phone.”

“Business?”

Ruby nods, lips downturned.

Alex sighs but smiles down at her, knowing how hard it must be on both ends of their relationship. “You know she loves you, right?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Just making sure. Chin up, kid. It’ll get better before you know it.”

There’s a pause as they both stop to think about it and Alex can faintly hear Sam’s muffled voice through the walls. Alex can hear the stress and frustration in her steady voice and sympathy floods through her. She turns back to the girl in front of her and decides to try and cheer her up at least a little bit. “How are you?”

“Good!” Ruby perks up at being asked about herself.

“Oh yeah? How you doing in school?”

“I just got a B on my math test, which is good for me in math, an A on my research paper and completed a french extra credit assignment.”

Alex raises an eyebrow. It’s impressive, especially for a kid who’s just moved to a new place. “Oh yeah? You speak french?”

Je prends la classe depuis trois ans,” Ruby responds, looking satisfied with herself.

“I’m gonna assume that means yes,” Alex nods, not understanding a word of the other language.

Ruby giggles, “My mom doesn’t understand it either.”

“Remind me to let you meet my sister. She speaks like, four languages or something crazy like that… She’s always learning a new one.”

Ruby’s eyes light up with a mischievous glint and Alex can’t help but want to see what her and Kara would be like together. “What else have you been up to?”

“I just started soccer!”

“Oh? Soccer?” Alex remembers many a scraped knee and grass stained clothes from when she was younger and in sports. “I used to play in high school. Not that I was ever very good, but…” She shrugs.

Ruby gasps, grabbing Alex’s free hand. “Do you think you could help me practice? Or come to one of my games?”

Alex feels a tug in her chest, feeling honored that Ruby would want her to do that. “Um,” she clears her throat, trying to keep her voice even as she responds. “Yeah, I think we could probably work something like that out.”

Right as Ruby is about to respond, Sam appears over her, surprise evident on her face. Alex straightens a little, unprepared to see the other woman. She hadn’t even heard her get off the phone.

“Alex?”

“Yeah. Hi… Uh, sorry to drop in on you unannounced-”

“Totally fine, I’m just a little bogged down by work is all,” she places a comforting hand on her daughter's shoulder, pulling her into a side embrace that Ruby welcomes. “What’s up?”

“Well,” Alex starts, producing the cookies from behind her back. “My sister stress bakes and she keeps dumping her creations on me. I’m trying not to eat a whole lot of sugar so-”

Ruby squeals and grabs the container as Alex offers it up and dashes back into the apartment.

“Ruby!” Sam calls after her as she darts away, sighing as she watches her daughter disappear into the kitchen. “Sorry about that.”

Alex is already smiling when Sam turns back to look at her. “It’s okay, I don’t mind. As long as they’re off my hands and with someone who will enjoy them.”

“That she will. She’s got a big sweet tooth.”

“Yeah well, I think most people do, I’m just on kinda a health kick I guess?”

“So I’ve seen.”

Alex pauses, startling a little. “What?”

Sam’s eyes widen and her mouth falls open, “Oh! I-” She stutters slightly, brushing some of her hair back. “I’m not stalking you I swear . I just happened to be doing laundry the other night and -”

“And it’s right by the gym,” Alex finishes for her, nodding as relief sets in.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

“No... I didn’t even think of that,” she pushes the issue away with a wave of her hand.

Ruby reappears, huge toothy smile in place as she rushes forward to hug Alex around the waist. “Thank you,” she sing songs, holding on tight. Alex presses her hands to Ruby’s back and holds her just as tight, unable to contain a smile.

When Ruby lets go and Alex looks up she finds Sam watching them an unreadable look on her face.

“Um, so, delivering the cookies is really the only reason I really came up here so-”

“Actually, can I ask you about something?”

“Of course.”

Sam gives Ruby a look, a raise of her eyebrows and a soft smile, that obviously means ‘scram’. Ruby sighs and does as she’s told, waving goodbye to Alex before disappearing back into the apartment.

“I really hate to do this to you again, because it’s in no way your job to watch my kid-”

“Sam, we’ve been over this. I like doing it.”

Sam sighs, hand coming up to massage the muscle between her neck and shoulder. “I remember… I just don’t want to impose.”

“You aren’t. I promise you.” She doesn’t say that having Ruby in her apartment had made it feel less lonely.

“Okay then… As you know, I don’t get much time off and when I do I spend every moment with Ruby… But two of my friends want to get together next Thursday, and I don’t know if you’re working but I’d really just like to see them and not talk business-”

“Say no more,” Alex grins. “Take the night off. Ruby and I will figure out something to do.”

“Are you going to teach her more about gambling?”

Alex gives her an exasperated look.

 


 

Days later, Alex stands back at the Arias’ door step but this time when she knocks it’s not either of her neighbors who answers. It’s a woman who she’s never met before, but for some reason, still looks oddly familiar . Her long dark hair is pulled back off her face, accentuating her sharp features. She looks like something Alex has seen out of a magazine.

“Hello,” the woman greets, placing her hand against the door frame.

“Um, hi-”

“So, you’re Sam’s cop friend,” she drawls, eyes flicking over Alex.

“Uh,” Alex doesn’t quite know how to act. She doesn’t know who this woman, who is almost blatantly checking her out. “I guess?”

The woman steps out from the threshold of the apartment, smug smile in place, offering her hand up as an introduction. “Lena.”

She takes her hand firmly, trying to tamp down the awkward feeling. “Alex.”

She takes a step back when they let go of each other’s hands, “So I hear you’ve been taking care of my goddaughter?”

Everything clicks at that moment and for some reason it makes her even more nervous. The eyes that had previously felt predatory now feel judgemental, like they’re evaluating every part of her. She clears her throat. “Uh, yeah. I just did Sam a favor a few weeks ago and I guess tonight. Ruby’s great.”

Then, once again, as if out of nowhere, Sam appears arm looping over Lena’s shoulder, a casual ease Alex has never seen her exhibit. Their height difference almost startling, somehow Alex had managed to miss just how tall Sam is. Maybe they’ve just ever been close enough for her to really notice.

“Lena,” she says, a warning in her voice as she smiles tightly. “You aren’t embarrassing me are you?”

“I would never.”

Sam stares at her for just a moment before rolling her eyes and looking back at Alex. “She hasn't been completely inappropriate has she?”

There’s an underlying fondness in the interaction that makes Alex like Sam even more. Seeing a completely new side of Sam, one that’s snarky and just a little carefree, somehow adds to Alex’s urge to spend time getting to know her.

“No, she’s fine,” Alex smiles kindly.

Sam gives her a look like she doesn't quite believe it, almost teasing, but nods anyway. “That’s a first…” She maintains eye contact with Alex for an extra moment before turning back to Lena. “Go get Ruby for me, will you?”

It reminds Alex exactly of how she acts with Winn, although he has more of a tendency to whine about it, which reminds her-

“I hope this is okay,” she starts, nerves making her hands lock up, “But I invited my sister and... “ She struggles for a moment, trying to find a good term for Winn, “close friend over. They’re both complete nerds and probably better influences on your daughter than I am and we do game nights like every week so I figure we could play some-”

“Alex,” Sam stops her, “I trust you. You kept her safe when I sprung her on you with no preparation, and you’re a cop, so I figure you have a pretty good sense of good and bad. Plus, you mention your sister a lot and from what I heard she seems okay… But remember what happens if anything happens to Ruby.”

“My cop friends are going to have to track you down?”

“Like they could catch me,” Sam teases, throwing Alex a wink that makes her stomach twist. She has to take a deep breath to calm the feeling.

Lena reappears, Ruby trailing behind her, but Sam keeps her attention for a few more moments as they share the joke.

“Hey, Alex!”

Finally, Sam looks away.

Alex clears her throat. “Hi.”

“You have everything you need, babe?” Sam asks.

Ruby wraps her arms around Sam in a quick hug. Sam holds her until, inevitably, Ruby pulls away, practically vibrating with excitement. “Yes.”

“Okay,” Sam looks back at Alex. “So, I should be back no later than twelve, and she should be asleep by ten.”

Ruby takes the time to turn to Lena and hug her tight. Lena grins, the first smile Alex thinks is her genuine happy expression.

“Sounds great. You ready to play some games?”

Ruby separates herself from Lena and gasps. “Can we play more blackjack?”

Alex glances up just in time to see Lena raise her eyebrow, looking impressed.

“Anything you’d like! My sister and friend are coming over too, so you can either destroy them at cards or we could play a board game.”

“The same sister that made the cookies?” Ruby’s eyes light up.

Alex shakes her head. “ Yes , the sister that made the cookies.”

Nice.”

“Watch out Alex, your sister might replace you as the favorite."

“I’d like to see her try.” Alex puts her arm over Ruby the same way Sam had to Lena just moments earlier.

Alex and Ruby say their farewells of, bye, Sam and bye, Mom at the same time, both lifting their hands to wave.

“Bye Alex. Bye, sweetie, I love you.”

“Nice meeting you, Lena,” Alex adds when Sam is done saying goodbyes.

“You as well. Love you, Ruby.”

“You too. Come on, can we go play games now?” Ruby pleads, grabbing onto Alex’s hand to pull her down the hall.

 


 

“Well isn’t she something,” Lena remarks as Sam shuts the door, leaning back against it. “Did you see her arms?”

Sam rolls her eyes, moving to get her purse so they can leave. “Yes, Lena. Come on, grab your stuff. We don’t wanna be late.”

“I mean I know you said she was in shape but damn-”

“Lena…”

“I’m not going to bring it up,” Lena puts her hands up in surrender.

“... Are you sure?” Sam challenges, pulling the door back open for the both of them.

Lena mischievously smiles up at her. “Cross my heart.”

 


 

“Hey!” Winn greets, plopping right down on Alex’s couch beside Ruby. “So you’re the infamous Ruby. I hear a lot about you and your mom at work.”

Alex blushes, quickly grumbling “I don’t talk about them that much.”

“I’m Winn,” he introduces, holding out his hand for her to shake even at the awkward angle.

Kara walks over to the two of them and waves at Ruby. “Hi, I’m Kara.”

“You made the cookies!”

“Yeah I-” Kara pauses, “Wait, cookies? Alex you gave my baking away?”

“I couldn’t eat all of it!” Alex justifies, shaking her head as she moves out of Kara’s reach.

Kara sighs, but turns back to Ruby smiling. “Were they good?”

So good.”

“Maybe I’ll make you some more,” Kara concedes and goes to set her bag down.

Winn claps and sits forward to be closer to the coffee table. “So, what are we playing first? Scrabble? Jenga? A little Sorry action?”

“Cards!” Ruby interjects.

“Cards?” He questions, incredulous look on his face.

“We have to play cards first.”

“I taught her a few things. I guess she wants to show off,” Alex grins, going to grab the decks.

“Okay! Okay fine, but I’ll have you know I play a mean Go Fish.”

“We’re not playing anything that simple,” Alex laughs, situating herself across from them once again on the floor. “Come on, Kara, you gonna shuffle or what?”

Kara plops down, criss-cross-applesauce, beside her, grabbing the box to pull the cards out.

“Oh,” Winn deflates. Then he’s moving even more forward, barely perched on the couch. “So then what are we playing?” He asks, staring at Alex.

“Dunno. It’s up to Ruby.”

“Poker?” She asks and the look her and Alex share is full of mischief.

“You know how to play Winn?” Alex looks back at him, prepared to explain.

“Yeah! … Well, I mean at least in theory.”

Kara starts to deal out the cards to each of them.

Alex raises her eyebrows.

“I got this, Alex!”

She shakes her head, laughing as she organizes the cards Kara’s just given her. “She’s gonna wipe the floor with you.”

An hour later, Winn collapses back onto the couch and pouts. Ruby beams at Alex and Kara is laughing.

“I told you,” Alex shrugs, gathering the cards back up. Kara goes to grab them from her.

“No more cards,” He interrupts. “Let’s at least play something I have a chance at… Like a board game!”

“It’s my turn to pick!” Kara speaks up and he slouches again. “Let’s do… Monopoly.”

This time it’s Winn and Alex both groan.

 


  

The second they get to the restaurant, Lena goes back on her word. They all hug upon arrival and as they’re sitting down, Lena immediately brings Alex up again.

“Remember the neighbor Sam keeps talking about?”

“I don’t keep-”

“The one that exercises at ungodly hours?” Jack ignores Sam’s protests.

“I met her.”

“You met her?” Jack says, his outrage accentuated by his clipped accent. “I want to meet her! Why does Lena get to meet her and not me?”

Sam rolls her eyes at her friends. “Lena wasn’t supposed to meet her.”

“Maybe if you’d come with me to pick Sam up you would’ve seen her.”

“Is she good looking?”

“Hey!” Sam stops them before they can get any further into the conversation. “We are not doing this. I’m not interested.”

The waiter comes by and pours them each a glass of red wine that Jack picked out. “Thank you,” they murmur simultaneously, already wrapped up in the easy flow of their friendship.

“Plus, she just went through a breakup,” Sam reasons.

“And you know this how…?” Jack asks, raising an eyebrow that perfectly mirrors the same expression Sam sees out of Lena on the daily.

“We were drinking together and-”

Her two friends let out a chorus of ‘ohhh’s, shit eating grins on their faces, and Sam has to resist the urge to start throwing pieces of her food at their heads.

“I don’t want a relationship!”

Lena chuckles, taking a sip of her drink. “Who said anything about a relationship? You don’t necessarily have to date her, but… She’s… Very good looking.”

“And if she works out as much you say obviously has stamina -”

“Oh my god!” Sam laughs, shaking her head. “You two are absolutely ridiculous!

“Don’t think I didn’t notice how you two were looking at each other.”

“I’m going to put this as simply as I can… I don’t want to date Alex. I just... Don’t.” She shrugs.

“Well fine! If you don’t want her can I have her?”

“No! I don’t want to see you walking out of her apartment every morning on my way to work!”

“Sam! That’s a great idea! What if I moved in? We could be neighbors! I could be closer to Ruby-” She gasps dramatically. “Oh my god… Sam… We could carpool.”

Jack lets out a roar of laughter. “It’s perfect!”

“You are not asking her out!” Sam interjects.

“Sam!” Jack leans over, joining Lena in teasing their friend. “Don’t be selfish!”

“Yeah, come on Sam! If you don’t want her then-”

Sam shakes her head. “I can’t believe you two are my friends.”

“Yeah, but you love us,” Jack picks up his drink again, smiling at the girls.

Sam rolls her eyes. “Can we move on? I want to talk about your lives.”


 

“Monopoly will never not be unfair,” Winn pouts, slumping back in his seat after handing over the last of his money to Alex.

“How can monopoly be unfair? We all start with the exact same thing. You just have to make the right decisions.”

“I still think it’s rigged!” He pulls the blanket off the back of the couch, wrapping it around his shoulders and placing it over his head like a hood.

Alex resists the urge to laugh at the childish motion in a way that Ruby and Kara don’t.

“You just say that because you always lose.”

“Exactly!”

“Well, should we play something else then?” Ruby asks, glancing around at them.

“What? Why?” Alex questions, looking up from where she’d been organizing the money.

“Yeah,” Winn adds, sitting up to look at her. “I thought you wanted to win?”

“Well… It’s no fun if we all can't play.”

Alex stares at her, wondering how in the world Sam had managed to raise such a good kid. She smiles. Sam really is an amazing parent.

“Well if we’re gonna be playing something else, I think we’re gonna need a refill on chips.” Alex pushes herself up from the floor, then ruffling a hand through Ruby’s hair. “You’re too good for us, you know that?”

She giggles and grabs at Alex’s hand, giving it a squeeze.

Alex’s cheeks almost hurt with the force of the joy showing on her face.

As she turns to walk away Kara pushes herself off the ground, quicking throwing out “I’ll come with” before following her sister into the kitchen.

They barely catch the tail end of Winn shouting “wait, can I have another Dr. Pepper?” and Ruby adding “Me too!” before venturing into the kitchen.

“So, what do you think?” Alex questions, pouring the final contents of the chip bag into the bowls.

“I-I like her… A lot. She’s really sweet… You said you and her mom are becoming friends, right?”

Alex doesn’t register the hopeful caution as she grabs the new round of drinks from the fridge. “Well, we just had drinks together the once and I’ve been watching her kid so…”

“That’s what I mean. You must like her a lot if you’re watching her kid.”

This time Alex doesn’t miss the emphasis of her sister’s words and involuntarily she bristles, spine straightening out, jaw clenching, and her hands tightening up. “Kara…” She warns, feeling a slight panic starting to rise up at being cornered with this. It causes a sadness that she’d thought would be gone for the night to resurface. “We’re just… Neighbors.”

“Listen, I know the Maggie thing was hard -”

“And I’m not over it.” Alex spins around, to stare at her sister, fingers clenching the counter top.

There’s a small staring contest where they both refuse for a moment to let up, before Kara sighs and walks up next to her sister, covering her hand with her own. “I know… I’m sorry.”

“I am too. I don’t mean to snap at you like that. I just… I can’t start anything new. Not right now.”

“I know… I just… It was so nice to see you happy.”

Alex feels her resolve crack and she sighs, pulling Kara in by the shoulder to hug her. “I know. I’ll get there.”

Kara doesn’t settle for the half embrace and instead turns, pulling Alex fully into her, arms wrapping around her to hold her as close as she can. “You’re really good with her, you know that? Ruby. You really, really have a gift with kids.”

Alex takes a deep breath, letting Kara’s familiar scent calm her, taking just a moment to let the tension filter from her muscles before responding. “I know.”

“You made a good decision. Just because it hurts now doesn’t mean it always will.”

“Yeah… Now come on,” Alex bumps Kara’s side with her hip. “We have snacks to deliver.”

 


 

Around nine o’clock, Ruby’s interjections to the conversations lessen and her yawns become more frequent. Ever so slowly, she migrates from sitting up on the couch to having her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. She then transitions to slouching back into the corner of the couch with her feet flat against the cushions, and eventually leans her head against the arm rest with her feet in Winn’s lap.

No one comments on this, not wanting to alert her to the fact that it’s happening and thus make her more likely to attempt to stay up.

She passes out eleven minutes after ten on the couch. When she does, Winn takes the blanket off from around his shoulders and lays it over her, and Kara places a pillow beneath her head. Alex snaps a picture for Sam to prove that she’d gotten her to sleep sort of on time.

“Man,” Winn whispers, standing next to Alex, “She’s cooler than we are.”

She chuckles, looping her arm over his shoulder. She’s feeling affectionate at the late hour, and because of the fact that she really is just as good with kids as she’d hoped. “Everyone’s cooler than you are, Winn.”

He scoffs, but leans back into her. “Are you ever going to give me a break?”

“This is your break.”

“Alex loves you Winn, she’s just too tough to say it,” Kara grins, joining their hug on Alex’s free side.

It’s true and Alex doesn’t have the energy at the moment to act like she doesn’t. “I love both of you.”

“AWWWWWWW,” her adoptive siblings croon, snuggling further into her.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now help me clean all this up, losers.”

 


 

At twelve thirty, Sam and Lena knock on Alex’s front door. It opens and they’re greeted with a smiling Alex.

“Hey guys.”

“Hi Alex.” Once again, Sam sounds tired. Alex tries not to worry about how much stress she

places on herself even on her nights off. “I know I’m late again.”

“It’s okay. It gave my friends and I some time to clean and catch up.”

Sam is about to apologize again or say something, but before she can, Alex speaks again. “What about you? Did you have a good time?

Sam sighs, willing her shoulders to drop out of their locked position, letting the issue go and nodding. “Yes. Yes. I did, actually.”

“We,” Lena interjects, “Appreciate it very much. Sam is a bit of a workaholic, so it’s nice to actually get to see her outside the office sometimes.”

Alex grins. “I know the feeling. I get pretty wrapped up myself… Um, Ruby’s asleep, so I just sent Kara to wake her up.”

“How was she?”

“Great as always. She was a big hit with my friends.”

Winn appears over her shoulder. “Oh yeah. She’s the best . You really did an amazing job with her,” he bubbles. “I wish my parents had- Well… Not been in prison.”

Winn ,” Alex hisses.

He blinks and then looks sheepish. “Right… Sorry.” He disappears back into the apartment.

“Uh, that’s Winn. He’s a good guy, he just doesn’t always think before he speaks.”

“It’s fine,” Sam shakes her head, looking slightly awkward.

“Yeah, neither of us are exactly strangers to bad parents,” Lena adds.

Sam and Lena share a look.

Before Alex has a chance to ask exactly what that means, Ruby shuffles out from behind her, going right to lean into her mom. She mumbles a greeting into Sam’s shirt as she wraps her arms around her.

Alex decides it’s none of her business and lets it go.

“Hi, sweetheart,” Sam squeezes her tight. “You have a good time?”

“Duh, It’s Alex ,” she grumbles. “Her friends are great, but she’s the coolest.”

Lena shoots Alex a normal half smile, going soft at the sight of her goddaughter.

Sam holds her for a few more moments, eyes closed and rubbing circles into her back. “I’m glad you had a good time.”

Ruby hums back, looking like she’s ready to fall back to asleep against her mom.

Sam smiles, slightly, looking impossibly fond, before stepping back from her daughter slightly. “Hey, take Ruby up, will you?” She looks at lena. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

Lena holds out her arm and Ruby slips beath it to snuggle into Lena’s side as they walk away.

Sam and Alex watch them go for a minute before turning back to one another.

“Once again, thank you.”

“And I’ll say it again, anytime. I like having Ruby around… And my friends obviously like her too…”

Before Sam can say anything back a blond woman appears behind Alex.

“Hi. I assume you’re Sam?” She says, slipping slightly past the shorter woman to shake Sam’s hand.

“You assume correct. And you’re the sister? Kara, right?”

“That would be me,” she nods, laughing slightly. “Great kid you got there. She’s so sweet.”

Now it’s Sam’s turn to look sheepish, “I uh, try my best…”

“Seems to me like you’ve done an amazing job. Really.” Kara smiles at her.

“You’re too kind… I’m just trying to give her the best life possible. I stumble every once and a while, but-”

“It doesn’t seem like it,” Kara shrugs.

“It’s true, but… Thank you.”

“Sure thing,” Kara grins, going to be with Winn and leaving Sam and Alex alone.

Alex shakes her head. “I know she can be a little… Overbearing.”

“No, no! I actually really appreciate that. It’s good to hear from people other than Lena and Jack that I’m a good mom.”

“Well in that case… You’re an awesome mom.”

Sam shakes her head. “And you’re too nice to me. Now, it’s really late, so… I should be going.”

“Yeah, me too,” Alex moves back.

Sam starts to leave, going to follow Lena up.

Behind her Kara reappears at Alex’s side.

“Hey wait!” she calls out, catching Sam just before she can go up the stairs.

“Hm?” Sam turns to see Kara and Alex still standing in the doorway, the older of the two giving her sister a look like she doesn’t quite know where this is going.

“I have a game night every once and awhile at my place and I know it must be hard to make friends in a new place so… Maybe you could drop by sometime? You could even bring your friends from work if you wanted? The more the merrier.”

Sam straightens, the thoughtfulness of the gesture catching her off guard. “Yeah, yeah, that would be good.” She smiles back at the sisters before continuing back on to her apartment.

When she gets there, Lena is waiting on the couch and Ruby is already back in her own bed.

Sam breathes a sigh of relief to know everything has gone exactly as planned and ended up in the exact place it needs to.

“I still think you like her.”

Sam sags a little. “Do you ever stop?”

“When it concerns my best friend’s happiness I don’t.”

“Speaking of friends, they want us to come to a game night at her sister’s house.”

Lena’s eyes brighten. “Oh right, she has a sister.”

“Calm down, Casanova,” Sam snarks.

Lena jumps up to get face to face with Sam, smiling at the comment, “You love me.”

“Yeah, I do… But-”

“But?”

“But… I kinda want you to get out of my apartment…”

Lena puts her hand to her chest in mock shock. “You’re kicking me out?”

“Yep,” Sam grins, pulling the door back open.

“That is not where I thought that was going to go.”

“You’re such a perv!”

“But what would you do without me?”

“Sleep soundly, be less stressed, annoyed and embarrassed… And I’d probably worry less in general... And you know I’d probably be a little more sane?”

Lena scoffs at her, slapping her arm.

“Hey! You didn’t let me finish!”

“Go ahead then!”

“I was going to say, before you so rudely interrupted me... That I also don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Awwww, now that’s better.”

Sam chuckles, rolling her eyes pushing Lena out the door. “I know it is. Now, go home.”

“I don’t even get a kiss goodnight?” Lena asks, turning on her heel to raise her eyebrow at Sam and lean in.

No,” Sam laughs. “Get out of here.”

“Right…” Lena nods, pointing at Sam, “Because you’re a taken woman now.”

“I’m not,” Sam singsongs, leaning out from her doorway to watch Lena continue down the hall.

“Oh so I can stop at Alex’s now then? Ask her to dinner… And desert?”

“Lena… Behave,” Sam scorns, watching as Lena turns down the stairwell.

“I’m only joking, Samantha! No need to be so defensive!” Lena calls back, voice echoing through the enclosed space.

Sam rolls her eyes in exasperation, but despite her annoyance with her best friend, she can’t help but allow a small laugh at her antics.

 


 

Ruby’s been trying to wear her down on the No Horror Movies Rule for years and the begging always gets more intense throughout October.

But the truth is, it’s not that Sam is trying to protect Ruby from anything necessarily, but that she’s trying to protect herself. Any time she’s ever watched a horror movie she’s been jumpy and nervous in the dark for weeks after.Sam considers herself to be a tough person, but when it comes to the supernatural, she’s not really sure it’s something she even wants to test, even if it is only a movie.

So when Ruby mentions Alex amidst her pleas, she thinks about those arms , and logically it doesn’t make sense for muscle to work against things you can’t see or touch and Sam knows that, but it makes her feel better anyway.

“Ruby - Ruby - Ruby.” Sam has to try three times to get her daughter to slow down on her speech before she can actually get a word in.

Ruby looks expectant at the pause, her mother not usually being one to stop her mid-proposal.

“I’ll let you watch a horror movie -”

“YES!” Ruby shouts, jumping up and down.

If -”

Ruby cuts of her own celebration quickly and Sam has to tamp down a smile.

If … I ask Alex to watch with us and she agrees. If she doesn’t agree, no movie.”

Ruby’s mouth twists into a grin, dimples poking out, like she already knows what Alex’s response is going to be.

Sam sighs, already regretting this. She knows what Alex’s response is going to be too.

 


 

It’s been such a long day at work that all Alex really wants to do is take off her shoes and jacket and crawl into bed. Before she gets the chance meer moments after her door shuts, there’s a knock.When she opens it and finds Sam standing on the other side, looking sheepish, she feels the distance between herself and her bed grow. Instead of denying Sam, she just smiles and asks what’s up.

 


 

Alex feels wide awake now sitting on the couch beside Sam. She blames her police training, both because she’s in an unfamiliar place in the Arias apartment, and because of the upcoming hour and a half of suspense.

She puts her elbow on the back of the couch, leaning her head against her hand.

Ruby is so excited about this that she’s practically vibrating as Sam pulls the movie up on their TV.

Although Sam isn’t normally a loud person, she’s being uncharacteristically quiet and it’s enough to make Alex wonder if everything is okay.

Sam clears her throat, “You ready, Rubes?”

Obviously!”

Taking in a deep breath, Sam hits play and settles back in a way that looks stiff. Alex wonders to herself if it might be her presence, before the woman across from her turns to look at her and gives her a generally uneasy smile. Alex takes that as a sign that she’s welcome and that something else entirely is bothering her. She tries not to stare in attempt to figure out what's wrong and instead keeps her focus on the movie.

About ten minutes in, the music starts to rise in intensity and Alex knows something is coming. It’s too early to be anything important, so Alex grins and waits for Ruby’s reaction, knowing it might be jarring, but not scary. It’s a jumpscare that Alex sees from miles away, a teen in a mask jumps out of a bush to scare his friends.

Of course, Ruby startles. What Alex doesn’t expect is the way the couch jolts. She glances over to find Sam, her spine straight as she grips the armrest.

“Lame!” Ruby whines, turning back and getting Alex’s attention. “I thought these movies were supposed to be scary.”

“They are scary, but the people who make the movies want to fake you out a few times before getting into the real stuff. It’s to give you a false sense of comfort, so you won't expect it when it really is the monster.”

“Comfort, my ass,” Sam mumbles, grabbing a pillow and pulling it into herself.

Alex starts to ask if she’s okay, hoping that maybe if something really is wrong that talking it out might make her enjoy this moment with her daughter more. Before she can, Sam catches her looking, and eases her grip on the pillow.Alex directs her attention back to the screen so she doesn’t seem too weird by just watching her friend.

Thirty minutes later is when it starts getting into the real scares. There’s an undercurrent of a constantly creepy, unsettling score and things in the background of scenes start moving unexpectedly, and the characters begin acting odd.

It’s when the main character is heading up the stairs in the dark and stops for a moment to send a text and the sound of footsteps continue that Sam jumps up off the couch, throwing the pillow off herself.

“I’m gonna go make some popcorn,” she tosses back over her shoulder as she disappears into the kitchen.

It’s then that Alex puts two and two together and adds up the fact that Sam doesn’t like horror movies.

 


 

Sam jumps for what must be the twelfth time, and instinctually, her hand shoots out, looking for something to protect herself with or to cling to. The first thing she finds is Alex.

Her hand grips Alex’s knee, squeezing as her eyes stay tensely focused on the screen ahead. The tense moment in the movie slowly winds down and Sam wills herself to take a deep breath, pulling air down into her lungs and then back out, repeating the action twice to make her shoulders relax.

When she finally feels like her heart isn't going to break her rib cage, she allows herself to expand her awareness beyond her own fear and-

Then she realizes what she’s done.

She pulls her hand away as nonchalantly as she can and straightens herself out, adjusting to be more comfortable on the couch. For the rest of the movie she focuses on keeping her hands to herself. Surprisingly it works and distracts her from paying attention to the scary parts.

When the movie is over, the protagonists dead, the demon prevailing, and the credits start to roll, Sam lets out a sigh of relief.

Ruby jumps off her place on the floor, barely having moved for the past hour and a half.

Sam clears her throat and sits up, focusing on her daughter instead of the feelings swirling around inside her head. “Did you like it?”

“Yes!” Ruby responds with an enthusiasm that makes Sam really scared. It could mean watching more of these in the near future.

“And was it scary?” Alex asks, grinning.

At this Ruby falters and Sam can see her straighten up in attempt to look tough in front of Alex. “No, it wasn’t.”

“You’re really brave… Even I was scared.” Sam can hear the teasing tone in Alex’s voice and can’t help but blush a bit when Alex gives her a look out of the corner of her eyes. Alex hadn’t been scared by that at all, she’d been relaxed almost the whole time-

At least until Sam had accidentally grabbed her leg, that had made the other woman stiffen some. For a moment, Sam feels really guilty about the action again.

She clears her throat. “Hey Rubes, why don’t you go get ready for bed? It’s already past your bedtime.”

“But Mom,” Ruby whines, “I want to talk about the movie.” She looks at Alex to save her.

“We can talk about it another time,” Alex smiles. “It’s past my bedtime too.”

Sam looks over at Alex, unable to stop her smile at the joke.

Her daughter sighs, but nods. “Okay, fine, but only ‘cause you’re tired.”

Alex grins at her. “Thank you for the consideration.”

Ruby crosses the room and leans in to give Alex a hug. “Bye Alex.”

“Night, Ruby.”

Then Ruby is offers them both big smiles and then goes towards her bedroom.

“I’ll be in there to say goodnight in a minute.”

“Okay mom,” Ruby says and disappears into her bedroom.

Then Alex and Sam are alone, still sitting beside one another, as much space between them as possible on the couch.Before Sam can speak up to apologize, Alex is talking.

“You and horror movies don’t really get along, huh?”

Sam offers a sigh and a shrug in response and Alex laughs, which makes Sam smile despite being called out.

“I never would’ve thought that you scare easily.”

“That's the thing,” Sam maneuvers to sit similarly to Alex so she can face her head on, leaning against the arm rest with her elbow resting over the back, “I don’t. I’m usually very good in a crisis or when bad things are happening… But when it comes to the supernatural… I just can’t. I think I just don’t like the fact that if it was real, which, I’m not willing to say if it is or isn’t,” Alex smiles at the comment, “there’s nothing I would be able to do about it.”

“I get that.”

“It’s silly.”

“Nah,” Alex shakes her head. “Being scared of something you can’t fight is a reasonable fear to me.”

“Maybe it is…” Sam shrugs.

“Anyway,” Alex stands up from the couch, “seems like Ruby enjoyed herself.”

Sam follows her example and goes to follow. “And that’s really scary.”

Alex laughs. “Well, if she ever wants to watch something and you want to get out of it… I’m right downstairs.”

Sam grabs Alex’s jacket off the coat hanger by the door. The leather of it feels soft and well worn beneath her palm, almost comforting, and she hands it to Alex.

“Thank you,” Alex says, taking it gently from her hands. “I almost forgot it. I don’t have much in the way of jackets right now so, I don’t really know what I’d do without it.”

“Ah, did the ex take all your warm clothes in the custody battle?” Sam jokes and Alex’s face tightens up, brows furrowing and shit, somehow Sam’s said the wrong thing again. “I’m sorry-”

“No… No, it’s okay, I don’t mean to be… It’s just still fresh is all.”

Sam sighs and means to say goodbye to Alex and get out of this awkward moment. Instead, she remembers a question she’s been meaning to ask Alex, and she knows this might be her last chance. “I know this is an awful transition, but can I ask a favor?”

Alex sets her drink down on the coffee table. “Oh, yeah? Shoot.”

“All of Ruby’s friends are rich kids with weird parents, like really weird, and the way they do Halloween is unbearable.” Sam cuts off Alex’s questioning expression with an, “I’ll explain later. And I know this must sound so boring but I wanted to ask if you’d come with me because I need to not be the only sane person there.”

“What part of that sounds boring? I’d love to go.”

“What? That easy?”

“Well, yeah… You just alluded to some apparently really bizarre Halloween tradition and expect me to not want to come see exactly what you’re talking about? … Plus we’re friends and I don’t want you to have to suffer alone.”

“Oh thank god . You’re going to regret saying yes, but I’m glad I’ll have someone else there to witness it.”

Alex opens the door, stepping out into the hall. “What is Ruby dressing up as?”

“Funny you should ask,” Sam’s lips pull upwards as she leans against the door frame. “She’s going as a cop.

Alex takes a deep breath, one that shutters and sounds like it’s ricocheting inside her ribcage. “Really?”

“Yes, really. She insisted… Which is weird because she’d been planning for months to go as a zombie soccer player…” Sam watches Alex simultaneously look relaxed and completely overwhelmed all at once. “She really likes you.”

“Uh-” Alex looks down, nodding before clearing her throat. “I-I’m glad.”

Sam offers her a reassuring smile. “Well I’m gonna let you go. See you on Halloween?”

“Yeah. Definitely.”

“Night.”

“Yeah… Night.”

 


 

A little over a week later, they’re in the midst of Halloween and yeah, Sam was right to call it bizarre. This is the kind of neighborhood Alex doesn’t see much of. The precinct she works at is on the other side of the city, so she doesn’t usually get calls out this far and where she lives is about as far from this as it can get.

Each house on the street is at least two stories, with a freshly manicured lawn and some variety of luxury car in the driveway. A golf course runs through the backyards of many of the homes and Alex can see a putting green from the street.

The real ludicrousy of the situation comes from the actual Halloween set up. There are parents on golf carts, with glasses of wine literally in their hands, practically herding small groups of children through the streets. There are other parents walking on either side of each pack, keeping the kids contained. Everything stops all at once so each whole group of kids can walk up to each houses door.

They’d opted out of driving the golf carts, choosing instead to walk beside the groups. Alex barely believes the whole situation is happening even as she walks beside Sam. She can see it happening in front of her and hear it continuing behind her, but it’s so odd that it barely seems real.

Ruby comes jogging up to them after a few houses, dressed up in a cop costume that makes Alex’s heart ache. The pants and shirt are blue, a gold badge clipped on to the front of the shirt and pair of fake plastic cuffs hanging off the black belt. The hat on her head is a little too loose, so it’s constantly changing it’s placement on her head. It’s not accurate, but it makes Alex a kind of happy she’s never felt before to see her in it.

“That house just gave me a whole Snickers bar,” Ruby hisses, sounding both excited and scandalized by the idea. ”I thought my friends were joking when they said that.”

“Not joking, apparently,” Alex grins.

“I’m gonna have so much candy.”

“Yeah you are,” Sam grins, leaning to press a kiss to her daughter’s forehead. “Now get out of here! Have fun, don’t worry about me. I have Alex to keep me company.”

The sentence makes Alex feel warm, because she likes being around Sam and how the friendship they’re crafting is effortless. On the other hand, it’s terrifying because the last time Alex had been this close to anyone who wasn’t Kara or Winn was Maggie.

Ruby beams at them before bolting back to the pack of kids walking up the next house’s walkway.

“Jesus,” Alex mutters. “This is the kind of place Kara and I only dreamed about trick or treating when we were kids.”

“Oh, I know right?” Sam agrees, turning back to her.

“I think Kara would’ve passed out if she’d been given even one whole candy bar on Halloween, let alone a full one from every house .”

“I’m just excited to go home! Ruby always lets me snag a few pieces.”

Alex grins, elbowing Sam. “You think you could get me one too?”

“Get your own kid to steal from!” Sam elbows back.

For once, the mention of having her own kids doesn’t sting as a reminder of Maggie and Alex’s failed relationship, and her smile stays in place.

“Oh come on, I think I’m a few years away from that. I’d have to find someone, date them for a while, have a kid, wait for the kid to be old enough to trick or treat-”

“Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll grab something for you. What’s your favorite kind of candy?”

Alex then remembers that she’s supposed to be on a diet, but now she’s here and Sam is staring at her expectantly like she actually wants to know the answer, and it is Halloween after all.

“Heath.”

“Heath? Are you kidding? That’s barely even a candy! I won't even have to steal that from Ruby she’ll just hand them over! Or I’ll have to dig them out of the garbage.”

“Okay fine, since you’re the candy expert, what’s your favorite?”

“Twix.”

“Like that’s any better! It’s just a cookie covered in chocolate!”

“Uh, and caramel? How could that be any better? Heath is just toffee, and I don’t like toffee, but even I know that it's the worst kind of toffee.”

“See! That’s your problem! How can you not like toffee?”

“It’s gross!”

“It’s literally hardened caramel.”

“Hence why it’s gross.”

Alex laughs, “You have problems.”

The group in front of them stops again, prompting their own herd of children to a halt, and the parents on the opposite side as them begin to lead them up to the next row of houses. It goes by fast and they’re starting to move again within minutes.

Alex watches as one of the women in the golf cart next to them takes a sip of her wine. The cop in her makes her hand twitch, wanting to pull the badge from her pocket. The other part of her reasons that the carts don’t go very fast, and that everyone seems to be having a good time.

“I’m pretty sure this entire concept is illegal. I should be arresting all of these people,” Alex breathes out loud, just so she’s at least voiced her concerns.

“You’re off duty. Ruby should be the one making arrests,” Sam quips, prompting a look from Alex. “Okay, yeah. You should. But you won’t.” She glances over at Alex with a smug look.

Alex scoffs and Sam nudges her with her shoulder, smiling like they’re sharing a joke.

Sam is right. However irresponsible the situation may be, she’s not going to ruin anyone’s fun unless the situation gets out of hand. Alex nudges her back a little harder and Sam’s teeth appear in her smile as she repeats the motion.

No one pays them any mind with the chaos of kids in costume and drunk adults on golf carts going on around them, but they try to be as inconspicuous as they can. They go back and forth a few times more until they’re nudging each other enough that each time they end up a foot or so away from one another.

Finally Sam can’t hold in her laughter anymore and laces her arm through Alex’s, linking their elbows, to stop her from doing it again.

“Do you even know any of these people?”

Sam leans into her, resting her weight into her side. “Yes and no… I’m acquainted with them because of Ruby, you know, just meeting them when I go to drop her off at a friend’s house. They’ve invited me out a few times, but…”

“They drive you crazy?” Alex asks, turning her head to look at Sam as they laugh.

Yes! God, it’s like it’s impossible to just have a normal conversation with them.”

“Is this considered a normal conversation?”

“Smartass.” Sam nudges her one more time, keeping their arms connected.

They walk in silence for a little while, just watching their surroundings as they slowly make their way through the neighborhood. Then as Alex is glancing around a question pops into her head.

“What was the best Halloween costume you ever had?”

“You know,” Sam slows down a little, thinking hard about the question. “I’m not sure.”

“Oh come on. Everybody has a favorite costume!”

“Oh yeah? Then what’s yours?”

“I was Scully for Halloween when I was like… Fourteen.”

“Huh,” Sam leans back, looking at her more head-on.

“What?” Alex asks, suddenly feeling incredibly dorky having just revealed that.

“I guess I had you pegged as more of a Mulder than a Scully.”

Joy rockets through Alex at the comment. “So you did watch the show?”

“Yeah, when I couldn’t get my hands on Buffy,” Sam remarks, jokingly snide, but then she sighs. “No, The X Files was pretty good. I just never watched it much. But anyway, I suspected you to be more on the ‘ I want to believe ’ side of things.”

Alex’s smile almost hurts, elated by the fact that Sam actually knows her favorite show enough to be able to make references and assess her in relation to it. “No, you’re right, I totally am. I always agreed with Mulder… But I think I also had a huge crush on Gillian Anderson, not that I knew that at the time.”

Sam’s answering laugh is unexpectedly loud, “Oh, I can relate to that. When Willow got with Oz I was devastated. At the time I thought it was because I had a crush on Seth Green but really...” She motions with her hands, eyes widening slightly as if to say ‘whoops.’

“It was Alyson Hannigan,” Alex breathes, in awe. She hadn’t even realized that Sam liked girls. Suddenly the weight on her side feels a lot heavier than before. Sam continues before she has a chance to think about it too much.

“Yeah. When her and Tara got together though… I literally don’t think I’d ever been so happy in my whole life. I really should’ve put that one together, huh?”

“I remember when they got together a lot of my friends used to talk about it at school… Especially when Tara-”

“God, don’t even get me started.”

“Okay, okay! I won’t.”

They go back to silence again for a few minutes, both of them with smiles on their faces, before Alex asks, “So? What was it?”

“What?”

“Your favorite Halloween costume.”

“I really don’t know!”

“At least tell me some things that you dressed up as if you don’t have a favorite.”

“I sort of stopped dressing up when I was sixteen, so…”

Suddenly, Alex remembers that yeah, Sam would’ve had Ruby really young, so the final few years of her childhood would’ve been taken from her by responsibilities. She feels guilty for even asking, but before she can change the subject, Sam continues, seemingly unbothered.

“And I don’t really remember any Halloweens from before I was like eleven, so… That leaves about five years left for us to choose from.”

Alex clears her throat, trying to move past the awkwardness as easily as Sam. “That’s still a few years.”

“I- I think one year I was Lara Croft? From Tomb Raider?”

What? ” Alex laughs. “Are you serious?”

“Yes!”

“How old were you?”

“Fifteen I think? It was my last year.”

“That’s…”

“Ridiculous, I know. I don’t even remember watching that movie. I think my boyfriend at the time probably talked me into it.” Sam rolls her eyes.

“Please tell me there are pictures somewhere?”

“I… I will try to dig one up for you, but only because you agreed to come with me to this mess.”

“Worth it.”

“Would it not have been worth it before? My company isn’t reward enough?”

“Ehhh-”

Sam smacks her arm with the back of her hand.

“I’m kidding.” She attempts to retreat from Sam’s attack, but the other woman tugs her back in place with their still connected arms, pressing their sides together. Sam leans her head on Alex’s shoulder, both of them shaking slightly with their amusement, wrapped up in their banter.

An hour or two passes like this and the streets go dark as the group moves through them, the green, purple and orange Halloween decorations leading them through the neighborhood. Kids start to peeter out after the first hour mark, their parents opting to take them home earlier depending on their age. After each house every kid’s bag starts get heavier and look more full so by the end of the night Ruby’s bag is practically overflowing. When she finally comes back to Alex and Sam, she immediately leans into her mother’s side not already inhabited by Alex.

“Are you guys ready to go home?” Sam asks.

“I’m ready if you are,” Alex says, surprisingly not feeling worn out by the evening’s activities, unlike how she feels most nights.

“Yeah,” Ruby hoists her bag up for them to see how close it is to bursting. “I gotta take inventory.”

Alex laughs and Sam shakes her head, ruffling a hand through Ruby’s hair. “So you can give some to me, right?”

Ruby sighs but says: “Yes, Mom.”

“And this year you don’t need to throw out the Heath bars.”

“What? Why?”

“Alex likes them.”

“Ew!”

“See!” Sam bumps Alex’s side again and all Alex can do in response is smile.

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER

It’s Saturday morning, far too early for Sam to be up on a day off, but for some reason she’d woken up and not been able to go back to bed, so here she is in the building’s lobby. She’s just there to pick up her mail and then go back up to the apartment to read or catch up on the countless shows she wants to watch or all the other things she doesn’t have time to do when other people are awake.

But right as Sam is pulling the flood of envelopes from her too tiny mailbox the front door opens, a burst of air rushing in along side a sweaty Alex Danvers.

It’s the second time she’s seen her work out in two weeks and damn, if Sam had though she looked good the first time…

Clad in shorts (which feel really short considering that Sam has never seen her in anything less than pants), and a tank top, Alex looks different. She places her hands on the top of her head, attempting to expand her lungs for more access to air. The muscles in her back and arms stretch beneath Alex’s skin, sweat clinging to her toned body in a way that makes her almost glow. She takes deep breaths with her eyes closed.

Sam can’t help but look, all that exposed damp skin-

Alex bends to catch her breath, hair falling down around her face.

She’d known Alex was attractive, that was clear from the moment they’d met, objectively speaking, but she’s never really looked .

Sam realizes that her mouth is open and blinks the feeling away, clearing her throat. “You okay?”

Alex glances over at her, barely moving her head to take Sam in, before nodding. “Yeah, yeah, I’m good.”

“Do you ever stop working out?”

Alex huffs and stands back up straight, hands now resting on her hips. “No, not right now at least.”

“Make sure you take some breaks, yeah? I’d hate to see Ruby’s new best friend die of exhaustion.”

Alex smiles down at her feet, looking bashful and wow, Sam really can’t help but see now that she’s noticed.

“Well, I like how it feels after I exercise. Makes me feel like I’m doing something productive when I’m not at work.”

Sam nods. “I get that. I used to go to the gym a lot, but since we’ve moved I haven’t really had the time… New job and school and the adjustment period, you know?”

“Maybe we could work out together some time,” Alex reponds, sounding distracted as she continues trying to catch her own breath. She pushes her short hair up off her neck, like it’s bothering her by being there.

She figures it can’t hurt to agree. “I’m a little out of practice, but what’s the harm.” She shrugs, offering Alex an easy smile as they climb the stairs back to their apartments together. As they walk, Sam can’t help but notice that even despite Alex’s workout she smells fine, good even, like skin and warmth and something clean, like shampoo and maybe something akin to gunpowder.

When they reach the place they usually have to part, Sam turns to Alex. “Hey, I know this is kind of short notice, but Ruby has a soccer game tonight and she’s been bugging me about-”

“I’ll be there,” Alex responds, looking earnest in her excitement.

Sam smiles. “Great, I’ll bring an extra chair.”

 


 

Alex is early to the game. Normally, it’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t be a big deal, but Alex feels self conscious about it, wondering if it makes her seem like she doesn’t have anything else going on (she doesn’t) or like she’s too desperate. She sits in the park’s parking lot for a few minutes contemplating the dilemma before catching sight of a distant figure across the field that reminds her of Sam.

She sighs and opens her door to get out of the car, deciding to ignore her feelings of nervousness.

She ventures along the edges of the field where the two teams are warming up, not wanting to interrupt or call too much attention to herself.

The air is starting to get colder as the year nears its end and it bites at Alex’s exposed skin. By the time she gets close to Sam, her hands are already a little numb.

Alex is still quite a fair distance away when Sam glances to the side, catching her in her periphery, before settling on her. Her face splits into a grin, her perfect, white teeth on full display as she stands to greet her. They meet somewhere in the middle - or close to it, Sam’s legs are longer, so she can close the distance faster - and Sam, surprisingly, hugs her for the first time. She must just be wrapped up in the excitement Alex tells herself when Sam breaches the normal amount of personal space left between them.

It’s small. Just one of Sam’s arms looping over her shoulder before she’s pulling back, barely enough time in the action for Alex to reciprocate.

“Glad you made it,” Sam smiles, friendly and easy. “It means a lot to Ruby and I.”

Alex shoves her hands into her jacket pockets, trying to ignore how they suddenly feel warm again. “Yeah, no problem.”

Sam leads her back to the chairs and as they settle in Alex takes note of how they’re slightly separated from the rest of the spectators.

“You still at odds with the other parents?” Alex asks with a grin and Sam rolls her eyes.

“You caught me. I just… Have nothing in common with them.”

“You all have kids?” Alex supplies, trying to find a connection.

“Yeah, but that’s definitely not enough in this case. I mean… They’re all married or trying to get remarried and I haven't even dated in twelve years. Plus I can’t exactly relate when they start droning on about men who they let treat them like shit, so-”

“Twelve years?” Alex cuts her off. The fact can't seem to register in her brain.

“When you have a kid at a young age and have to spend every waking moment making sure that she’s gonna be okay… It just doesn’t leave time for much else. Ruby comes first,” the explanation comes with a dose of humor in Sam’s voice, like being alone doesn’t bother her.

Alex supposes that’s how she used to be before she met Maggie, so she decides not to press it.

“Well if having nothing in common with these women is why you won’t be friends with them, then why are you friends with me?”

Sam gives her a slightly exasperated look. “What do you mean? We have plenty in common.”

“Such as?”

“We both have a love of paranormal 90s television.”

“That’s one,” Alex laughs. “What else?”

“We both don’t have many friends.”

“That’s two and ouch.”

“What? It’s true,” Sam shrugs. “Let’s see… What else? Not candy, that’s for sure.

“Oh, come on! Are we on this again?” Alex rolls her eyes.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me! You’re the gross one.”

“Remind me not to tell you about anything else I like.”

“But what’s the fun in that?” Sam asks, prompting Alex to look her way.

They stare at each other for a moment. Sam looks like she’s fighting to keep the amusement off her face, a smug look instead holding its place. Her eyes are bright with a teasing mirth that makes Alex unable to control her own expression.

“See, me knowing isn’t so bad,” Sam murmurs.

“Yeah, okay. What else makes us good friends?” Alex tries to move on from the moment.

“We’re both workaholics.”

“Okay, now that I can agree with.”

“We both like women.”

This worsens Alex’s laugh. “Uh,” she huffs, trying to stop herself, “Yeah, yeah. I guess that is true.”

“And alcohol.”

Sam.

“Oh, and you like kids! I happen to have a kid!”

Alex gives her another look and hopes the exasperation in her eyes will be enough of a response. It must not be the expression she’s going for.

“It’s a match made in heaven.”

Alex shakes her head. “It’s something.”

Sam grins, knocking her elbow into Alex’s. Alex responds in kind without looking at Sam, reveling in the feeling the action brings up in her. There’s a fuzzy kind of warmth in her chest, a joy that feels like it’s running through her veins, fighting its way into her muscles, making her antsy. Energized.

It’s been such a long time since she’s made a friend.

“The game’s about to start,” she says, opting to change the subject.

“Oh right,” Sam says, straightening up as both teams start to get ready on the field.

“Are you excited?”

“Of course. I’m always excited when it comes to Ruby… Although, I do have to be honest,” Sam glances over at Alex, looking a little sheepish, “I don’t know that much about soccer.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I know the basics. Don’t touch the ball with your hands, run across the field, kick it into the net and that Ruby’s a forward, whatever that means. That’s about it.”

“Well, to be honest that’s all you really do need to know as a spectator.”

“Yeah, but… I don’t know. I guess I just feel bad that I can’t participate more fully.”

“You’re fine. I played soccer in high school, and sometimes I felt like that’s all that some of the girls on my team really knew. Trust me, you really aren’t missing much.”

Sam nods, chuckling. “Were you any good?”

“Huh?” Alex looks back at her, confused.

“At soccer?”

“Oh. I mean… I was okay. Scored a goal or two every game. I only played for two years. What about you? Did you play any sports?”

Sam sighs in the way she does whenever she’s asked about life before Ruby. “Um, yeah. I ran track for the school and then outside of that I used to take surfing lessons.”

“Surfing lessons?”

“Yeah. My uh… My mother used to drive me down to the beach on weekends and we would stay down there for weeks at a time during the summer. I guess the thought at the time was that I’d eventually do competitions,” Sam sounds sad, reminiscent.

“Do you miss it?”

Sam stares at her, blinking rapidly before clearing her throat. There’s a long pause, like she has to actually think about it. Alex realizes she might be the first person to ask. “Um… Yeah. Yeah, I guess I do.”

“Then you should go.”

“Go?”

“I mean… If you miss it. You should take a trip and go. Get back into it.”

Sam shakes her head. “No way. Sounds like a bad idea. I’m not coordinated enough for that anymore. Not to mention I doubt I could even get on a board.”

“Never hurts to try.”

“Maybe.”

 


 

Ruby’s team wins the game 4-3, with Ruby kicking the final goal of the game, securing her team’s win. When it’ll all over and done the whistle blows, prompting Ruby to come bolting to the sidelines.

She’s covered in dirt. Her once pristine blue uniform is now stain covered and messy, and her skin freckled with light splatterings of mud. Regardless, Sam stands to meet her as she runs directly into her arms.

“Good job, baby!” Sam grins, laughing as her daughter squeezes her tight.

“Did you see me, Mom?”

“Of course I did, Rubes! You were awesome.”

“Not to mention a badass,” Alex adds from behind them, prompting Ruby to light up and glance around her mom.

“Alex!” She nearly knocks Alex out her her chair as she throws her arms around her neck.

“Hey kid,” Alex laughs, hugging back. “Good game. You’re even better than I was,” she teases.

“Really?”

“Well, you could use some work but-”

Ruby giggles, and shoves slightly at Alex’s shoulder.

“Watch it,” Alex grins, “Or I won't give you my secrets.”

“Rube, the teams are about to start congratulating each other.”

Ruby glances over her shoulder and then back at Alex. “Gotta go,” she says, before darting off to join her teammates.

Sam and Alex watch her go, keeping eyes on her as she greets the other team with an excited smile.

“A badass?” Sam questions, finally glancing back at Alex.

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I realized I probably shouldn't have said it after it had already come out of my mouth.”

Sam grins anyway, not looking mad in the slightest. “Don’t be sorry. You’re right.” Sam looks back out at the field. “She is a badass.”

“And you raised her. So what does that make you?”

Sam blushes and shakes her head. Instead of answering she continues on, “It’s gonna be awhile before she’s back. You don’t have to wait for us.”

“Wait for you?”

“I just mean… it usually takes a while for them to clean up and get ready. So I understand if you don’t want to stay.”

“I can keep you company if you want?”

“I don’t want to keep you-”

“I really don’t mind. I’m not doing anything else,” Alex shrugs, somehow feeling relaxed in the cold air. After spending a night away from her responsibilities and just getting to talk to Sam and support Ruby, she feels good. Calm.

“I just don’t want to keep you out too late,” Sam says, looking guilty.

“No, it’s okay,” Alex waves her off, standing up from her chair to be level with Sam, “I’m off work for the next few days.” She reaches her arms up above her head to stretch, allowing the vertebrae to pop in her back before settling down, the feeling of the stretch still permeating in her muscles.

“Any particular reason or-”

“No, not really. I’ve just been working a lot in the past few months and I just finished up a bunch of cases, so my boss wants me to take a bit of a break before starting anything else.”

Sam grins. “Nice boss.”

“Yeah, he is.”

Sam must catch the fondness in her voice, because she raises an eyebrow at her.

“He practically helped raise Kara and I after our dad died,” Alex explains, “He’s always been a father figure to us. He actually inspired me to get this job in the first place.”

Somehow, they both start walking at the same time, following the white spray paint line on the ground bordering the field. Loose pieces of flattened grass stick to the sides of their shoes as they follow along the line, both watching their feet on either side of it as they go, a calm quiet settling over them.

“What are your plans for the rest of your night?” Alex finally breaks the silence.

“Well, one of Ruby’s friends is sleeping over, so first I’m going to make sure they’re settled in and after that I’m going to do the same. Hopefully I can read something before I inevitably pass out.”

“Read something? Like what?”

Sam laughs, shrugging, “I don’t know! One of the dozens of books I own but haven’t started?”

Alex glances over at her, smiling. “You like to read?”

“Is that a surprise?” Sam questions back, acting mock offended.

“No! No! I just mean… I just didn’t know that. You don’t talk about yourself very much.”

Sam stares back for a minute, letting the statement sink in. “Oh. yeah, I guess you’re right… I do like to read, although I don’t do it as much as I’d like. Unless you count paperwork.”

“I do not count paperwork,” Alex responds, amusement playing in her tone. “What kind of stuff do you like to read?”

Books.”

“Sam,” Alex sighs, looking exasperated.

“It’s true! I have stacks of books that I haven’t been able to start and I don’t even remember what half of them are about because I bought them so long ago. I don’t have a lot of free time and when I do get it I usually end up falling asleep before I can really get into anything.”

“Well then I wish you luck,” Alex grins, “And tell me how whatever you read is.”

“I will be sure to give you a full review whenever I finish something.”

“I look forward to it.”

“There, now I’ve talked about myself. Are you happy?”

“Yes, very,” Alex nods back. “I have learned three new things about you tonight.”

“Oh yeah?”

Finally they stop at the edge of the field, the floodlights less harsh there.

“One, you like to read. Two, you used to run track and three, you surf, apparently.”

Used to surf-”

Sam starts to object when Ruby comes jogging back up to them.

“Hey, Sofia is ready to go! Her mom wants to talk to you first through.’

Alex and Sam share a knowing look before Sam sighs and smiles at her daughter. “Be right there, baby.”

Ruby nods, before turning to hug Alex, wrapping her in another soft hug. “Bye, Alex.”

“Bye, Ruby. Don’t let the ego from your big win go to your head, yeah?” She teases.

“I’ll try,” she nods before turning to jog away, grinning from ear to ear.

“Sorry to cut our conversation short but… Duty calls.”

“I get it.”

There’s another pause there, like they’re both waiting for the other to continue, the only sound filing the space between them the hum from the floodlights and the distant murmur of the remnants of the game being packed up.

“Thank you for coming.” Sam finally says, her voice sounding almost soft after the absence of it. She glances back towards the girls fluttering excitedly with their recent win. “It means a lot to Ruby.”

“Of course. I like being here.” Alex doesn’t quite know what here means. “I mean… I had a good time.”

Sam nods and her lips tilt into a small smile, one that Alex doesn’t know how to place. “I did too. See you soon, Alex.”

“Yeah… Have a good night, Sam.”

 


 

“All right, kiddo,” Sam pulls to a stop in front of Ruby’s school, preparing to say goodbye for the day.

“Don't forget I have Battle Of The Books after school so you have to pick me up at 5:30.”

Shit. Sam had known that. She’d known that, and yet, she’d scheduled all of this week's most important meetings for today.

For a moment she feels really, really, awful about forgetting again. She feels awful about how she’s going to have to figure out how she can step away, or which of Ruby’s friend’s parents can take her home or if Jack is busy- but then she remembers what Alex had said just the night before about having a few days off.

She feels bad about scheduling important business meetings when she should be also working around Ruby’s schedule and for once again taking up Alex’s seldom downtime, but this is important. She reminds herself that it will only be this way for a little while longer. Once she finally settles into the groove of managing this new job, raising a kid, and making sure that kid does everything she needs to do, they’ll be golden. Hopefully, she’ll also be able to stop asking Alex for kid related favors.

She sighs. “Baby… I think I’m going to try and have Alex pick you up 'cause I have meetings all afternoon…”

“Alex can pick me up?” Ruby’s eyes light up. “Really?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry I can’t be there tonight though.” The guilt radiates through her chest as she stares at her daughter. “I mean, I’m about to close a really big deal, you know? I just can't get out early.”

Ruby doesn’t seem to bothered by the situation. “Do you think she’ll pick me up in her cop car? Do you think she could turn on the siren?

Sam wants to laugh. In that moment, she realizes that none of this really bothers her daughter, but she also knows that without the promise of Alex picking her up, Ruby would have that been devastated.  “I’m sorry I’ve been so busy recently… It’s just… an adjustment period. You remember how I was telling you that this was an incredible opportunity?”

“Yeah?”

“What I meant was money. Mom's gonna be making just, like, lots and lots of money.”

“Does that mean you’ll finally buy me the X Files box set?” Ruby laughs.

The sound makes Sam feel a little lighter.

“Yes, yes, I will,” Sam nods before focusing her gaze back on her daughter. She stares at her for a moment, taking in all the little things that make up her daughter, and smiling. “You’ll understand when you have kids.”

 


 

Alex has been trying to open her eyes for about thirty minutes, working against the hold the warmth of her bed pulling her back into sleep, when her phone buzzes with a text.

Sam (9:43):

I hate to do this on your day off, but do you think you could pick Ruby up today? She has an after school activity and I won't be able to get out of my meeting.

Sam (9:44):

I’ll owe you big time.

Alex (9:50)

You won’t owe me at all.

Alex sets her phone back down and drops back into her bed, snuggling back up into the covers with a slight smile, now excited for something to look forward to in her day.

 


 

Things seem to be running as smoothly as they can for a single mother, when finally, things skew back out of alignment.

This is going to be Sam’s first big deal that she’s worked on by herself and not picked up where Lena had left off, cultivating for months before Sam had even been hired. Lena of course has a hand in the closing, but Sam has been in charge of everything up until this point and she has to get this right.

She’s just stepping into the elevator to go up to her office and review notes with Lena. She’s in the middle of a call about the very deal that is the subject of all of today’s conversations, “just because I'm stepping in does not mean these deals are voided-” when her phone buzzes. Quickly, she checks the number to see that the call if from Ruby’s school. She’d just dropped the girl off less that twenty minutes earlier and it’s not normal to just be called unless there’s a problem . She ends the call with an authoritative, “I'm gonna have to call you back.” She picks up the other number, Mom instincts taking over. “Hello?”

“Miss Arias?”

“Yes?”

“This is National City Private Middle. There’s been a problem with your daughter.”

Suddenly, everything around her seems infinitely less important, deals evaporating from her mind in favor of her daughter. Her hands shoots out, catching the elevator right as it’s about to close.

What?

 


 

“Okay, well, then. There was some kind of argument between the girls that started before morning bell. It got very heated outside their lockers and… Ruby hit Stephanie.”

Sam takes a deep breath, unsure of how to process the information. “Okay, when you say ‘hit’ I mean... How did she hit her? Did she push her?”

“Oh, no. She punched her in the face.”

“Oh, God,” Sam sighs, shaking her head. The behavior is so abnormal for Ruby, it almost doesn’t seem real. “Is Stephanie all right?”

“She's okay, it didn't go further than the one punch.”

“I just… This is not like Ruby.”

“You’re right, Ruby is usually very well-behaved. I was shocked when they told me she was involved in this. Is she acting okay at home? Sleeping normally?”

“Yes. Yes, nothing out of the ordinary.”

“I know you're a single parent,” Principal Coburn starts. Sam already knows this talk. She’s heard it countless times from countless different people: doctors, teacher,. friends. Everyone always wants to blame everything on- “Has there been some sort of shake-up with Ruby's father? You know, sometimes children can sense-”

“There is no father. It's just us,” Sam states firmly.

Coburn must sense the slight annoyance because she takes a deep breath and backs off the subject. “I'm sorry, I don't mean to pry. We just want to find out what's going on with Ruby and make sure that this is an isolated incident for her.”

“Well... I agree.”

When they finish up their talk, Coburn, to Sam’s immense relief, says Ruby isn’t going to be suspended considering her previous track record. Sam’s mind is racing with so many questions. When she walks out of the office and sees her daughter, she feels a small sense of relief that she’s okay. She’s in one piece and she’s still Sam’s daughter.

Despite that relief, there’s still that frustration brewing in Sam beneath the surface. “Today of all days,” she breathes. “Come on.”

 


 

“Got in a fight? I mean,” she sighs, “I just want to understand here, baby. What happened?”

Ruby keeps quiet, sinking down further in her chair.

“Ruby, you can tell me anything. I just want to help.”

Her daughter shakes her head, not looking at her.

“Please. Help me understand, so we can get through this.”

“She was talking bad about you...”

Sam startles a bit at that, not expecting the situation to be about her. “Well, who cares what Stephanie Harrison thinks?”

“She kept saying that there was something wrong with you. That you can’t find anybody to love you and that you…”

“That I what?”

“That you don’t love me…”

At this, Sam softens, unable to stay angry when her daughter is on the verge of tears. She places her wrists against the table, sliding her hands forward to reach for her daughter’s, who instantly follows suit to link them.

“Baby,” Sam murmurs, “Of course I love you. You are the best thing that has ever, ever, happened to me. There’s nothing anybody could ever do to change that.” Sam sighs, her distress at her daughter’s unusual behavior working its way back to the forefront of her mind.

“I love you too,” Ruby murmurs.

“I know that, Sweetie… But getting into a fight? You don’t have to defend me. It isn’t your job to worry about me.”

“But you’re-”

“I'm just an average mother trying to take care of her kid!” Sam snaps. She doesn't mean to, but it's the combonation of things building over top her and the second it happens she feels a rush of guilt.

Ruby sinks down further in her chair, refusing to look at her mom.

“... I'm sorry,” She says, attempting to level her voice. “I’m sorry.”

Ruby’s face remains twisted up, eyebrows furrowed, eyes shiny with near tears and her lips pouted. Then she’s standing and rushing off to hide in her room.

“Ruby!” Sam calls over her shoulder, the weight of the interaction settling over her.

The door slams.

“Oh, God, I just want you to let it go,” Sam whispers, head falling into her hands.

 


 

Sam (10:30):

No need to pick up Ruby. Something came up.

Alex (10:34):

Is everything okay?

Sam (10:36):

Everything’s fine. Just a little mix up at school.

Alex (10:36):

Anything I can do to help?

Sam (10:40):

I think I’ve got a handle on it.

 


 

With her phone wedged between her ear and shoulder, Sam answers the door for the pizza guy while maintaining conversation with Lena. She pays and they trade money for the box with just mouthing back and forth as they go. The guy looks like he’s having a hard time not laughing at Sam, but he goes along with it anyway, helping her manage through the interaction.

When they’re done, he laughs and offers her a nod, which she returns, barely noticing as she turns back inside.

“So sorry again about today, Ruby had an issue at school. I don’t know! It's never happened before,” Sam says into her phone, listening as Lena shuffles papers on the other end, haphazardly asking questions in return. Sometimes, when it comes to work, she can get a little too wrapped up in it and comes off uncaring. But Sam gets it, and she knows she cares more than her current demeanor lets on. After discussing Ruby for a brief moment, Sam feels the need to reassure Lena for a final time about her duties that she neglected earlier.

“Anyway, I've pushed all the meetings to tomorrow, and I've gone through the charts for the presentation. It shouldn’t be an issue, and everything should go as planned. Thank you so much for understanding, Lena.”

Right as she places the pizza on the counter, they say their goodbyes and hang up. On any other night when they’d get pizza (which, has become often since moving to National City) Ruby would usually be right by her side the second it was delivered.

Odd.

“Ruby,” she calls, glancing up to look back at her daughters door, wondering if she just hadn’t heard the door open. “Dinner!”

Still no response. Sam wonders if she’s sleeping before venturing back into the hallway and to her bedroom door. Sam pauses for a moment, thinking about the events of earlier and how Ruby might be ignoring her for the first time in their lives. The thought sends a bolt of nervousness though her. She has no idea how to deal with that. “Hey, Rube?” She knocks on the door gently.

Again. No response.

Sam decides she has to check. She has to see if Ruby really is just sleeping or if they’ve entered uncharted territory. “Rube,” she opens the door.

Nobody’s there.

Ruby isn’t there.

“Ruby?” She asks, voice high with alarm and fear.

Shit.

Immediately, Sam pulls her phone from her back pocket, her conversation with Ruby already pulled up.

Mom (5:20)

Where are you????

Ruby (5:22)

don’t worry. i’m fine.

Mom (5:22)

Ruby, please. Tell me where you are!

Mom (5:23)

I’m so, so sorry about earlier, honey. Please just tell me where you are so I can come get you. I love you.

Mom (5:25)

Hello?? Ruby??

 


 

“Alex! Alex!” She shouts, pounding on the door. Her heart is hammering and she feels like she’s choking. All she can think about is Ruby.

The door opens within seconds and Alex is still in her pajamas and she looks so confused and worried but Sam can’t even process that because-

“Ruby is gone.”

“What?”

“She’s not in her room. She’s gone. I- I can’t-”

“Sam. Slow down. What happened?”

“Ruby got in trouble at school and… And I was frustrated because it pulled me away from work and now she’s gone and…” Sam takes a deep breath, desperately trying to keep her feelings of panic at bay. “You’re a cop.” She finally manages, refocusing enough to really look at Alex. “Help me find her .”

Before Sam can even get her whole sentence out, Alex is disappearing into her apartment and reappearing, jacket in hand. She locks the door as quick as she can before turning back to Sam.

“What are some places she knows? Somewhere she’s familiar with that’s close by?”

“Uh…” Sam blinks, racking her mind for options. “Uh… The school… Your apartment... The pizza place, uh-”

“Do you go there a lot?”

“What?”

“The pizza place.”

“What does that have to-”

“It has to be somewhere within walking distance that she knows well and feels safe at. First thing you said on that list that fits that is the school, but she wouldn’t go back there because she just got in trouble there. The second is my place, but obviously she’s not here. So, I’m trying to find out if the pizza place is a good third option.”

They’re halfway down the stairs now, and something about Alex’s sureness makes Sam feel better, more put together.

“Uh… Yeah, we go there with the soccer team sometimes and after school when I’m really busy…”

“Okay. Perfect. We’ll check there first,” Alex holds the front door of the building open for her and then immediately takes the lead again, showing Sam to her car.

“And if she’s not there?”

“Then we try again at the next place and the next and the next, okay?” Alex throws her door open and starts to get in, but she must catch sight of Sam’s face because she pauses. Her keys are clenched in between her fingers, muscles locked tight. “We’re going to find her, Sam. I promise.”

Sam nods mutely and gets in first.

In the car, Sam doesn’t have a lot to focus on. All her mind wants to be doing is coming up with the worst possible scenarios of how this could turn out. She tries to keep herself distracted, but her eyes can only scan the surroundings so many times before her mind wanders back to the worst of it. Finally, she decides to try and focus on something else, turns her gaze onto Alex to find some sort of reassurance that is is going to be fine.

She takes notice of Alex’s hands on the steering wheel, knuckles nearly white with the stress of her grip and it’s not comforting to know that Alex is worried, but it is comforting to know that there’s somebody else who cares almost as much as she does.

 


 

They find Ruby at their first stop, tucked away in the back corner, but Sam recognizes her before they’re even through the door.

Alex pulls up to the curb and before she can even come to a complete stop Sam is out of the car and moving as fast as she can into the restaurant. Alex quickly puts it in park and sprints after her.

She barely catches the door before it closes, and by the time she’s pushing it back open to get inside, Sam already has Ruby in her arms and the employees are staring.Alex lets out a huge sigh of relief as she watches them.

Sam is holding on to Ruby tight, a hand running through her hair as she rambles. “- Worried sick, don’t ever do that to me again.”

Alex crosses the establishment just in time to make out Ruby saying, “I thought you were gonna be mad at me,” into Sam’s neck.

“No, baby. I could never stay mad at you. Actually, I’m more upset that you ran away than anything else.”

Ruby’s shoulders shake with a laugh and it eases the tension, lets them all know she’s gonna be okay.

“I’m so glad you’re safe,” Sam whispers, pulling back to look at her daughter’s face. “Putting yourself in danger like that… I don’t even want to think about what could’ve happened.”

“You two okay?” Alex questions as she walks up to them.

Sam nods, but a hand comes up to rub her eyes. Alex tries not to think about how the idea of Sam crying makes her feel.

“Alex?” Ruby looks surprised to see her.

“Yeah?”

“Why are you here?”

“Well… I helped your mom find you. We both want to make sure you’re safe.”

Ruby’s eyes are watering too, like she’d been scared before they showed up, so her smile is small and it breaks Alex’s heart to see her like this, but she also doesn’t think she’s ever been half as relieved as she is now.

“Let’s get you two home, huh?” Alex wraps her arm over Ruby’s shoulder and offers a hand to help Sam stand at full height.

Sam’s eyes are still red, but they’re grateful as she stares back at Alex, wrapping her arm around Ruby’s other side.

“Yeah, let’s go home.”

As they walk out of the pizza place, Alex notices the employees watching them from behind the counter with huge grins on their faces.

The car ride home is mostly quiet. Alex keeps an eye on Sam next to her as discretely as she can for the duration of it, watching as she slowly stops shaking and her breathing becomes even again. Alex does the same for Ruby through the rearview window, watching her settle into the back seat, immediately looking exhausted from the day’s events.

As Alex drives, she clenches and unclenches her hands around the steering wheel, willing herself into a calm state for the sake of the Arias’.

When they get to the apartment complex, the first thing Sam does when she gets out of the car is hug Ruby again, like she needs to reassure herself she’s really there. Her daughter takes the hug gratefully, her own arms wrapping tightly around Sam. Alex notes a mumbled, “I’m so glad you’re safe,” into Ruby’s hair and tries not to feel like she’s intruding on a private moment, before the two let go and follow her into the building.

“So,” Alex starts as they begin their journey up the stairs, “You don’t have to answer this, but I’ve gotta ask… What started this whole thing? Do I need to be worried?”

Sam’s laugh is surprising to the three of them. “Ruby, decided to go all Popeye on someone at school.”

Alex understands the problem from her years of police training. Ruby thought Sam was gonna be upset with her (which, from what Alex has seen of their relationship, would be unusual and uncharted territory for them). Alex knows the fear is probably still sitting on Ruby’s shoulders, but she also knows Sam is just happy she’s okay and won’t be be able to stay mad at her daughter, so she tries to lighten the mood.

“No kidding?” Alex asks, looking over her shoulder to flash Ruby a grin. “How did you hold your hand?”

Ruby holds up her fist to show her how she’d done it.

“Well that’s how you get a broken thumb. Remind me to teach you how to throw a punch next time it’s just us, ok-”

Sam’s hand lightly taps her stomach, a scolding gesture despite the amusement Alex can see her lips fighting. Ruby’s own face doesn’t have the same reservations and splits into the first smile she’s seen from her all day. Alex takes it as a victory.

They all pause on the landing of Alex’s floor. They all look to be in much better shape than  when they’d left a forty-five minutes ago. Alex feels grateful that it went so smoothly.

“Ruby,” Sam starts, “Why don’t you go up stairs? I’ll be there in a minute, I’ve gotta talk to Alex.”

Ruby nods and starts to go, but before she can, Alex’s own emotions win out.

“Hey, Ruby?”

She turns around to look at her.

“Don’t I get a hug?”

Ruby is in her arms in mere moments and Alex is surprised to feel how much it makes her relax. She hadn’t even realized she’d been that scared until now.

Alex glances at Sam over Ruby’s shoulder, takes note of her crossed arms but fond eyes and for a moment wishes she could hold her too. takes a deep breath, feeling the stress flow out of her with the exhale. Then she squeezes Ruby just a little tighter before letting go. “Get out of here.”

Ruby is still obviously affected by today’s events, looking tired around the edges, but she offers another smile before venturing up the stairs.

Sam and Alex watch her go in silence.

“Tough kid,” Alex starts, “You two will get through -”

Before she can finish her sentence, Sam is entering her space for the second time in twenty-four hours.

Her hands press into Alex’s back, anchoring, pulling Alex into her. Their entire bodies press together, hip to hip, chest to chest, their thighs resting softly against each other, their knees mismatched with the height difference. Sam's arms rest over her shoulders, cheekbone is pressed to Alex’s temple, and Alex’s head is resting on her shoulder.

“Thank you,” she whispers into Alex’s ear, sounding so vulnerable. It eases Alex’s mind to know she sounds less scared than she had when she’d come knocking on her door just an hour earlier.

“Of course,” Alex says back, wrapping her arms tighter around Sam, elbows tucked against her ribs as her hands cover her shoulder blades.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.”

Something inside of Alex’s chest reacts to that and suddenly she feels choked up, like her throat is closing in on itself as tears start to prick at her eyes.

Sam holds her for a few more seconds before she’s pulling back, quickly wiping at her own face. “Anyway…” She exhales heavily. “I should get back to Ruby. We have a lot to talk about.”

Alex lets out her own shaky breath, one she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding and nods. “Yeah, of course.”

Sam clears her throat. “Thanks again. Talk soon, yeah?”

“Yeah… Sounds good.”

 


 

The next time they see each other is a week and a half later.

Alex has been working all week and she assumes the same of Sam, because they don’t even run into each other for more than a few seconds every two days. It’s like they’re playing cat and mouse, always running into one another at the wrong time, never able to truly catch up, but both promising to make plans.

A call finally comes just as Alex is stepping out of her apartment on a Friday evening. She picks it up because it’s Sam and she likes talking to Sam. When she answers, Sam informs her that Ruby’s at a friends and that she’s free if Alex wants to come up and have a drink with her. Alex smiles at the invitation, but she’s on her way out to - Which is when she remembers that Kara had invited Sam to game night whenever she was free.

Sam jumps at the reminder, telling Alex she’ll meet her down stairs in a few before hanging up.

Alex waits in the lobby, staring down at her phone until she hears the sound of footsteps approaching. She glances up to find Sam in blazer and heels, like she’s just stepped out of her office or off a runway.

“Uh, you do realize this isn’t a formal event, right?”

Sam chuckles and nods, “Well, I already had most of this on from work and I didn’t have time to change.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to-”

“I’m fine Alex,” Sam grins and Alex finally moves her eyes back to her face. “Do you want me to drive?”

Alex agrees, because for some reason she suddenly isn't quite sure where she parked her car.

When they arrive and walk inside the lobby, Sam lets out a laugh. “A working elevator?” She observes as they head towards it. “That’s new.”

Alex shakes her head, chuckling. “They’re never going to fix ours. We’ll both have houses and be married before they fix that elevator,” Alex presses the button to Kara’s floor.

“So, basically never?”

Right,” Alex responds as she shakes her head, leaning back against the elevator wall.

Sam nudges her with her shoulder as she leans back beside her.

The door eventually opens with a ding and Alex leads her to Kara’s door, where she barely knocks before it’s being flung open.

“Hey-” Kara pauses upon spotting both of them, before her smile grows. “Glad you could join us Sam!”

Kara moves so the pair can enter and starts the introductions before Sam can even take a glance around, leading her towards the couches by her arm.

“So, you already know Winn-”

“What’s cookin’!”

Alex makes sure he’s looking at her when she rolls her eyes, before walking into the kitchen to start pouring her first glass of wine.

“And this is James.”

“Nice to meet you,” James greets her and Alex looks up just in time to watch the two of them shake hands. “You’re Alex’s neighbor, right?” Then, her and Kara’s eyes meet and she gives her a look that Kara at least manages to look sheepish at. Of course Kara has already told everyone about her.

Kara clears her throat, “So! Sam! No, friends with you?”

“No, I’m sorry, not tonight. Lena is watching Ruby for me and Jack is on a business trip. Next time though.”

“Oooooo,” Winn choruses, “You already planning on a next time?”

“Well,” Sam laughs, “I just-”

“No. I get it, we’re awesome ,” He supplies, grinning from ear to ear at her.

Alex joins the conversation with two glasses of wine and presses one into Sam’s hands before looking back at him, “We’re something .”

He stares at her a moment before nervously clapping his hands and turning back to examine Kara’s shelf with the games on it. “So! What’s first?”

Sam smiles and leans into Alex. “You love to scare him don’t you?”

“He makes it easy,” Alex shrugs, which makes Sam bump their shoulders together.

“But you love him,” She teases, grinning even as Alex rolls her eyes and nudges her back.

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t tell anybody though.”

Kara and Winn go to examine the shelves, quietly bickering between themselves about which game to pick, leaving Alex, Sam, and James to occupy their own time.

Alex leans against the couch and Sam goes to do the same beside her, while James stands in front of them, engaging them in conversation. They get to talk for only a few minutes (mostly about work) before Kara is spinning around, box in hand and declaring that they are playing Life .

Sam and Alex share a glance, but before Alex can come up with a comment Sam is following her sister to the coffee table and settling herself down, legs criss crossed on the floor and looking so natural in their space. It makes Alex hope that maybe this can be a more steady occurrence, that Sam can stick around in all of their lives for a while.

She follows the newest member of the group’s lead and sits down beside her, which prompts Winn to do the same on her other side, immediately starting into a debate with Kara about who’s going to be banker. Before either of them can really get into it, Sam volunteers herself and takes the container holding the colorful stacks of money, ending the argument before it can begin.

Half way through the game, Alex notices some of the money from the bank slip into Sam’s pile. At first, she chalks it up to Sam having noticed a mathematical error, but the next time Winn has to hand over a good portion of his last paycheck, Alex keeps her eyes trained on Sam’s hands. Half of Winn’s money ends up tucked under the rest of her pile.

Alex smiles to herself and tries not to laugh at the fact that Sam has figured out how to cheat at Life .

A moment later, she remembers back to when she’d first watched Ruby and taught her how to play cards, and how Ruby had tried to look at her hand as she stepped away. Like mother like daughter.

When they get to the end of the game, Alex and Sam’s cars both end up with four pieces, two pink pieces in the front seats, one pink and one blue in the rear seats. Noting that their lives end up being weirdly similar, they kid about it throughout the game, but Sam still wins because she has the most money.

“So, do winners clean up the game or?” Sam trails off, looking smug as she gestures to the board, prompting a laugh from James. A competitive streak. Alex likes it.

Winn grumbles and Alex catches the word cheater before Kara shushes him and tells him Sam won fair and square. She doesn’t have the heart to tell them Winn is right or to rat Sam out.

“Yeah, Winn. I don’t think there even is a way to cheat at life,” Alex adds, keeping her face straight.

“Fine. Alex and I will clean it up then,” Sam shugs, feigning nonchalance.

Winn seems like he’s about to retaliate when Kara stands, tapping him on the shoulder. “Okay, if you guys are going to do that, we’ll get the next game. Right, Winn?”.

Winn groans and flops back against the ground, before picking himself back up to follow her.

While they’re distracted, Alex leans over, turns her body towards Sam to conceal her words as she whispers: “Embezzling is a federal offense.”

Sam’s lips curl and she turns her head towards Alex, “Are you threatening to arrest me again?”
“Maybe… We’ll see. You’ll have to stay on my good side,” Alex lets herself smile easily at Sam, who’s answering grin is just as wide before she’s rolling her eyes.

“Oh yeah?” She laughs, moving to begin clearing Life off the table.

Alex shakes her head and starts to take a sip from her second glass of wine before James catches her eye.

He’s staring at them with a look on his face. One that Alex knows means he’s analyzing something. Then she realizes it’s them he’s got his eyes focused on. The glare she gives him makes him seem more wary, but he doesn’t look away. He doesn’t scare as easy as Winn does.

But then Kara and Winn are returning in a rukus, struggling with a second game box between them, and James reluctantly looks away. Alex feels a flood of relief for some reason. Nobody else seems to have noticed their little staring competition, but still, it leaves Alex feeling odd.


 

Working out with Alex is more than Sam had bargained before.

They schedule a time right after Sam drops Ruby off at school, but before she has to be into work. Sam is starting to think that she might have to call in sick, because she can already tell she’s going to be feeling the repercussions far before the day comes to an end.

She isn’t out of shape by any means, but it’s been a while since she’s been able to get away for long enough to work out and Alex is intense . She really knows how to push .

Their path takes them blocks away from their apartment building and then back around, a huge path for someone who’s trying to get back into exercising after months of nothing.

Sam’s muscles ache every time she moves but it’s good , and she does her best to keep up with Alex, who seems like she could do this for hours.

The air is starting to chill as fall continues on, getting closer to winter with each passing day. As they run, the breeze cools their overheated and sweaty skin, and when they do eventually have to stop, the brisk air burns Sam’s lungs.

But the conversation flows easily, and Sam finds that she likes Alex more and more with each passing minute as she picks up on her idiosyncrasies. Or maybe it’s just the fact that Alex brought her a bottle of cold water and that’s enough to win over an exhaust Sam Arias.

“I think I just… Need a change or something? At least… That’s what Kara says.” Alex sighs, and when they come to their second stop in front of a street vendor, Alex buys more water to put in with their now empty bottles. “It’s so cheesy.”

“It is cheesy…” Sam responds, taking inasmuch air as she can with each breath, “But it’s true. Sometimes even a small difference in your life can change your outlook on things.”

Alex’s hands go to her neck, gathering up her hair to get it off her neck. Sam tries not to stare at the flex of her biceps.

“I don’t want a change. I like my routine.”

“Maybe that’s the problem,” Sam shrugs. “You don’t try new things enough, so it’s keeping you in the same mindset.”

Alex stares at her, blinking rapidly. Sam thinks maybe she’s hit the nail on the head.

“What should I do?”

Nailed it. She’s at least got Alex interested in she’s saying enough to consider it.

Sam pauses, trying to think for a moment, eyes roaming over Alex for inspiration, when they settle on her hands holding her hair away from her neck. “You know… You could cut your hair.”

Somehow, Alex manages to look even more shocked. Sam can tell she might be losing her a little now.

“Cut it? My hair is already short as is.”

“What? Are you saying you’ve never cut your hair before? Come on, I don’t believe that it’s been this one length your entire life.”

“Well, it hasn’t… It used to be long, but when I became a cop I chopped it all off.”

“See! You’ve even done it before! And that sounds like a much bigger difference than taking a few inches. And that adds to my point, you cut it when your life was influx.” Sam tries to reason, grinning as she watches her friend’s gears turn. “I could even do it. Back when Ruby and I had no money I used to do both of our haircuts…”

“What if I hate it?”

Sam shrugs, smiling at Alex. “Then it’s only hair… It grows back and you can wear hats until it does.”

“I don’t own any hats.”

“I will buy you a hat if you hate it.”

She can see Alex getting ready to object again, but she doesn’t want to give her too much of a space to talk herself out of it, so she jumps in again first. “I think you could pull it off, but it’s up to you of course.” She adds a smile on to the end of it and then begins to jog again, leaving Alex to stare after her.


 

“I know this is really cliche,” Alex says, the second Sam opens the door, “But can I borrow some sugar?”

Sam laughs, taking in the flour all over Alex’s shirt and caught up in her hair, measuring cup in her hands.

“I thought your sister was the baker?” Sam says, backing up into the apartment for Alex to follow her.

Alex sighs. “She is. She’s currently in my apartment right now, forcing me to help her make pies despite knowing that I cannot bake.”

“Pies, huh?” Sam smiles, opening cabinets to look for the ingredient. “I usually make pies before Thanksgiving with Ruby and Lena. I’d offer to help you, but I don’t wanna infringe on sister time.”

“It’s okay. I’d rather save myself the embarrassment.” Alex hands the measuring cup to Sam when she reaches for it.

Sam smiles back at Alex over her shoulder. “I’m sure you’re just fine.”

“I’m an okay cook, but an awful baker.”

“How does that work exactly?” Sam grins, the ‘ ffffff ’ sound of sugar moving against itself filling the silent seconds.

“One day you’ll understand.”

“Oh yeah?” She turns back to look at her friend. “You gonna cook me a meal, Alex?”

“Only to prove how bad I am,” Alex responds, pointing at her friend as if to make a point, stepping closer to Sam to reach out for the sugar.

Sam pulls it back, holding it behind her as Alex reaches. “Promise?”

Alex stares at her and suddenly Sam realizes how close Alex must’ve gotten by accident.

“Actually…” Alex starts, “We’re having Thanksgiving at Kara’s… Which is why we’re making the pies in the first place. Do you wanna come?”

For a moment, Sam thinks about it, unable to take her eyes away from Alex’s face before sighing and shaking her head. She clears her throat. “No, no, I couldn’t impose.” She hands the cup over now, the humor of the moment suddenly absent.

“You wouldn’t be,” Alex replies earnestly. “We’d all love to have you and Ruby there.”

“Nah, it’s okay,” Sam shakes her head, “Jack and Lena are coming over here. Just the four of us. We’ve been doing it for years. At this point it's kinda our own little family tradition.”

“Alright,” Alex nods, “I get that.”

“Although,” Sam pauses, finding a smile again, “I am probably gonna need another workout session after.” She nudges Alex with her hip, reminiscent of how they’d acted on Halloween, and Alex laughs as a small amount of sugar escapes in the motion.

“Hey! Precious cargo here!” Alex sticks her arm out, pressing her palm flat against Sam’s shoulder to hold her back from doing it again.

Sam swipes out again, trying to knock it out of her hand, not bothering to worry about the clean up that will follow.

“Knock it off!” Alex laughs, turning away quickly and clutching it closer to her chest. “I have to get out of here, you’re dangerous.”

“Uh, huh, because you would know , Officer Danvers.”

Alex shakes her head, grin fighting its way onto her face. “You love making fun of the cop thing, don’t you?”

“Just a little, yeah. But it is nice having a cop around. A perfect example being the incident earlier this month.”

Alex nods. “Yeah, but that was scary even for me and we both know that I don’t scare easy.”

Sam scoffs. “Are you making fun of me for the horror movie thing?”

“What? Me? Nooooo .”

Sam makes an offended noise, lips curling slightly at the edges with her amusement, and she attempts to get the sugar again. Alex turns just in time to avoid Sam crashing into her front, instead forcing Sam to run into her back. Her arms reach around the other woman, still trying to grab the ingredient.

“Truce!” Alex holds her free hand up, laughing as Sam attempts to stretch her arm further to reach.

“Fine,” Sam rolls her eyes, backing up only sighly as Alex blinks and clears her throat.

“I should be getting back or Kara’s going to start wondering where I am.”

“Okay,” Sam nods, walking with her to the door. She starts to open the door for Alex, but then she stops to think about it. “Hey, Alex?”

“Yeah?”

“Um,” Sam clears her throat. “Just in case we don’t see eachother again before thanksgiving… I wanted to say… I’m thankful for you. You’ve been so helpful and kind to us and a such a good role model for Ruby. It means a lot to her. And to me.” She smiles, remembering all the times Alex has come through for them in the past two months, how much of a positive impact she’s had on Ruby.

Their shoulders are both pressed close to the door, so they’re staring directly at each other.

“Oh.” Alex pauses. “Um… I wasn’t expecting that.”

“I wasn’t either,” Sam laughs, “But really, I mean it.”

Alex nods. “Yeah. I’m thankful for you too. It’s nice to have new people to be around. You’ve taught me a lot and I really like being around you.”

“Oh?” Sam raises an eyebrow. “And what exactly is all this knowledge I’ve given you?”

“You’ve taught me a lot about being a good parent.”

The sentiment hits Sam straight in the chest, working its way into her heart and prompting tears from her eyes. “Oh… Wow. That… I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

“Well, I mean it.”

There’s a long pause and again all Sam can do is look at Alex. “Thank you.”

“Of course… Now if you’ll excuse me-”

“You have a pie to finish! Right!” Sam lifts her weight off the door, using her momentum to pull it open for Alex, who laughs at the motion.

“Thank you for the sugar.”

“Any time, neighbor.” At this, Alex turns around and gives her a good natured eye roll, which makes Sam’s cheeks hurt with her smile.

“Bye!” Alex chuckles.

As Sam watches Alex walk away, another question pops into her head. “Have you thought any more about what you’re going to do for a change?”

Alex pauses, then glances back at her from down the hall, seeming to think about it for a moment. “No… but I’ll get back to you.”


 

It’s nearly a week later when Alex finally makes a decision.

It’s 11PM on the last Wednesday of the month and the emptiness of Alex’s apartment finally starts to eat at her. She starts reorganizing everything that remains, and tries to fill the spaces Maggie left behind with what Alex still has and it works. The apartment had been hers first, so even if she doesn’t own a lot, spreading her belongings back out into their original places makes her feel better.

It’s not enough.

There’s still the quiet that surrounds her and while Alex is getting over it, there’s a sadness clinging to her skin like smoke. She needs more. Just a little more to get out of this.

When she glances at the clock again after working on her apartment, it’s nearly two in the morning, but she’s wide awake and brimming with restless energy.

She thinks back on what Sam said earlier in the month. Thinks about the reasoning. Thinks about how Sam said that she could cut her hair.

Then, eyes still on the clock, Alex makes a decision and heads for her door and then up the stairs.

It’s late (early) on a week night, but Alex knows Sam will be awake. As much as Alex would normally chastise her about getting rest, Sam is a workaholic and during the week there’s almost no shutting her down.

So when Alex knocks, it’s soft and gentle so as not to wake Ruby, because she knows their apartment is just as quiet as hers at this time of night and that Sam will be awake to hear her.

The door opens only a few moments later to reveal a tired looking Sam, with dark circles under her eyes and work clothes still clinging to her form.

“Alex,” She breathes, sounding like a relief.

“Hey,” Alex responds, shuffling slightly between her feet. “I thought about what you said. I think I do need a change.”

Sam steps aside, making room for Alex to get past her. “Come in.”

Alex does, stepping over the threshold.

Sam shuts the door carefully, before turning back to Alex. “I’ll grab the stuff. Drag one of the dining chairs into the kitchen, will you?”

Before Alex can respond, Sam is disappearing into the bathroom and she can hear the low sounds of Sam searching. From there, Alex does as she was asked. The kitchen light is on low, Sam only having half the lights on with the late hour. As she’s placing the chair down, Sam reappears, scissors and clippers in hand.

“Sit down,” Sam orders, moving to stand behind the chair.

Alex takes a deep breath, trying to calm the feelings of doubt that's beginning to fester inside her and again, does as she’s told.

“Nervous?” Sam asks, as if she’s reading Alex’s mind.

“A little.”

A towel wraps around Alex’s shoulders gently, Alex registers fruity body wash and floral shampoo. She breathes in deeply, takes it in, remembers catching the scents off of both Sam and Ruby. She suspects they share the soaps and the thought makes her smile. Sam tucks the towel into place, makes sure Alex is covered.

“Remember, it’s just hair, okay? Try not to think about it too much… I’m gonna start now, okay?” Sam says softly.

Alex nods and shakily exhales.

Then Sam’s hands are pressing against her neck. The moment feels like an eternity. Still and quiet and all of Alex’s thoughts zero in on that point of contact until Sam starts to move and Alex can breathe again, if only momentarily. Soft fingertips work their way up Alex’s neck and to the base of her head, where they gather Alex’s hair up into a bunch.

“You ready?”

“Do it.” Alex says, because now that it’s about to happen, she’s terrified, she wants to be as far from the chair as possible. Instead, she focuses on how Sam’s knuckles are still pressing against her spine. The contact makes her calm and brave.

Then, comes the drawn out snip of scissors through hair and what’s left drops back to frame Alex’s face, barely coming past her temples. With the weight of it gone and the pieces Alex can feel resting against her neck, somehow, it does feel liberating.

There’s a stretch of silence where all they can do is sit there and process it.

“You okay?” Sam asks.

“Yeah… I think so.”

“Good. So, now that the hard part is out of the way… What are you looking for?” Her hands rest against Alex’s skin again and she laughs.

“Surprise me.”

“That I can do,” Sam responds, walking around Alex to look at her head on, figure out where to start. Then she’s back behind Alex and she hears the hum of the clippers starting up before they’re pressing against the nape of her neck and slowly dragging up.

Alex’s breath shakes a little with that, feeling more of her own hair fall away. “So, how was your Thanksgiving?” She asks, attempting to distract herself.

“Um,” Sam’s hands rake though Alex’s hair as she tries to think about the two topics at hand. “It was really good, you know? Nice to have everybody in one place.”

“Yeah? How are Jack and Lena?”

“You remember their names,” Sam hums, and Alex can hear her smile.

“Of course I do.”

“Well after your introduction to Lena I was worried she might’ve scarred you… And you’ve never met Jack.”

“Lena seems…unique, but I like her so far. I’m sure Jack is great too.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” Sam chuckles. “I love her, but sometimes I worry.”

“About her?”

“About other people. She can take care of herself.”

Alex lets out a breath at the statement, trying not to move and mess up whatever Sam is doing.

They get quiet again after that. The quiet buzz of the clippers drifting into the background as Alex shuts her eyes, takes in the feeling of letting go. Even if she doesn’t like however this turns out, somehow, it does feel better.

The clippers turn into the more precise snips of the scissors as Sam works her way over Alex’s head, making sure everything is even and how she wants it. Hair falls down onto her skin, making her feel itchy until Sam brushes it off her neck.

Sam’s hands provide a comfort that quiets her mind in a way she hasn’t felt since-

“So, what made you decide to go through with it?” Sam asks after who knows how long, breaking Alex’s train of thought.

Slowly, Alex cracks her eyes open, trying to wake her brain up from the relaxed state it had entered. “Uh… You said that I don’t try new things enough and I think you’re right.”

Sam is silent as if waiting for her to continue.

“My ex… Maggie. She was… She was the first girl I ever knew I liked. She was the reason I realized that I’m gay… And I think I’d had those feelings before her, you know? But I’d just pushed them away. Then once I’d realized that what I was feeling for her was real… That it wasn’t going to go away… I was terrified. But it was also the most amazing thing I’d ever felt. Being with her was easier than anything I’ve ever done. I thought she was going to be it.”

“Then why did you break up?” Sam murmurs, gently running a finger along Alex’s jaw to signal for her to move her head.

“She didn’t want kids.”

The hands on her skin still.

The statement settles into the air thick and heavy, just how Alex had known it would.

But she can’t stop herself from continuing, needing to say it, and when she hears her voice, it’s hoarse and cracks and there’s so many feelings and memories though it that it barely even feels like it’s hers. “And… And even when I had no idea what I was doing with my life… I always knew I wanted to be a mom someday. It’s one of the few things in my life that’s always made sense… That’s not the kind of the people usually change their minds about.”

“I’m sorry…”

“It’s-”

“But you made the right choice,” Sam cuts Alex off and the statement surprises her. Normally, everyone stops at the condolences, but this is different. “If you want to be a parent… And that’s something that’s important to you… Then you made the right choice. You need to do whatever it takes to make yourself happy, no matter how much it might hurt now.”

Alex opens her eyes when the floor creaks, signalling Sam’s movement as she walks around her. Sam crouches to be more face to face with Alex. “Having kids is one of the hardest things anyone can ever go through… But it’s also so rewarding and beautiful and it’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world . And Alex…” She places her hand on Alex’s knee and squeezes and her voice is full of emotion and sureness . “You’re already great at it, okay? You made the right choice. You did what you had to for your future happiness . That’s really powerful.”

Alex nods and when she exhales, she realizes her eyes are watering.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Alex whispers and smiles at Sam, because she is . This feels good. Having said that, gotten it off her shoulders, both metaphorically with her words, and literally through her hair that now liters Sam’s floor. On top of that, the power of Sam’s words soothe her deeply. “I am.”

Sam smiles back, the curve of her lips gentle in the dim light of the kitchen. Eyes bright and happy and watering , but then she blinks and it’s gone. “You ready to see it?” Sam whispers.

Alex clears her throat, shakes her head to bring herself back down to earth, remembers why they’re there when she feels the absence of the weight that normally comes with the action. “Yes.”

Sam nods and stands up straight, offering Alex her hand to help her up. Then, Sam pulls her into the dark bathroom and with their wrists pressing together, directs Alex to be facing the mirror.

“Just stare straight ahead. I’m gonna turn the light on, okay?”

“Yeah,” Alex says, but she’s nervous again.

Sam squeezes with her fingers and Alex doesn’t have time to process the way her nerves jump with it before the sound of the switch flicking hits her ears and light floods her eyes.

It takes her a few moments to adjust to the sudden change, but when she does, she can actually focus on what’s in front of her.

It’s short. Shorter than Alex had ever thought it would be. It’s messy in a planned kind of way, choppy and uneven in a way that Sam somehow managed to look good. The top of it is longer than the sides, but none of it can be more than a few inches long.

All of her looks sharper . The line of her jaw more severe without anything to hide behind. Her cheekbones even seem higher. It’s different, but it’s not bad.

“So… What’s the verdict? Am I going to be purchasing you a hat or-”

“I like it,” Alex mumbles, leaning forward to look more closely in the mirror. It’s as she leans forward that she finds herself anchored, Sam’s hand still linked with her own.

Before she can comment, Sam drops it and steps back, leaning against the door frame to admire her handiwork.

“You did a really good job.”

“What can I say,” Sam brags, holding her hands up in a shrug, “Years of practice.”

Alex grins and shakes her head, something like awe making it impossible to look away.

“Any spots you want me to fix up?”

“No. I think… I think this is just what I needed.” Alex looks back at Sam, finds her standing there, still in her work clothes, somehow managing to look relaxed and less stressed than she’d appeared before. “Thank you.”

Sam nods. “Glad I could be of service. After all, it’s the least I can do after all you do for Ruby and I.”

This time, Alex’s grin is big and toothy as she turns back to the mirror to get a good look.

“Do you think it will help?”

Alex doesn’t have to process to know the answer. To know how different she already feels.

“I think it already has.”

Chapter Text

Alex is barely in the door of the precinct when Kara’s voice shouts, “What happened to your hair?”

She hasn’t even spotted her sister yet when her gaze lands on a wide eyed Winn who stares at her from his desk.

This wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. Alex isn’t even supposed to be on duty today, but she’d wanted to pick up some case work for later tonight.How the hell was she supposed to know her sister would for some reason be just hanging out at her work?

“Kara?” Alex questions, when she realizes she’s standing just beside Winn’s desk, purse draped over her shoulder like she’d been preparing to leave. If only Alex had better timing. “What are you doing here?”

“Kara and I are going out to lunch,” Winn says, looking back and forth between them like he’s a little worried about what might follow. “I invited you but you said you were busy.”

“Oh,” Alex responds, feeling a bit of the tension fall out of her shoulders. She’d completely forgotten about that interaction with Winn, but she’s thankful that Kara wasn’t just here waiting for her.

“Alex,” Kara says again, vision trained towards her head, “Your hair.”

“Oh yeah,” Alex clears her throat. “You said I needed a change so… I took your advice.”

Kara blinks a few times before meeting Alex’s eyes. “When did you…”

“A few days ago.” Alex still can’t quite gage what this reaction from her sister is.

“It looks great, Alex,” Winn says, sounding amazed. When she turns just slightly to look at him, his smile is wide and whole expression bright with excitement, like she’s just told him his favorite video game is getting another installment. He stands up to get a closer look, “Who did you go to? My barber keeps cutting mine too short and -”

“Sam.”

This stops him in his tracks, his hand held in the air like he’d been about to reach out and touch it. “Oh wow.” He moves around her to take a look at the other side.

She fights back the urge to smile and stand up straighter. The truth is, the change really has been good for her. It’s kept her mind off of all the things that had been bothering her before and made her more confident in just a matter of days. 

She’s been getting compliments left and right, both from strangers and acquaintances. She’d stepped into coffee shop just this morning and had someone in line, as well as the barista, say something about it. Even the people in the neighboring apartments had said something to her as they’d run into each other in the lobby, people she’s barely talked to despite living there for years.

It’s weird how right both Sam and her sister had been about it making a difference. 

Kara is still staring at her, and Alex can’t tell if her expression is one of approval or not, but it’s definitely shocked.

“So…” Alex starts again, staring at her sister across Winn’s desk, “What do you think?” It doesn’t matter, not really, what Kara’s opinion of the haircut is, but she’s Alex’s sister and Alex wants her to like it.

Then Kara’s face is spreading into a smile. “I like it a lot, actually.” Then she’s stepping forward to join Winn in his inspection of it. While he had stopped himself from touching her, Kara doesn’t have the same restraint. She lifts her hand to run it through the long parts at the top first, then rubs lightly at the close shave on the sides. “I never thought you’d cut it so short.”

“I didn’t either.”

“You’re really embracing the lesbian thing, huh?” Kara says, raising her eyebrows in the joking way Alex is familiar with. She’s still petting Alex’s head.

Alex jerks out of her grip with a laugh. “Hey!”

Kara erupts in a fit of giggles. “But really, it looks great.”

“It suits you,” Winn smiles down at her. He must sense her pride at the remark, because this time, he doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arm over her shoulder and pull her against his side in a hug. 

“Sam did a good job,” Kara remarks, looking at it again. 

Alex has to bite her lip to keep them from quirking up at the remark. She lifts her own hand to push it back off her face again, reveling in the texture of it against her palm, “She did.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us to lunch?” Winn asks again. “Take the hair out for a test run?”

She laughs again, but shakes her head no. “I would say yes but I really do have plans for today.”

“Like?” Kara questions.

“I’m supposed to watch Ruby.”

Kara’s brow furrows and she seems like she’s about to say something when Winn butts in again.

“To repay her for the haircut?”

Alex smiles, and instead of telling them that she’d volunteered to do it before she’d even decided to cut her hair, nods.


 

They’re a few episodes into season two of The X Files. It’s been very slow going to try and rewatch all of it, considering Alex only watches Ruby once or twice every few weeks, but every time Ruby is over she immediately wants to start watching again, which Alex doesn’t mind at all.

The credits are rolling on episode when Ruby’s stomach growls.

“Want me to make some popcorn?”

“Yes, please.”

“Okay,” Alex pushes up off the couch and grabs the remote, hitting pause before stepping over Ruby’s legs to venture into the kitchen area. 

Alex smiles to herself as she hears Ruby flop down along the length of the couch, taking up the spot she’d just vacated as well as her own.

As Alex grabs them each a bowl and pulls a bag out to place it in the microwave. As the timer starts and the popcorn begins to cook, she leans against the counter, looking at Ruby, who’s turned her attention back to her phone. “Where did your mom need to go anyway?” She asks. 

“A PTA meeting.”

“She’s not happy, is she?”

Ruby glances up from her phone at Alex.“No, she’s not.”

“So that’s why she had that look of fear in her eyes when she dropped you off,” Alex remarks, just as the timer for the popcorn goes off.

Ruby laughs as Alex turns to open the microwave.

Behind her, Ruby’s voice starts up again, “You know… I can think of something even scarier than PTA moms…” She says, voice trailing of mischievously.

“Oh yeah?” Alex picks up both bowls of popcorn. Upon returning to the living room, she catches the sneaky look beginning to form on Ruby’s face.

“Oh no,” Alex says, in response.

“Another horror movie-”

“Your mom might kill me-” Alex cuts her off, flopping down beside her on the couch.

“No she won't!” Ruby laughs, shoving at Alex’s shoulder. “You watched the last one with us! I promise I won't even be scared.”

“What about the X-Files?”

“The X-Files will still be here later!”

Alex sighs, shaking her head, “What do you have in mind?”

“The Shining.”

No.”

“It’s winter now! It’s perfect timing.”

Ruby.”

“Come on, Alex!” Ruby pleads, “You let Kara watch The Shining when you used to babysit her!”

“How do you know that?”

“When her and Winn were over you guys said so!”

Alex shuts her eyes, silently cursing herself for allowing that one to slip out. When she opens her eyes to meet Ruby’s, the big, pleading, doe eyes that Alex knows are just for show, she cracks.

“Fine, but if you have nightmares please tell your mom that it was your idea and I was powerless to stop you.”

Ruby grins and settles back onto the couch. “Deal.”


 

Sam really, really, really, hates the other PTA moms. She’s nice to them, because she really has a hard time not being nice when it comes to things other than work or Ruby’s safety, but now it’s a much better idea for her to interact with them as little as possible.

It’s not that they’re bad people, in the grand scheme of things, but they’re just so haughty and fake in a way that makes Sam’s blood boil. It’s obvious that they all look down on Sam. They’re nice to her, but from day one they’ve noticed her age in comparison to Ruby’s and treated her different, like they pity her. Then of course they’d asked about her father in a prying way, their tones barely masking their judgement, and when Sam had answered that her father wasn’t around… Their ability to view her as capable had flown out the window, as though she hasn’t managed to do just fine for both herself and Ruby for the past twelve years, like she doesn’t help run a fortune five hundred company at the age of twenty eight. They only seem to remember she has the job she has when it works for against her, like she can’t be a good mom with a job like hers, which hits a little too close to home for her liking.

However, out of all the PTA mom’s, Nancy is by far the worst. She’s always bragging about her husband and his money and all the things she can spend it on as well as her kid, Erika, who’s just about as awful as Nancy is. She’s always the one to offer Sam condescending smiles and snide comments about how hard it must be to be so young and raising a child or how tired her or Ruby are looking nowadays. She’s been trying to make herself come off as superior to all the other moms, and the worst part is that it works.

If Sam didn’t feel the need to come to these meetings she wouldn’t, and she knows Ruby would be perfectly fine with that, but now she’s got to prove a point to these other women that she’s just as capable as they are, despite the age difference and her lack of a partner (she’s sure they’d love to know that she’s gay on top of being a teen mom).

This meeting is particularly hard. The school has a holiday recital coming up and they have to plan for it and of course Nancy has both brought the snacks for the meeting as well as an entire binder full of ideas. She hands it off to Principle Coburn and with a smile that says ‘I-Spent-Days-Doing-This-But-I-Want-You-To-Believe-It-Was-A-Few-Minutes.’ Sam isn’t an angry person, but she finds her nails digging into her palms at the interaction.

The food that Nancy brought isn’t even good. Sam is glad that she can at least find comfort in the fact that she’s a better cook than this woman.

“How do you have the time?” Sam hears another mom, who she thinks is named Rebecca, ask Nancy.

“I really don’t,” she says, with an exaggerated shrug, “but I find it.” 

Sam clenches her jaw, thinking about how Nancy has all the time in the world to do things like this, since she doesn’t work, she just uses her husband’s money on purses and jewelry and decorative pillows.

Then Sam takes a deep breath and forces a smile that she’s sure is more of a grimace. 

She glances over to find Coburn taking her place behind the podium on the other side of the room. She seems like she’s about to say something right when Nancy’s shrill voice cuts her off. “Let’s get this meeting underway, people!”

Sam watches as Coburn deflates slightly and is glad that she’s not the only one to see Nancy for how she really is. 

Coburn starts into a spiel about the holiday pageant as Sam settles into her seat, choosing a spot next to a woman she’s never seen before at a meeting who seems close to her in age and hopes she’s made the best choice possible.

Sam doesn’t plan to start conversation if she doesn’t have to, but the other woman immediately turns towards her. “Hi,” She greets, sounding somewhat awkward.

Sam smiles and hopes it’s more genuine than her last. “Hello.”

“Uh… I’ve never really been to one of these things before. I’m just an aunt and my sister-in-law doesn’t have time for this anymore and I’m honestly not really sure how I got roped into this but-” She rushes.

Sam can’t help but let out a laugh, liking the other woman instantly. “It’s alright, I get it, trust me. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have to be either.”

“Oh,” The woman looks relieved, the tension in her shoulders disappearing easily. “Good to know,” Her lips quirk up. She still seems slightly nervous.

Sam holds out her hand, offering it up for a handshake, below the table. “I’m Sam.”

The woman glances back towards the rest of the group quickly before she’s taking Sam’s hand into her own firmly in a sneaky introduction. “Julia.”

Sam grins and whispers back, “Nice to meet you, Julia.”

“You too.”

“I can’t promise this is going to be painless,” Sam jokes, turning back to watch as the meeting gets going.

“At least we have each other?” Julia whispers back, sounding unconvinced.

Sam hides her laugh behind her palm.

The two go quiet as the committee starts breaking down the specifics. 

“Who’s going to do the decorations?” Principal Coburn questions.

A hand immediately shoots up. Sam barely resist the urge to roll her eyes.

“Okay, Nancy, that’s great… The programs? Alright, putting Nancy down a second time… Posters? … Nancy again, okay…”

Julia leans over in her seat to reach Sam. “Is she always like this?” She asks, raising a quizzical eyebrow.

Sam nods, making her expression as serious as she can. Julia instantly looks just as over Nancy’s bullshit as Sam feels. She decides sitting next to Julia really was the best choice.

“And that’s number seven for Nancy…” Principal Coburn’s voice breaks into their silent communication. 

Seven?” Julia hisses, looking shocked. Sam is just as perturbed by this and is starting to lose her patience. 

Coburn writes something else down, presumably Nancy’s name again, on her clipboard, “What about cookies?”

Before Sam can think about it, her hand shoots up, somehow even faster than Nancy’s.

“Na- Sam?” Coburn’s eyebrows shoot up as she looks back at the group to find Sam volunteering.

Sam?” A few voices echo. She has to resist the urge to shoot them all a glare and instead clenches her jaw, forcing a tight lipped smile.

“Yes.”

“You want to bring the cookies?”

“Of course. I’m more than happy to do it.”

“But - But you’re so busy. With work how will you-”

Sam forces another smile, this time she’s sure it looks petty. “I’ll find the time.”

Nancy doesn’t bother concealing her glare as she huffs and crosses her arms, petulantly turning her gaze back into Coburn as she crosses out Nancy’s name and puts in Sam’s.

“That was badass,” Julia murmurs beside her, forcing Sam to hide her genuine smile and how good it feels to one up Nancy at something.


 

“So, was it worth three months worth of nightmares?” Alex asks, when the credits start to roll over the final shot. She remembers how long those months had been back when she was a teenager and Kara had watched the movie for the first time.

“Uh, duh!” Ruby answers. “That was amazing.”

Alex laughs. “Glad you like it, but remember our deal,” she points at Ruby, “Any nightmares and you tell your mom it was your idea.”

Ruby grins, “No nightmares here! But if I did have one… Then I’d totally rat you out-”

Alex leans over to shove slightly at Ruby. 

“I’m kidding!” She giggles.

“You better be, or I’d have to tickle you.”

Ruby pales. “You wouldn’t.”

Alex really wouldn’t. She’s never been very good at tickling. It was always something Kara had done to her as teens, but still, she knows the threat is effective due to her experience of using them on Winn.

“I won’t rat you out, Alex, I promise. We’re a team!” Ruby says, scooting closer to wrap her arm over Alex’s shoulder. Whether she means it or she’s just trying to escape torture, Alex isn’t sure, but she’ll take the hug anyway.

“I’m glad you liked the movie, kid.”

Suddenly, there’s a knock on the front door.

“That’s probably my mom,” Ruby predicts.

The knock happens again. “Hey, it’s Sam!”

Alex lifts her hands in mock amazement, “Wow, good call,” She compliments Ruby, before looking back towards the door. “Come on in!”

Sam enters with a huge smile and before she knows it Alex can feel her own face mirroring it. “Hey, she’s alive!”

Sam sets her bag on the floor, pulling Ruby in for a hug. “How’d this time go?”

“A total disaster. I mean, what a nightmare of a kid you’ve raised,” Alex says, feeling comfortable enough to be sarcastic about it now after all of the times Sam has asked her the same question.

“Oh I know, she’s rough, right?” Sam responds exaggeratedly, running a hand through Ruby’s hair as she says it. Then, as if the action reminds her of something, she’s looking back up, her gaze flicking over Alex. “How’s the hair treating you?” 

“Oh,” Alex’s hand shoots up to scratch where it’s shortest at the nape of her neck. For some reason, her cheeks burn. “It’s actually been really great.”

Sam grins. “I told you.”

Alex nods, “Yeah, yeah… You did.”

“It’s cute. Let me know if you want me to trim it.”

“Of course,” Alex follows them towards the door, opening it for them. As they step out into the hallway she asks, “So, what are you guys doing with the rest of your night?”

“We’re making a quick run to the store. We gotta pick up some food for the week.” She shrugs, glowing with easy contentment. Ruby next to her looks excited with this prospect, unlike every other preteen Alex has ever met. 

Alex wonders what that’s like. To be excited to go to the store just because you’re with someone else. Even the times she’s gone to the store with Kara she’s been grumpy about it.

Alex nods. “You’re doing better than me then, my fridge is practically empty. I’m long overdue for a trip to the store.”

Sam thinks about this for a moment. “That can’t possibly be good for you.”

Alex shrugs. 

“Since you need food and we’re already going.... Do you want to go together? Save the gas?”

Ruby looks even more thrilled at this idea, her eyes lighting up with excitement as she looks expectantly up at Alex. 

“Smart idea.”

Now it’s Sam’s turn to shrug. “I try my best,” She says, with a slightly smug smile.

“Um,” Alex glances at Ruby one more time then back at Sam. The idea doesn’t seem so bad after all. It makes going to the store sound less dreadful. “Yeah, I guess we can do that. Just let me get my keys.”

“YES!” Ruby shouts from the hallway as Alex steps back inside to grab her things.


 

The grocery store is busy. With the time hitting just after six as they arrive, everyone who’s just gotten off work and needs to do some shopping is there.

Alex doesn’t really mind the crowds though, for some reason, this grocery trip really isn’t so bad. Despite the normally monotonous activity that she would normally avoid, Alex enjoys herself. Sam, somehow, finds a way to make it fun

She’s been sending Ruby off on her own quests to grab specific items the entire time they’ve been there, and Alex is starting to find it amusing how fast Ruby is trying to get all of the items off the small lists Sam keeps giving her.

With the way Sam is smiling and glancing back over at her as Ruby dashes away, Alex is starting to think this isn’t how her daughter normally does it, and that it's more Ruby showing off than anything else. Nevertheless, Alex thinks it’s cute and obviously, if the fond little smile on Sam’s face is any indication, she does too.

Alex has long since gotten what she needs, the chips and the wine for game night, and now she’s just waiting on Sam and Ruby to be done, but she doesn’t mind. It’s nice to see Sam doing something that isn’t directly work or overly parent related.

“I heard about where you went tonight,” Alex says, leaning against the handle of the cart as she pushes it alongside Sam, watching as she looks back and forth between the list on her phone and the shelves. “Glad to see you survived.”

“Ruby told you, huh?”

“Yep.”

“Snitch,” Sam laughs. “I would’ve told you, but I didn’t think you’d want me going off onto another rant about how awful other moms can be.”

“I don’t mind,” Alex smiles, leaning her cheek against her hand. “Rant all you want.”

“I won’t get too into the details, but I will say that I did make a friend.”

Alex raises an eyebrow. “Oh? You like one of the PTA moms? How uncharacteristic of you.”

“She isn’t a mom.”

“That explains it then.”

Sam rolls her eyes, but looks back at Alex with fond eyes, “She’s an aunt, somehow got dragged into it by her sister, but that’s fine because it’s nice to maybe have friend that I don’t work with.”

Alex grins. “How is Lena doing, by the way?”

“Lena’s off the grid,” Sam laughs. “But she’s probably just engulfed in work. I just texted our secretary-”

“You share a secretary?”

“Jess is very good at her job,” Sam supplies, simply. “And she says she’ll try and snap Lena out of it.”

“Should I be concerned? Looking out for a missing persons report on a Jess the Secretary?”

Sam laughs, loud and uncontrolled, in the middle of the aisle. An elderly couple on the other end give them a harsh look. 

“Sorry,” Sam quickly says, before turning back to Alex and shaking her head. “Trust me, if you should be worried about anybody it’s Lena. Jess can be… Persuasive.”

They stare at each other for a moment before Alex stops, straightening up to look Sam in the eye better. “What does that mean?”

“Well, she’s not exactly intimidating… But she’s good at getting things done. She’s honestly probably one of the only reasons Lena is even still alive. I mean, I’m a workaholic, but Lena… Well, let’s just say she’s a more severe case than I am.”

“Then it’s good she brought you in to take on some of her workload, right? The first step to recovery is admitting your problem and all that?”

Sam gives her a quizzical look. “Did you just quote the twelve step program at me?”

“Step two is accepting God,” Alex deadpans.

“Lena is nowhere close to doing that.”

Alex snorts, prompting another dirty look from the couple. She glances over to look at them before bringing her eyes back to Sam. “Do you think we should move before they decide to form an angry mob and chase us away?”

“Wherever will they find the pitchforks?” Sam chuckles again, but starts to walk, leading Alex into a different aisle. There’s another woman at the end of this one, but she seems decidedly less aggressive. 

Alex leans against the cart by her elbows, watching as Sam searches for what she’s looking for. Leaning back to look at everything fully, she catches her lip between her teeth in concentration before squatting to look lower.

Alex must drift off, because all of the sudden Ruby is at her side and she jumps in surprise. She clears her throat, “Hey, Rubes.”

“Hey! I’ve got the stuff!” Then a stack of things is being dumped into the cart, among them a box of waffles and what Alex thinks might be Lucky Charms. 

“Do you just eat the marshmallows out of those or do you eat the other stuff too?”

“You sound like my mom.”

Sam laughs and they both look over at her, not realizing she’d been listening to them. “She makes a good one.”

“Learning from the best,” Alex responds.

Sam blushes, but rolls her eyes, “You flatter me, really.” She places whatever it was she’d just been trying to find into the cart along with all of Ruby’s junk food. Then she rattles off another list to Ruby, which prompts a salute before she’s off again. 

They both watch her go and Alex nudges Sam. “You really are doing a good job. She’s a great kid.”

“So you’ve said,” Sam murmurs, nudging back. 

Alex starts to respond when a third voice cuts in.

“You two are so cute.”

Sam and Alex glance over at the same time, finding the woman across from them looking back.

“Huh?” Alex asks, confusion twisting her features.

“You make a really good family, is all.”

Sam straightens up, shifting on her feet as her eyes narrow, first staring for a long moment at the woman before directing her gaze back at Alex as if to ask ‘do you know what she’s talking about?’

Alex shrugs as a response, because she really has no idea.

“How long have you two been together?” The implications don't even have time to set in before the woman is continuing with, “Are you married?”

Shock radiates through Alex, shaking her deep. It’s a confusing rush of feelings for her. The reminder of marriage stirs up things she’d rather not think about, but her mistakenly being perceived as actually being one of Ruby’s parents brings a mix of pride and happiness. Then there’s the issue of Sam.

She glances over and finds the woman in question with wide eyes, blinking rapidly. Alex assumes she probably doesn’t look much different. She clears her throat, hoping to bring Sam back to reality. 

It works because Sam starts to laugh. “No. No we’re… Not-”

Alex joins in. “Yeah, we-” 

“Oh! I’m so sorry.” The woman seems just as lost for words as they are. “You just… You two seem so-”

“Um. No, sorry to disappoint.” Sam says, having seemingly recovered if the amusement in her voice is anything to go by. “We’re just close friends.”

“For how long?”

Alex doesn’t know why this conversation is still happening, something about it has her stomach feeling weird and she’d rather just be past it already.

“We’ve known each other, what? Four months?” Sam looks to Alex for an answer. 

“Uh… yeah. That sounds right.”

Wow. You two are very comfortable with each other then. You seem like you’ve known each other for years.” There’s still something that sounds oddly knowing in the woman’s voice, and it makes Alex feel off balance.

Sam smiles. “Alex is easy to get along with.”

Alex forces herself to make some sort of expression that isn’t confusion and she hopes passes at least remotely as happiness.

“Well, your daughter is very cute.”

Sam grins, “Thank you.”

“I’ll let you two go. I’m sorry for the confusion,” the woman leaves them with a final look their way, and Alex thinks she doesn’t seem very sorry.


 

“So…” Alex starts as Sam begins placing her items on the conveyor belt, “What’s up with all the baking supplies?”

Sam glances up long enough to give Alex a look. “Ruby has a Christmas recital coming up, and I’ve been placed on cookie duty.”

“The other moms turning on you? Forcing you to do all the cooking?”

“Actually… I volunteered.”

“Wow. How big of you.”

Sam laughs. “Yes, well… I like doing things to help Ruby… And I don’t really mind baking, although it does take up a lot of time.”

“I could help you,” Alex says without thinking.

Sam tilts her head, smug look forming on her face. “I thought you said you were awful at baking.”

“Oh,” Alex rubs a hand against the back of her neck sheepishly. “Well, I am… But I figure I could at least try to help.”

Sam raises her eyebrows, nodding slightly as she stares at Alex. “That sounds good. Come over on Saturday morning? You don’t have work that day, right?”

“Uh… No, I don’t.”

“Good,” Sam smiles. “Sounds like fun.”


 

 

“It’s called denial, Sam,” Lena sing songs after Sam’s recounted the grocery store incident to her, laughing the entire time.

“For the thousandth time, I don’t like Alex,” Sam counters, pouring them both a glass of wine.

“All I’m saying,” Lena says, lounging back in Sam’s desk chair, “Is that she’s very attractive and I think that you’ve noticed.” 

“And? I’m not allowed to have good looking friends?” Sam hands one of the drinks over to Lena. She takes a sip, keeping her eyes fixed on Sam in a way she can only describe as knowing.

No, you are, obviously,” Lena motions to herself, prompting what must be Sam’s tenth eye roll in the past half hour, “You just aren’t allowed to appreciate it as much as you do with her.”

Sam shakes her head, wondering when exactly Lena’s going to let this whole thing go. The frequency of the jokes has died down a lot from when she and Alex had first become friends, but Lena still remembers to bring it up whenever she hears Alex’s name. “I was telling you the story because it’s ridiculous. Not because I wanted you to use it to act like we’re meant to be.

Lena sighs, and shakes her head. “What’s ridiculous is how oblivious you are.”

“Lena, I’m not-”

“Yes, and she just volunteered to come over and do something sickeningly domestic with you because you’re friends.”

Sam puts her hands on her hips and sighs, shaking her head before wandering over to the couch and dropping down on it.

“Look,” Lena says, getting up from the desk, “Normally I wouldn't push, but I think you need someone to knock some sense into you.”

Sam looks up at her as she approaches, hoping the look she’s giving her will be enough to stop the conversation. Of course, because it’s Lena, it’s not.

“Sam. You’re one of the best people I’ve ever met, you deserve to have someone sweep you off your feet.”

“I don’t have time for a love life.”

Yes, you do. Actually, I think a love life would help you. You’d have someone to come home to and someone to help with Ruby… Not to mention you’d be more relaxed with someone to-”

“Okay! I get the idea,” Sam cuts her off. 

Lena sighs, staring at her friend. Slowly, she crosses the space between them, sitting down beside her gently on the couch. “You take on so much by yourself. I think it would be good for someone to take care of you for once.”

Sam takes a deep breath. “I know,” she says, and she does. She’s known for a long time that she could use the help, that deep down, she’s lonely. 

“It’s been twelve years… You never had a steady relationship before that either, Sam. All these failed dates and chances you’ve given up on… I think you’re just scared of finding someone who might genuinely want to spend the rest of their life with you.”

“You’re still here.”

Lena gives her a look. “Keep saying things like that and I’ll think you’re in love with me.”

Sam rolls her eyes and turns to look at her more fully. “I’m just saying, you’re my best friend.”

“You know… Calling me your friend when we’ve slept together just makes my points about Alex stronger-”

Sam shoves her a little, prompting another laugh. 

“It’s true!”

Sam shakes her head. 

“Look, Sam…” Lena places her hand over Sam’s, “You’re my best friend too… I just want the best for you.”

“I know you do.”

Lena takes a deep breath, and then smiles at her with watery eyes. “I want you to be happy. Promise me you’ll try to get back out there, yeah?”

Sam can’t say no to her, not when she’s being so earnest. Not when she’s so close to tears. “Yeah… I will, Lena. I’ll try.”

“Okay, that’s good,” Lena nods, wiping her own eyes. 

“But… I’m not looking for anything serious. Ruby and the company come first.”

“Of course. Just go on a few dates and I can pretend I’ve done my duty as a friend… Plus, you never know, you might find someone serious when you least expect it.”

Sam rolls her eyes again, “Yeah, maybe.”

Lena nods and squeezes her hand, “I’ll be glad to see you trying, even if it’s not with Alex.”

Sam laughs and leans into her.


 

The baking somehow manages to go even worse than expected.

Sam measures all the ingredients out and hands them off to Alex who stirs each of them into the batters, triple checking it's the correct bowl before pouring anything in. So the mixing portion of it goes over smoothly, much better than if Alex had done it alone, as she always has a tendency to use too much flour or one too many eggs or something.

The problem starts when it gets to the actual baking portion. The oven shouldn't be the problem. It's easy enough to just check it every few minutes. Alex has never had a problem with checking the oven. In fact, it’s one of the few things about baking she actually can manage. 

Despite that, somehow, they get distracted.

The second the sheet with the cookies goes into the oven, they’re wandering into the living room, conversation flowing between them as they switch into a more relaxed state.

Alex is in the middle of talking when her eyes catch on something in the corner of the room. “You have a record player?”

“Lena got it for me as a late birthday present a few years after we met.”

“Late?” Alex asks, walking over to get a better look at it.

“Well… Three years into the friendship she realized we’d never celebrated my birthday… That I’d never even told her my birthday… And when she demanded that we do something I told her it didn't have to be a big fuss. After she insisted, I told her that she knows me well enough to get me something that I can actually use… So,” Sam gestures towards the tiny table. 

Alex looks back at the player and the stand, records stacked up in the shelf beneath the table top. She squats down to take a look at what albums Sam has.

“I told her it was too much, too expensive-”

“But Lena wouldn't hear it?”

Same laughs. “How did you-”

“You talk enough about her as your friend and complain about her as your boss that I think I've gathered a fair grasp of her spending habits.”

Alex hears Sam set her wineglass down on the coffee table behind her, followed by the shift of feet, indicating Sam’s movement back towards the kitchen.

“Don't judge me,” Alex can hear Sam’s smile, knows the exact way her lips are curling as she says it, “That's the good portion of my music taste.”

Alex glances back at her. “What's the bad half?”

Sam looks sheepish. “Late 90s, early 2000s pop, usually sung by women, or something cheesy and acoustic… Occasionally One Direction, but that's more circumstantial than anything else.”

Alex isn't quite sure she believes the last detail, but the summary leaves her smiling as she returns her focus back to the albums in her hands.

“Honestly, I don't know most of these.”

“That’s probably because they’re all old.”

“Yeah, I can tell,” Alex murmurs, flipping them gingerly in her hands, careful not to damage the flaking covers.

“My mom… She used to play stuff like this around the house on days where there was nothing to do.”

Alex pauses. She’s never heard Sam talk about her mom before.

Sam must notice her hesitation, because she starts talking again. “They don’t really remind me of her, but… More of the house and being a kid… And warm summer days. Others remind me of Ruby and I’s first apartment. I bought some CDs at a thrift store right after I got my first apartment, a lot of them were same albums my mom had. I guess it just kind of grew from there.”

Alex stares at her for a few moments. Watches Sam’s slight movements, how she’s leaned back against the wall to the kitchen, her arms crossed as she stares down at Alex, looking calm and amused. Suddenly, Alex gets an idea. 

“Do you mind if I-” She points to the record player, raising her brows in question.

“Oh, uh,” Sam blinks, but smiles, like she hadn’t quite been expecting this. “Sure, yeah, if you want.”

“Any recommendations?”

“Um… Yeah, actually,” Sam says, squatting down beside her to flick through the records, “This one.”

Alex runs her hand over the faded cover. “The Foundations,” She reads aloud, “Why this one?”

Sam smiles, “It’s one of my favorites.”

Alex hands it back to her, “Best song?”

“All of them, but-” She stands, carefully removing the sleeve, “This one,” She murmurs, carefully setting the record into the player and then placing the needle on top, perfectly into the grooves, like she’s started this record at this song before, “Is especially good.”

The first few sounds to come bumping out of the speakers is a muted drum, accompanied by what sounds like a bongo and then the sound kicks in with piano, followed by trumpets. It’s a combination that can only be described as lively

“Why do you build me up, Buttercup, baby,” The singer starts, tying the cheerful energy of the song up in the bright, sweet language. “Just to let me down and mess me around.”

Of course this is what Sam likes to listen to.

Alex can’t help but smile at it.

Then, beside her, Sam starts to move, voice picking up with the next lyric, effortlessly singing along. “And then worst of all you never call, baby,” Sam’s voice doesn’t overpower the sound of the record player, but Alex can still catch pieces of it, how despite the fact that the singing seems to be more of a joke to her, she’s actually good at it.

Sam gets to the center of her living room, her slight sway turning into full dancing. She’s not great and she’s not awful, but it’s cute and she’s smiling. Smiling like Alex isn’t quite sure she’s ever seen her smile; like she’s completely unbothered.

Alex doesn’t even realize she’s staring until Sam is suddenly back up close to her again, hands wrapping around her own to pull her in to dance along with her.

“When you say you will but I love you still.”

Alex has no idea what to do. She has cordiatation, sure, but years of fight training at the police academy isn’t the same as dancing. Lucky for her, Sam must sense her struggle.

“Follow my lead,” She says.

“I need you more than anyone, darlin', You know that I have from the start. So build me up, Buttercup, don't break my heart.

The hands in Alex’s start to move, leading her arms, pushing one back as she pulls the other forward. 

‘I'll be over at ten’, you told me time and again, but you're late. I wait around and then I went to the door, I can't take any more, it's not you, you let me down again.

As Alex starts to get used to the movement, Sam adds in a step that brings their bodies closer together each time they alternate arms. Alex has to focus on her feet, but she finds she’s not really that concerned with getting the steps perfect, just not falling and hopefully keeping Sam smiling like that.

Baby, baby, try to find, a little time and I'll make you happy.”

Then, Sam must decide that they need to switch it up, because then she’s letting go of one of Alex’s hands before twirling herself under Alex’s arm with ease, ducking to acomodate their height difference. “You try!”

“I'll be home, I'll be beside the phone waiting for you.

Alex does and she ends up with her back against Sam’s front before she’s spinning her out to an arm’s distance.

Why do you build me up Buttercup, baby, just to let me down and mess me around,” Sam sings, practically yelling the words. This time Alex can hear her voice more clearly, the lightness of it, the slight rasp lingering at the edges. “And then worst of all you never call, baby, when you say you will. But I love you still,” Sam pulls her in again.

This time, Alex initiates the spin out, easily picking up Sam’s own movements to repeat what her friend had just done to her. 

As the second chorus continues, Alex and Sam nearly stumble a few times, laughing too hard at one another to really keep their balance. 

The singer’s intensity grows over another verse and towards the end, Sam matches it, shouting, “I'm attracted to you all the more, why do I need you so?” into the air, before tugging Alex to face her just in time for the last chorus.

Why do you build me up Buttercup, baby, just to let me down and mess me around.

Alex makes her best attempt to join in with Sam’s joyous rendition of the words. Alex isn’t a bad singer, but she barely knows the words, actually, really only knows the main part of the chorus with a shaky memory of the first two, so her singing is a lot more unsure than Sam’s, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

And then worst of all you never call, baby, when you say you will but I love you still.

Then, Sam’s hands are lacing through hers again before she’s guiding Alex to jump alongside her. Now they’re really bumping into each other, but Alex feels free. Almost like she’s a kid again.

It makes her yell a little louder, fear of messing up the words flying out the window.

I need you more than anyone, darlin', you know that I have from the start. So build me up, Buttercup, don't break my heart.

Alex flops back onto the couch as the song fades out, her cheeks hurting with the force of her grin.

Sam seems to be in a similar boat, hand on her stomach, as though she’s gotten a stitch from the laughter. As she calms down she puts her hands on her hips, trying to catch her breath. Her smile never leaves her face.

The silence stretches on for a few more moments, interrupted only by their quiet hums of residual laughter and the next song on the album kicking up.

Then Sam’s face changes to something slightly confused. “Alex?” She questions, staring down at her.

Alex forces herself to bring her attention back to the moment at hand. “Yeah?” 

“Do you smell that?” 

Alex lifts her head, stilling for a moment to process her surroundings.

“Is that- Shit,” She curses to herself.

Then Sam is separating from her and rushing into the kitchen.

Alex follows after and gets there just in time to see Sam pulling the cookie sheet out of the oven, waving at the beginnings of a smoke cloud. They’re not nearly as bad as they could be, thankfully, but Alex rushes forward to help her fan them anyway.

Then Sam collects her oven mitts from the counter and from the inside of the oven produces the remnants of their labor.

The tray gets placed on the stove top for their observation.

The two stare down at the scalded sheet of cookies.

“Wow,” Sam says, tossing her gloves back down and crossing her arms. “I’m normally good at watching things while they bake. I haven’t burned anything in years.”

Alex can hear that, even now, the woman next to her is still smiling.

“I guess you make a pretty good distraction.” 

When Alex turns to look at Sam, her meets her eyes and the two burst into laughter.

Then Sam bumps Alex’s hip with her own, “Come on, we’ll start another batch.”

She moves away to reassemble their supplies while Alex shakes off the burn in her cheeks.  

The record is still playing in the living room, the sound of the next song radiating throughout the house, making her feel warm, at home

Any old time baby that you're feelin' down just you hold tight baby, I'll be around. I won't break your heart or even try to take your heart, if you're feelin bad, any old time you're lonely and sad.

Alex thinks she gets why Sam likes the music she does.

She wonders if maybe she should try to listen to some more albums, so Sam can talk about it more, and get that excited look in her eyes again. 

She starts to make a mental note to take some pictures of the other albums Sam has for future reference when her thoughts are interrupted. A sudden white cloud appears around her, clouding her vision. She coughs, fanning it away. For a moment, she's completely lost as to what’s just happened, but then she glances down at her arms and finds them caked evenly with flour. She glances over to find Sam with a hand, also covered in flour, over her mouth, barely holding back her amusement.

“You’ve got…” Sam makes a motion towards the spot below her nose, voice shaking a little with humor. 

Alex shakes her head, powder shaking loose from her hair as she repeats the motion Sam had made, attempting to wipe the ingredient from her face.

“Wow Alex, I didn't know you could be a cop with a drug problem.”

Alex processes the reference and rolls her eyes. “Really? That’s what you’re going with?”

Sam laughs, pinching more flour up off the table to toss it Alex’s way.

Alex stares at her for a moment, maintaining eye contact while her hand sneakily closes around an egg. She then cracks it quickly against Sam’s forehead.

“Oops?”

“Oh, now you asked for it,” Sam retorts before picking up a stick of butter and pressing it into Alex’s cheek.

Then it’s a free for all, and Sam is definitely going to need to make another store run.

Later, when Alex leaves the apartment, she’s still covered in what should be cookies and a smile that is apparent in every atom of her being.


 

The next few days roll by quickly.

Before Sam knows it, she’s standing in her office on the night of the holiday pageant, doing her best to urge Lena to stop for once so they can get there early.

Once Lena does put a pause on her work, she has to touch up her makeup, pull on her shoes, make sure she has everything in her purse. Sam knows Lena is purposely dragging the process out to torture her, because  she usually does this in half the time.

“Come on, Lena, we have to go.” She’s normally very patient, but now, it’s wearing thin and she’s waiting by the front door of their shared office, prepared to leave her friend behind.

“What’s the rush?” Lena asks, finally pulling on her second heel before standing, innocent smile on her face as she approaches Sam. “The recital doesn’t start for another hour.”

“Exactly,” Sam responds, pushing back against the door and stepping out, still sure to hold the door open for Lena, despite the grievance. 

“I understand wanting to get good seats but-”

“We’re meeting someone there and I don’t want them to wait,” Sam cuts her off and starts walking again, getting a head start.

Lena raises a brow as she follows her. “I thought Jack was out of town…”

Sam sighs as she steps into the elevator. “He is.”

And…” Lena smirks, already knowing exactly where this is going.

“We’re meeting Alex-”

“Oh, of course we are-”

“- and her sister there.”

“Could you two be any more married-”

“I thought we agreed to let this go-”

“Wait. Her sister is coming?” Lena’s smile grows at the prospect.

“Can you please behave,” Sam rolls her eyes as the elevator sides open. When she steps out, she leaves Lena slightly behind due to their high difference. 

“I’m just saying-”

“Lena-”

“It’s a little odd to invite a friend to your daughter’s school event-”

“You’re my friend and you’re going?”

“Yes, but I’m Ruby’s godmother.”

“Ruby wanted Alex to be there,” Sam reasons, pushing the front door open, walking out into the cold to meet their driver out front. 

“That says something too, doesn’t it?”

Sam sighs again, running a hand through her hair before turning to face her friend. “Again, there’s nothing going on between Alex and I.”

Lena is still smiling as she says, “You’re fun to tease.” Then she passes Sam by and gets into the car waiting for them.

Sam stands in her spot a moment longer, freezing air nipping at her skin as she tries not to overthink how that response doesn’t mean that Lena believes her.


 

Alex feels a little weird just walking into the school without knowing anyone, so instead, she makes Kara wait with her outside. There are a few parents and grandparents slowly making their way into the building behind them.

They’re here far too early, Alex knows, but she doesn’t want to miss this. Not when it’s Ruby’s thing. She wants to be there for her.

Kara doesn’t seem bothered by it though. She’s talking excitedly about the fact that it’s transitioned into winter and all the things that come with that, even delving into some of their memories from holidays as a kid. 

Alex just smiles to herself, hands shoved in her pockets, taking in Kara’s ramblings as the sun begins to set, despite the early hour.

There’s a chill in the air, it feels like it might rain, or even snow.

Finally, a black car pulls up to the curb just a few feet away. Alex focuses on it right as one of the back set of doors both open. Distantly, Alex registers Lena’s presence on the other side of the vehicle, but her focus remains on Sam.

She steps out of the car, just one foot first, heel steady of the ground, before the rest of her body appears, hair whipping around her face slightly in the wind. She runs a hand through it, trying to tame it, keep it from her eyes. Then she’s reaching back into the car and pulling out two tupperware containers.

“Lena, will you grab the other- Thank you.”

Then Sam is leaning back down to look back inside the car, Alex hears something like, “Thank you, Hector. We’ll be done around nine,” before she’s shutting the door and turning to look at Alex and Kara.

A smile finds her lips as she approaches, Lena close behind. 


 

The second Lena is by Sam’s side again, just seconds before they’ll be face to face with Alex and Kara, she breathes, “Her hair…” 

Sam scowls slightly, trying not to acknowledge her friends antics any more than she has to.

“I wouldn’t mind if she used her cuffs on me-”

Apparently Sam does have to. “Lena. Behave,” She reminds. 

Kara’s been standing sort of behind Alex, just due to the way they’d been standing before they car had pulled up, but then she moves to greet them, standing instead next to her sister.

“Wow,” Sam hears Lena say and normally she’d roll her eyes, but there’s a change in Lena’s tone from just seconds earlier, one that’s more sincere, that she recognizes back from when Lena’d been dating Veronica.

“Alex, hi,” Sam greets, immediately placing her hands on Alex’s shoulders to pull her in for a hug. She presses herself close, lets Alex’s presence calm her erratic heartbeat, instantly feeling less worried about the event ahead. “Alex, you remember Lena.”

“How could I forget,” She responds with a laugh. Sam smiles at it, loves how Alex has already grown accustomed to her best friend, despite their previous encounters being somewhat awkward.

“Hello, Alex,” Lena says properly, eyes still fixed where Kara stands. To Sam’s surprise, Kara herself seems to be blushing slightly.

She flicks her eyes back and forth between them a few times before glancing back at Alex, who seems to be noticing the same phenomenon.

Sam clears her throat, “Lena, this is Alex’s sister, Kara.”

“Hi,” Kara thrusts her hand out excitedly, adjusting her glasses against the bridge of her nose. “I’m the sister… uh, Kara, I mean.”

“Lena,” She introduces, shaking Kara’s hand gently. It’s… Shyer than Sam may have expected.

Sam finds the intimacy of the moment jarring, how Lena has been rendered a form of speechless. 

She clears her throat. As much as she wants Lena to be happy, it feels weird to experience with Alex right next to her.

“Uh,” Alex starts, also bringing attention back to the moment, “Where’s Ruby?”

“I brought her around earlier. She had to get ready and for a pre rehearsal.”

“Oh!” Alex remarks, “So we can just… Go to our seats?”

“Yes, but I do still have to drop these cookies off to the parents in charge of the food.”

“Oh! If you want I can carry some for you?” Alex volunteers, already reaching for the second box in Sam’s hands. 

“That would be-”

“How kind of you Alex,” Lena remarks, putting the tupperware she had been carrying on top of the one Alex has just grabbed. “While you two do that Kara and I can go save seats, won’t we Kara?”

Sam feels a surge of annoyance as her friend shoots her a look right before looping her arm through Kara’s and guiding her away. There’s the Lena she knows, but even then, as they walk away, Sam can see the difference in Lena’s body language, the slightly nervous waving of her free hand, how she’s leaned in close to talk quietly to the younger Danvers.

“Sorry about that,” Sam murmurs, but there’s something like hope for Lena building in her chest. As much as Lena wants her to get back out there, Sam wants just the same if not more for her.

Alex doesn’t seem to mind though, actually seems amused my it.

They make their way into the auditorium lobby where a group of parents have already begun setting up. All Sam has to do is drop her stuff off and they’ll set it up so she can be on her way before-

Nancy rounds the corner and when her eyes catch on Sam they narrow. “You’re late.”

“The show hasn’t started yet has it?” Sam responds. Next to her, Alex barely holds back a snort.

Nancy scowls before grabbing one of the containers of cookies out of Sam’s hands. Sam stiffens, knowing whatever Nancy ends up saying now is what everyone else will believe, good or not. “These better be edible because I will not allow this event to be a disaster-” Just as Nancy is popping the lid off, Julia appears on the opposite side of the table. 

She and Sam make eye contact and there’s an intense moment of relief that follows as Julia is lunging forward and one of the cookies into her mouth before Nancy can. She chews for just a moment before her eyes widen. She hums her approval. “These are amazing, Sam. Guys,” She waves over a few of the other moms, “You’ve got to try these.” She winks at Sam as the other women go to grab them.

“Wow! Sam where did you learn to make these?” Another mom asks.

“Oh it’s nothing,” Sam looks over her shoulder at Alex, “Special recipe.”

“You’ve got a gift. You should try making some for the next bakesale! I think they’d be a hit!” 

Sam nods and smiles, pride welling in her chest as Nancy’s frown deepens. For once she’s won.

“Well, if you are all done slacking,” Nancy hisses, shoving the container into someone else’s hands, “Then maybe you should finish setting up!” Then she turns on her heel and storms off, heels clicking loud on the linoleum.

After a moment of tense awkward silence, the group of mom’s begins to disperse, going back to their jobs.

“Jeez,” Julia mumbles, “She needs to learn to unclench.”

“No kidding.”

This time Alex doesn’t stop herself from laughing.

“They actually are really good cookies,” Julia compliments.

“Yeah, well… I had a pretty good assistant,” Sam grins, turning her gaze over at Alex, who rolls her eyes.

“I was awful, but still Sam managed to make the best of a bad situation.”

“You’re a great situation,” Sam compliments, once again bumping her hip into Alex’s side. Alex turns her gaze down to the ground, fighting a smile.

Julia’s gaze flicks between the two of them. Finally, she clears her throat. “Well, either way. You two did a great job.”

“Oh! Alex, this is my friend Julia, the one I was telling you about at the store.”

“Ah,” Alex nods, holding out her hand in greeting.
“Julia, this is my good friend Alex.”

There’s a pause, Julia stares just a moment too long before shaking her hand, “Nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

Then the lights flash throughout the foyer, signaling the show is going to start soon. 

Sam grabs Alex’s hand. “Well, we better get going, we have to find our friends.”

“Yeah, of course,” Julia nods, smiling now. “I’ll talk to you later Sam.”

Alex says another quick, “Nice meeting you,” Before allowing Sam to drag her into the auditorium. 

Pretty close to the front, the two of them spot Lena waving them over, Kara is just a bit behind her, waiting for the other two. When Sam and Alex get there, Lena immediately begins moving them to sit down, ushering Sam in first and following behind. Alex starts to object, but then Kara sits down beside Lena and looks up at her, like she wants to sit next to Alex too. Without a word, Alex takes her seat, not wanting to force anyone to move at this point.

Sam leans forward to look over their friends at Alex, she shrugs slightly, as if this hadn’t been her plan for a sitting arrangement either.

Then the house lights are dimming and Principal Coburn is taking the stage to introduce the show, so Sam sits back, immediately wanting to take in the whole ordeal.

There are a few dance numbers and shaky songs by groups and different grades, all different famous holiday songs. All the kids seem to be having a good time, so it makes all of the performances better than they really are. Alex can’t help but glance at SAm a few times over Kara and Lena, wanting to gage her reactions along the way. She never stops smiling, which makes the same true for Alex as well.

Then, finally, it’s Ruby’s solo.

Sam immediately pulls out her phone, wanting to catch every moment of it on film.

Ruby’s voice is beautiful and she seems perfectly calm, even in front of an audience. 

Sam is clearly so proud, tears brimming in her eyes as her daughter perfectly executes her performance. Alex realizes that she’d also been close to tears when Ruby had finished, taking a bow before exiting of stage. 

Directly following that is the finale, which the four of them sit through antsily, all wanting to get to Ruby as quickly as possible to congratulate her.

The second the house lights come up all four of them are on their feet, trying to make their way into the foyer to meet Ruby. They make their way through the crowd quickly and once they get there all of their eyes are roaming rapidly, trying to find her.

“MOM!” Her voice echoes through the crowd.

Sam spins around just in time to scoop her up into her arms.

“Sweetie, that was amazing,” Sam praises, hugging her daughter tight. “I knew you could do it.”

“And you were so calm too, that takes serious guts,” Alex says, placing her hand on Ruby’s shoulder. 

“Alex!” Ruby says, separating from Sam to hug her second.

“You were great, Ruby.”

She hugs Alex tighter. 

“When you’re famous in ten years I better be invited to all the after parties,” Alex jokes, making Sam laugh.

“But not before your aunt Lena, right?” Lena questions, appearing at their side.

“Of course not,” She laughs, moving forward to hug Lena too.


 

The five of them walk out together, hands shoved into their pockets as the cold night air swirls around them. They’re preparing to say goodbye for the night, as both Alex and Sam have to drop Kara and Lena off respectively at their own homes.

They’ve already congratulated Ruby as many times as possible before they’d surely prompt teenage annoyance and they’ve all hugged each other goodbye, so now it’s just a matter of driving off.

Which is why it surprises Alex when Kara is whipping around and shouting, “Do you want to come to our Christmas party?” across the parking lot. “It’s on Christmas Eve,” She explains, “And I know that can be kinda hard to make but you’re all welcome and you can invite whoever-”

Alex can tell she just really wants Lena to go. She puts her hand on her sisters arm, attempting to calm her down.

Ruby gasps. “Mom, can we?

Sam stops, thinking about it for a moment. “I don’t have anything going on.”

“Neither do I,” Lena says, smiling ear to ear.

“And Jack is still going to be out of town on Christmas Eve…”

“We’ll be there!” Lena decides, for all of them.

“WHOOP!” Ruby shouts, swinging herself into the car.

Sam rolls her eyes. “You might regret inviting her after a few glasses of wine,” she laughs, pointing over at her friend before moving to get into the car herself.

“Alright! See you then!” Kara shouts back excitedly.

Alex watches as Lena stays out of the car a few more moments, staring at Kara before finally departing with a soft little wave. 

They watch them go for a moment, before finally Alex hits the roof, signalling for her sister to get in.

“Hey, Alex?” Kara starts when Alex shuts her car door.

“Yeah?” Alex glances up from buckling her seatbelt.

“I’m sorry.”

“What? Why?”

“I invited Sam and Lena to the party without asking you-”

“Kara-”

“- It’s just, Lena is really nice and pretty-” 

“Kara-”

“- And you and Sam are so close-”

“Kara!”

Her sister finally stops, wide eyes turning back to look at her.

Alex laughs, “I think it’s great?”

“Oh… I just thought…” Kara trails off.

“What?”

“It’s just… It’s your first Christmas without Maggie. I thought maybe you might not want people you haven’t known very long to be there.”

“Oh,” Alex smiles at her sister’s consideration, “Honestly, Kara? I hadn’t even thought about that.”

Kara stares at her for a moment. “Really?”

Alex shrugs. 

“That’s great, Alex,” She says, but her expression is suspicious. Her eyes have a look in them that read just like her reporter face, when she’s about to tie all of her leads together into an answer. 

Alex clears her throat. “I think I’ll be fine.”


 

She’s just arrived home from a long days work, her body sore and tired, when a knock on the door comes. Alex fights off the urge to sigh, all she wants to really do is crawl into bed, but instead she’d walked in and noticed just how out of hand she’s allowed her dishes to get and- She dries her hands, setting the last dish on the counter and drying her hands before making her way over to the door. She jerks it open, expecting some delivery guy to have the wrong apartment-

“Hey,” Sam breathes, softly. She’s wearing a huge puffy jacket, the hood of it fuzzy with fake fur. With her hands tucked into her pockets Alex can still see the edges of her gloves.

Alex feels a weight lift from her shoulders, lips instantly quirking up.

“Hi,” Alex leans against the doorway, letting Sam’s presence help pull her from her work mindset, “Where you heading?”

“Actually, I was hoping you’d come with me.” Sam responds, a little nervously. 

Alex’s instant response is a grin. “Where are we heading?”

“Well, Ruby’s out at a friend’s and I wanted to surprise her with a tree when she gets home... But I can’t exactly haul one up and down these stairs on my own so…” Sam ducks her head, like she’s realized how ridiculous the request is.

All Alex can do is stare at her. It’s been so long since she’d last been on a lot to pick one out. She hasn’t had a Christmas tree in her own apartment ever, because there’d never been a reason when she always celebrated the holiday somewhere else. The last time Alex can remember being there for the process of picking one out was when Jeremiah was still alive. The thought is bittersweet, because while it brings back thoughts of him, they’re all good memories. Ones of her childhood, and those late nights when she and him had gone on their own, because he’d wanted to bond or something, always stating that she was who he trusted the most to help. Then, when they’d brought it home safe, they’d always decorated it as a family. For some reason, the idea of surprising Ruby with a tree makes her heart jump. “You wanted me to help you pick out a tree?”

“Yes… But if you’re busy I totally-”

“Just let me get my jacket.”


 

There’s snow on the ground. It’s actually more slush, lingering on the edges of the road, dirt and asphalt mingling in after a few hours of sitting... But still, it’s a part of winter and the sight of it now, late in the night, running an oh so familiar errand years later, makes Alex happy.

As they step out of the car and begin walking across the parking lot to reach the lot where the trees have been collected, Sam jogs to catch up with her, before knocking their shoulders together, just as she had when they’d taken Ruby trick or treating two months before.

Alex laughs down at her feet and tries not to focus on where their elbows are brushing through their jackets. 

There are only a few straggling buyers who are seemingly all preparing to leave, meaning the trees will be all theirs to browse. They’ll be able to take all the time they need.

One of the guys that obviously works there, with a hat on his head that has elf ears on them, acknowledges them with a nod. Sam and Alex both lift a hand in a wave before continuing on, leaning into one another.

There’s Christmas music playing over speakers they’ve placed at the end of each row of trees, making the space warm with nostalgia and memories, despite the weather. 

When they get to the point where the rows of trees begin, Alex turns to Sam. “You want to split up? Cover more ground?” 

Sam gives her a look, like she should know better. It’s teasing while remaining firm and it makes Alex feel something, fond maybe.

She wonders if Sam might become the best friend she’d never really had outside of Kara.

“Alex, honey,” Sam laughs, linking her arm through Alex’s and beginning to drag her forward, “Where is the fun in that?” 

Alex chuckles along, letting Sam lead her down the first line of trees.

“So,” she starts, “What are we looking for exactly?”

Sam exhales, glancing around. Alex realizes she can see both of their breaths in the cold night air and is grateful to her past self for having the foresight to bring a hoodie to put under her leather jacket.

“Honestly? Anything we can get up the stairs without breaking anything, so… Small.”

“I’m stronger than I look,” Alex responds.

“I’m not worried about you,” Sam reassures, “I was actually talking about the building more so than us. I’d rather not have to pay for the tree going through a window,” She jokes.

“Right,” Alex nods. “I think if we take our time we should be okay.”

Sam raises her eyebrows, “Whatever you say.”

“I used to do this with my dad every year when I was a kid,” Alex shares, without thinking. “I know what I’m doing, trust me.”

“I do,” Sam murmurs.

Alex turns to look at her, catching her eyes in the dim light. “What?”

“I’ve never heard you talk about your dad before,” Sam answers, staring at her.

Alex thinks about that for a second. She doesn’t really talk about him ever and then she realizes how little Sam talks about her family and how she’d mentioned her mother when they’d talked about records just a week earlier. Alex decides that it might not hurt to open up to her about it.

“He died when I was twenty.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Alex shakes her head. “He died doing what he cared about.”

“And what’s that?”

“Uh,” Alex clears her throat, she always feels awkward talking about this part, “He was a cop.”

Sam’s breath catches. “A cop?” 

“I know, I know…” Alex stops walking for a moment, taking in a deep breath, trying to push back the tears prickling behind her eyes. “Originally I was studying to be a doctor, but… When he died… I wanted to keep the legacy alive, you know? Save people. He was a good dad.” 

“He sounds like it,” Sam breathes, bringing her gaze back to her feet.

Alex’s heart aches for a moment when she thinks about how Sam had never had that relationship. 

Then Sam pulls her hand out of her pocket and grabs Alex’s, holding it tight. She smiles at her reassuringly.

Alex sighs, feeling the tension leave her body, “I just want him to be proud.”

“I’m sure he is,” Sam squeezes her hand. 

“Yeah,” Alex nods. She wonders if it’s true. 

Sam must sense her sadness, because then she’s resuming in pulling her along, slipping out from her quiet demeanor and instead going back to her gentle humor and soft smiles. 

“So, trees,” She emphasizes and Alex feels herself shift back into a smile, finding it easy to be happy around Sam.

“Right, trees.”

They continue walking, now paying more attention to their options. Most of the threes are far too big to fit on top of Sam’s SUV, let alone inside her apartment, or too scrawny and lopsided, or full of gaps and missing branches. Alex is looking for one that she knows will last, that will look how the Christmas trees of her childhood had. She wants to make sure Ruby loves it.

Alex is so focused that she barely notices the song change until Sam’s arm around hers tightens.

When the bells all ring and the horns all blow,”

“Ugh,” Sam groans, tilting her head up towards the sky with closed eyes, “I love this song.”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever heard it,” Alex chuckles, watching Sam take it in. 

And the couples we know are fondly kissing… Will I be with you or will I be among the missing?

Sam opens her eyes, focusing back on Alex with the slight curve of her lips. “But this is a classic. I thought everyone had heard every holiday song about a million times.”

“I thought I had too.”

Maybe it's much too early in the game, but I thought I'd ask you just the same: What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?

“You have been deprived of so much good music,” Sam shakes her head.

Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight, when it's exactly twelve o'clock that night. Welcoming in the New Year, New Year's Eve.”

Their shoes crunch against the loose gravel and half melted snow on the ground. There’s a calm in the air and it radiates through Alex, through the tension in her shoulders, down to her hands. Being in the moment, gentle music playing in the distance, the smell of pine all around her and Sam by her side, makes Alex forget about everything other than this moment.

Maybe I'm crazy to suppose I'd ever be the one you chose, out of the thousand invitations you received.”

The cold nipping at Alex nose and ears seems to go away as Sam starts to hum along, leaning a little heavier into Alex’s side as they continue down the row, appraising the trees easily.

Ah, but in case I stand one little chance, here comes the jackpot question in advance, what are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?”

They’re just reaching the end of their second row of three when the edge of Alex’s ear feels another small shock of cold. Alex brings her hand to it quickly, finding-

Sam lifting her hand into the air, allowing one of the falling pieces to land against her palm. “Look… More snow,” Sam murmurs.

Alex laughs, sees her breath turn to vapor in front of her. “We should try to get the tree quickly then, before we can’t drive it home.”

Sam makes a contented sound, leaning into Alex’s side. “Hey,” she picks her head back up, “What about this one?” She pulls Alex forward to a tree just a few feet further.

It’s barely taller than Sam, not too skinny and not too wide, with perfectly placed branches that make it appear well filled out.

“I think it works,” Alex turns to look at her, their faces close. For some reason, it doesn’t make Alex uncomfortable like it would with anybody else.

“Glad we’re in agreement,” Sam laughs, “Come on, lets get home.”


 

After about twenty minutes of struggle, they get the tree up the stairs, into the Arias apartment and situated onto a tree stand, putting it up in the corner of the living room.

It had gone smoother than anticipated, but Alex still lets out a sigh of relief. She puts her hands on her hips, admiring their handiwork. She is pretty sure she’s going to smell like pine trees for weeks, but it’s worth it because Sam lunges into her, arms wrapping around her middle. 

It’s still unexpected whenever Sam hugs her, but she’s Sam and her coat smells like Christmas and old memories and her hair like pomegranate shampoo. Plus, she’s warm and Alex’s whole body still feels numb from the cold outside, so she holds her back, nuzzling her face into the crook of her neck. 

“Thank you.”

Alex doesn’t respond, just wraps her arms a little tighter around Sam. 

Finally, Sam takes a deep breath and starts to pull away. It takes Alex an extra few moments to realize she needs to let go.

“I have something for you,” Sam murmurs, turning around to one of the boxes around them labeled ‘Christmas’ in Sam’s graceful, although slightly messy, handwriting. Then Sam turns back to her and they’re still so close that Alex has no idea what it is she’s grabbed, even as Sam presses it into her numb fingers.

“What’s this?” Alex glances down at the fuzzy object in her hands.

“It’s a stocking.”

She looks back up at Sam questioningly.

“Look, I know you’re not gonna decorate your own apartment and you’re over here enough that we should include you.”

“Oh… Uh…” Alex clears her throat, blinking back a sudden well of emotion. “Thank you.”

“Plus, Ruby loves having you around and I think she might try to move in with you if you aren’t included here, so… It’s in both of our best interests.”

Alex laughs.

“Come on,” Sam grabs Alex’s hand not holding the red and white sock and tugs her over to the spot beneath the TV where two stockings already hang, a little off center to provide room for another. There’s a third nail already hammered into the wall and Alex feels her heart ache as she slides the hook over it. 

The two move backwards together, standing back to stare at the completed decorations.

Their fingers are still interlocked, Sam’s forearm pressing against Alex’s. Despite Sam being a few inches taller, she leans over and places her head on Alex’s shoulder.

“Merry Christmas, Alex.”

“Merry Christmas, Sam.”

They pull back to smile at each other.

For a moment something is different. There’s a beat where the world seems to turn on its axis and Alex feels odd while looking up at Sam, the string lights of the tree making Sam shine even in the dark room and then-

There's a knock on the door.

Alex takes a deep breath, pulling her eyes away from Sam. 

“Ruby’s home.”

Alex clears her throat as Sam goes to let her daughter into the apartment. 

The second the door opens, Ruby’s eyes land on her. “Alex!” She shouts, running to hug her, nearly knocking her over with the force of it.

“Hey, kid,” Alex hums, unable to stop the spread of happiness through her bones.

Ruby does let her go, just keeps her arms wrapped around her middle a few more moments.

Alex catches Sam’s fond smile. She wishes she could hug her right now too.

Then Ruby does pull away. “You got a tree!” She cheers. 

“We sure did,” Sam moves forward to loop her arm around Ruby’s shoulders.

Ruby turns to Alex without hesitation. “Wanna help decorate?” 

Alex feels her heart melt a little at Ruby’s expression and she wants to, for her, but she can’t intrude on their family time. “It’s late, Ruby,” she reasons, backing up towards the door.

“But Alex-”

“I should be going-” Alex puts her hand on the knob. She needs to go back to her own apartment. Sam has to be wanting her out of here by now. She’s going to leave. This is family time. 

Just as Alex is about to turn the knob, take the final step towards forcing herself to go, Sam’s voice weights in.

It’s not Sam talking. It’s Sam singing. “But, baby, it's cold outside,” she croons, so softly Alex might’ve missed it had there been any more noise in the building.

Sam isn’t looking at her, she’s got her hands working through the tangled wires of the tree lights. There’s a moment where all Alex can do is stare at her.

Then their eyes meet and Sam’s smiles, warm and welcoming and- Alex takes her hand off the doorknob.

Alex clears her throat, turning back to Ruby. “Only if your mom doesn’t mind.”

Before Ruby can respond, Sam says, “I don’t,” and Alex is staying.


 

The Christmas party rolls around sooner than expected. 

Alex gets to Kara’s first to help with putting the finishing touches on everything. Then Winn shows up in a bright red Christmas sweater, carrying a six pack and a bottle of wine as well as a bag of presents. He gets there right before the party should start, so the three of them are just finishing up when-

The guests start arriving. First it’s James, then J’onn and his father M’yrnne. J’onn is Alex and Winn’s boss at the police department, so it’s slightly awkward (at least for Winn), but he’s been like a father to Alex and Kara after all these years without their dads. They ask about Eliza, and Kara explains that she couldn’t make it because of work. Alex and Kara have promised to Skype her in the morning, which makes them both feel better.

The last ones to show up are Sam, Ruby and Lena. 

Ruby bounds inside, already attaching herself to Alex’s side while Sam walks in looking exhausted, beside her Lena doesn’t look too much better. 

“We’re late, I know,” Sam says, brushing past her to move into the apartment. “I was out Christmas shopping and then we-” She gestures back towards Lena and then at herself, “Got pulled into a conference call where some very unpleasant men were yelling at me in German.”

“Thankfully Sam speaks the language. I would’ve been lost without her,” Lena remarks, following behind Sam.

It’s surprising to learn that Sam speaks German, but with the how frazzled both women seem right now, Alex doesn’t want to bombard them with questions about it.

“Sounds like you guys need to take a break, maybe have a drink or two,” Alex wraps her arm over Ruby’s shoulder, already leading her away to give Sam a minute to decompress. “Feel free to open the good stuff.”


 

The party goes perfectly. Despite the introduction of some unknown variables, everyone seems to take to each other well. All milling about and interacting, casual conversation flowing easily between all of them. Kara seems thrilled that everyone is getting along, but Alex isn’t surprised. Sam is an amazing person, of course she’d get along with all the people they already love, plus she’s charming beyond belief, so that has to work in her favor. Ruby is just… Ruby. It’s really hard not to care about her when she’s always got a bright smile and a smart comment ready to go. Lena is incredibly dynamic herself, easily winning over a crowd.

Although, out of the corner of her eye, Sam can see Lena watching Kara over her glass of wine, eyes tracking her every movement. It worries her a bit, she can see the plans forming behind Lena’s eyes. She’s been able to tell from moment one that Lena’s interested in Kara, but now that Lena’s begun to get tipsy she’s just a tad bit more worried she might attempt to make a move before really thinking it out how she wants.

Whenever Sam and Lena’s eyes meet she sends her a disapproving mom look and hopes it’s enough to stop her from doing something she’ll be embarrassed about later.

Eventually, Kara deems it time for presents, which means all nine of them gather in Kara’s living room around the coffee table where the gifts have been stacked. Everyone seems excited to get started.

“Lets do Alex’s gifts first,” Kara decides.

Alex laughs at how sisterly it is, putting her into the spotlight first. “Fine, but I get to choose who opens first…” She glances around, purposefully not lingering on Ruby for too long. She can practically feel the girl vibrating with energy beside her. 

“Alex,” She hisses, when it’s gone on too long for her.

“Oh? You want to open yours first, Ruby?”

She nods enthusiastically.

“I don’t know…”

“Aleeeex,” she whines.

Alex laughs and gives in, leaning over Winn to grab the box and hand it to her.

Across from her Sam makes a soft sound. When Alex meets her eyes, Sam has a grateful expression on her face. Alex has to look away to stop from blushing.

“NO WAY!” Ruby cheers, pulling the Overlook Hotel hoodie up first.

“The Shining!” Kara grins, leaning over Lena to look closer at it. “That’s so cool, Alex, I want one!”

“Kara, you don’t even like The Shining,” Alex laughs.

“Yeah, I do!” She protests.

“Uh huh…” Alex rolls her eyes. “Keep going Ruby.”

Then comes the ‘I Want To Believe’ phone case. “OH MY GOD-” The girl immediately scrambles for her phone, taking off her old case and clicking the new one on. “Alex, I love it,” She turns to throw her arms around Alex’s neck.

“I’m glad,” She smiles, hugging her back and feeling like she’s done something right. Even with how simple it is, it makes Alex’s desire to be a mom more concrete, and confirms what she already knows just a little more. Ruby retakes her seat next to her, leaning into Alex’s side. 

Alex looks over at Sam, who looks teary eyed. 

“Thank you,” She mouths.

Tearing up slightly for some reason at the sight herself, Alex just nods before looking away.

James lets out a belly laugh at the framed picture of Clark she’d wrapped. J’onn and M’yrnne are both appreciate for the matching bathrobes she’d picked out for them, explaining that she thinks they should both take more time to themselves as well as together. 

“Okay, who’s next?” Kara asks, trying to give out one person’s gifts all at once.

“Wait,” James interrupts, “What about you?”

“Alex and I are opening our gifts to each other tomorrow.”

“You’re staying over?” Sam asks.

“Yeah. I always do, so we can wake up and spend the morning how we did as kids.”

“That’s sweet,” Lena coos, bumping Kara’s shoulder.

The night goes on like such, everyone drinking (with the exception of Ruby) and laughing and having a generally good time being together.

At one point, when there’s a pause in the gift openings, James gently places a Santa hat atop Sam's head, which Winn then proceeds to lean over and adjust, pulling it further down, nearly covering her eyes.

Sam’s own laugh joins theirs, eyes meeting Alex’s as she pulls it off. There’s something there. Something to it. Soft and knowing and intimate and theirs. 

Leaning back against the couch, arm up along the back, Alex takes a sip of her beer through a smile.

Then Winn claps his hands and makes grabby hands for a gift and Sam’s attention gets pulled away. Alex stares for just a few more seconds, taking in Sam’s smile and the giggle as Winn shakes the box, which is when Alex promptly realizes it’s her gift to him. “Hey, be careful-”

He pulls back the wrapping paper with a dramatic flourish. “YOU GOT ME AN ALEXA?” He shouts, turning the box over in his hands, like he can’t quite believe what he’s holding. “Alex, you shouldn’t have,” He says, but he’s already ripping into the cardboard as well.

“Alex-” Kara starts, her eyes welling up with emotion.

Alex rolls her eyes, trying to distract from the sentiment of the situation. “Don’t be so quick to thank me, I only got it so Winn has someone to talk to who won't mind listening.”

Then Kara’s brow furrows and she smacks Alex’s arm before reaching for another gift, handing it over to James.

Alex looks back at Winn to see him staring at her, his own eyes watery as well. She smiles to herself and nods over at him, acknowledging him without the emotion of it becoming too much for either of them (she’s still not quite ready to admit just how much she loves him) and turns her head away.

Accidentally, Alex ends up meeting Sam’s eyes. She’s looking at her with a kind of amazement, her eyes soft and kind and just for Alex. She blushes, ducking her head.

Later, when the presents are done and Kara moves to throw all of the wrapping paper away and everyone disperses again, entering their own conversations, Alex gets up to refill her drink and Sam follows.

“That was sweet, what you did for Winn,” She says, when she’s sure they’re out of earshot of the rest of the guests. Alex is thankful for that at least. 

“No, it’s just, uh-” Alex shakes her head, blushing once again as she tries to remember her less sentimental reasonings for getting him such a nice gift.

“Alex… It’s okay. I won't let anybody else know you’re a softie,” Sam grins, bumping Alex’s hip with her own.

“I’m not-”

“Yes. You are… But it’s okay,” And then Sam takes the bottle of wine from her hands and refills both of their glasses. “And-” she sets her wine bottle down, “Speaking of gifts.” She turns back to Alex, her lips pulled into a small, soft smile, as she hands over a neatly wrapped package. “Here.”

Alex realizes Sam must’ve been hiding it as she followed her into the kitchen, as she’d never even noticed it. Maybe her detective skills are getting a little rusty.

“Oh, Sam… I didn’t-” Her guilt comes to the surface for not having gotten anything for Sam. She hadn’t been able to think of anything good enough to get for her. “You didn’t have to-

“Yes. I did. Like I said at Thanksgiving, you’ve impacted my life… The least I can do is give you something in return. Don’t worry, it's nothing big.”

Alex tries to restrain her own emotions from showing on her face, although the joy still seems to make its way through. 

“Go on,” Sam nods to the present, “Open it.”

Alex looks down at the package, sighing and shaking her head before ripping into it. When the paper is all gone, she lifts up the lid of the box to find- “A hat?” Alex questions.

Sam’s laugh is musical and light, “I promised, didn’t I?”

“You said you would buy me a hat if I didn’t like the haircut… And I do.”

“Yes and I’m glad that you like it, but I realized after it happened that it’s about to be winter… Or, it is already winter. Just didn’t want your head to get cold,” Sam looks amused with this logic.

“It’s sweet,” Alex blushes slightly, dipping her head down to look at it again. It’s plain black, but soft in her hands, warm. She rubs her thumb over the fabric before looking back up at Sam. “I didn’t get you anything.”

Sam shakes her head. “You didn’t need to. You’ve done enough.” Then she reaches her hand out, gesturing to the hat. “Can I?”

“Oh, um,” Alex snaps out of a slight daze and hands it over to her. 

Sam smiles softly before putting her hands inside the hat. Alex doesn’t have the time to wonder what exactly she’s doing before Sam is lifting her arms and carefully maneuvering it over her hair.

Her palms and fingertips brush against her scalp, her ears, her neck and Alex feels a slight heat rise to her cheeks. She blames the cold. 

“There,” Sam breathes, brushing the longest part of Alex’s hair away from her face.

“Thanks.”

Sam leans against the counter, eyes flicking over Alex as though she’s appraising her. “It looks good on you,” She nods. 

Alex is staring up at her, trying to figure out how to respond, when Winn comes barreling into the kitchen. She straightens up, for some reason feeling like she’s been caught doing something she shouldn’t. He makes a beeline for Alex, placing his body between hers and Sam’s to wrap his arms around her middle. Slowly, Alex brings her arms up to hold him back. Sam smiles at her from over his shoulder before turning, her look fond and knowing, and exiting the kitchen, like it’s her cue to talk to Winn. 

A few hours later, Kara, Lena and Ruby have all passed out on couches and James shrugs on his coat, helping a sleepy and drunk Winn into his own and leading him out of the apartment, promising to get him home safe. ( Winn does insist on hugging Alex a few more times before they leave). J’onn and M’yrnne had left an hour or so before them, J’onn had probably just not wanted to be around just in case his employees and their friends decided to get too drunk, which is a state he’d seen Alex in once. It’s not an experience either of them are eager to relive. 

Alex says glancing around the apartment at the remnants of the party. Although it hadn’t been anything crazy, there’s still debris left behind. 

A few feet away from her, Sam starts picking up, grabs both Kara and Lena’s wine glasses as well as one of Winn’s abandoned beer bottles. 

“What are you-”

“Cleaning up.”

“What? No, Sam, you don't have to-”

“I want to,” she says, coming to a stop right in front of Alex’s face.

“Why?”

“Make it easier for you.”

“You don’t need to-”

“You’re sweet,” Sam says, pressing her hand to Alex’s cheek. “But I still want to help.”

Alex still isn’t sure. She doesn’t want Sam to have to do anymore than she has to. She already works so hard. 

“Alex, I’ve been pretty much professionally cleaning up messes for twelve years. It will go faster if you let me help.”

Alex stares at her for a few moments, lets Sam’s expression chip away at her argument at record speed before sighing and giving in with a nod.

Sam smiles at her. “Thank you. Now, let's get to work.”

Then Sam is moving away and beginning to assemble dishes in the sink.

They work quietly, first gathering things up from any space they should not have wander into, like streamers into Kara’s bedroom or confetti in the corners of the living room or draped through the leaves of Kara’s plants.

Alex is picking up the gift wrappings that had been hastily thrown about as they’d opened presents earlier as quietly as she can around the coffee table when she stands, catching something out of the corner of the eye she has to stop and look at. 

Just opposite of where Lena and Kara passed out on the couch, bodies turned toward one another like the they’d been talking before the alcohol had won them over, Ruby curled up into a ball on Kara’s chair. She’d actually passed out just after J’onn had left, hand smushing her cheek as she attempted to keep her head up and awards of what was happening around her. The way she’s laying cannot be comfortable, her legs draped over the sides of the thin wooden arms, body propped up against the opposite one, head on her knees. 

“Hey, Sam,” she say, just loud enough for the other woman to hear and not to wake their friends up.

“Hm?”

“We should move her to Kara’s room.”

Sam appears at her side, looking down at her daughter. “Is that okay?”

“Kara won’t mind,” Alex says, starting to move forward to grab her.

Sam beats her to it. Gently, Sam loops her arms beneath Ruby’s legs and then one around her back. Sam pauses and for a moment Alex thinks she won't be able to pick her up, but then Sam’s standing at fully height, “Come here, baby,” Sam murmurs, pulling Ruby in close to her chest.

“You okay?” Alex asks, holding her hands out in case Sam needs to support.

“Yeah, I got her.”

“Mom?” Ruby mumbles into her shoulder. 

“Shhh,” Sam coos, beginning to walk back towards Kara’s room. 

Alex moves in front of her to help her inside, slides open Kara’s bedroom door as quietly as she can.

Carefully, Sam sets Ruby down on the bed, first allowing her legs to rest on the mattress before slowly lowering the rest of her, making sure not to wake her up or hurt her accidentally.

“Goodnight, baby,” Alex hears Sam murmur, pressing a kiss to Ruby’s head before she’s moving away.

“That’s better,” Alex whispers, leaning against the door jam. “How she was laying before couldn’t have been comfortable.”

For some reason, Sam looks sad at the comment. “She’s a trooper.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean... She’s slept in worse places.”

Alex is about to speak up, say something in response when Sam continues.

“I mean… There was a period when she was three where we lived in my car. Never complained, not once. Most kids would but… Ruby’s always been tough.”

Sam gulps, then moves back through the door, leaving Alex behind to stand there for a moment. Let the admission wash over her. The idea breaks her heart, but there’s something about Sam telling her that makes her feel overwhelmingly grateful that Sam trusts her enough to tell her about something like that. Alex moves out of Kara’s bedroom as well, closes the door behind her to assure Ruby’s rest, before turning to find Sam.

She’s out on Kara’s balcony, leaning against the railing to look out at the city. Alex goes to follow. When she’s through the door, the first thing she notices is how quiet the city is and how Sam is mirroring it. She approaches her slowly, leaning against the railing just next to her, allowing the silence to pass between them, wanting Sam to talk whenever she feels like it. 

There are water droplets dripping down from the overhang a few feet behind them, Alex focuses on the noise to distract from the sadness building in her chest for the woman beside her.

“I’ve been protecting her my whole life,” Sam says. “Feeding her. Carrying her. Making sure she’s warm and safe and… She’s been… Most of my life. And I’m fine with that, I wouldn’t change it but…” Sam sighs. A beat passes. Alex can practically see the memories running, like a film reel, behind Sam’s eyes, “Sometimes I think that I’m just so used to making things up on my own that I don’t leave room for people to help me.”

It hits Alex right in the chest.

“Yeah,” Alex whispers back, staring at Sam, “Yeah, me too.” She stares at her hands to try and distract from the way it’s starting to feel like there’s something wrong in her lungs.

She doesn’t think she’s ever been this close to Sam for so long before. The proximity brings a certain intimacy that allows Alex’s eyes to take her in in a way she’s never had a chance to.

Sam is so still and calm in this moment.

Suddenly, Alex can’t stop noticing.

Sam turns and the light from inside the apartments lights up her skin, and it reminds Alex of how warm she looks. Alex starts to focus on all that skin, like she wants to take it all in, but before she can get there, something else catches her.

Sam’s eyes are hazel. They look so bright, nearly gold, with the light reflecting on them and Sam isn’t looking at her but Alex can’t stop. She doesn’t know how she’s never noticed the color of her eyes before. They’re stunning.

And when Sam turns back to find Alex staring at her she smiles, all soft and kind and comfortable, the remaining air in Alex’s lungs vanishes. 

She’s beautiful.

Alex had known Sam was good-looking, because she’s not blind, but before now something had stopped her from realizing how truly gorgeous she is.

Alex blinks a few times, not sure why the moment suddenly feels so different

“We should probably finish cleaning up, huh?” Sam whispers, emotion cracking holes into the normal steadiness of her voice. 

Alex wants to patch them up, make her feel okay again. She can’t find the words to say what she feels, so she just nods instead, pushing back from the railing. 

Sam clears her throat at the door as they walk back inside and Alex watches her shake off the pain she’d unearthed outside and replace it with her real smile, teeth and curved lips and the hints of laughter in her voice as she starts to gather up the remaining food and place it back either into the fridge or into the garbage. They pick up the abandoned plastic plates, solo cups and beer bottles slowly stacking them as they make their way through Kara’s apartment. 

Alex’s mind is silent as they work. She keeps her eyes down, focused on the task at hand. She doesn’t think about the streaks of gold in Sam’s hair or her eyes or the sure way her hands move, the ever present strength she carries herself with matched with tenderness or any of the other little details she’s cataloged without realizing. When she glances back at Sam, who’s placing a few empty wine glasses into the sink, they flood over her again, in a rush. She returns her eyes down, tries to keep her mind off it.

Somehow, they end up on the same side of the table. Both caught up in clearing dishes and gathering up half eaten snacks, almost colliding into one another as they try to pick up the same dish.

They both try to allow the other to take it, attempting to be polite until Sam finally shakes her head and grabs it, laughing to herself at their mutual disfunction. Her eyes flick upwards for just a moment, focusing on something above Alex

Alex follows her gaze. Her heart skips a beat at what she finds.

Mistletoe.

“I’m sorry,” Alex laughs, nerves bubbling up uncomfortably in her chest. “Kara gets a little crazy about the holidays. We don’t have to… You know. It’s just a stupid tradition.”

Sam laughs too, looking a lot more nonchalant about the whole thing. “Yeah… Maybe we should though.”

What?” Alex can feel the joints in her hands locking up with tension as she stares up at Sam.

“I mean really,” Sam shrugs, smile still firmly in place. “What’s the harm?”

Alex racks her brain for reasons why this is a bad idea and maybe she would’ve been able to come up with some yesterday, right now they’re escaping her, but she still knows that she shouldn’t.

“Think of it as trying something new,” Sam says, a slight smile on her face. 

Alex takes a deep breath and then exhales.

Sam isn’t scary. Sam is her friend. She’s comfortable with her.

Maybe that’s where the problem lies. 

She just hasn’t kissed anyone in so long and it’s not worth ruining a friendship over.

Alex looks at Sam again. She’s smiling, all easy and relaxed. It makes her feel calm, her hands loosening up. 

Sam doesn’t seem worried about it, so why should she? 

She’s right. What could possibly go wrong?

“Yeah… I’m- I’m okay with it with you are.”

“Good,” Sam says and the events that follow are fast.

Sam steps forward, placing herself in Alex’s space. Then her hand is resting on the side of Alex’s face.

There’s a clear progression of what exactly happened, but Alex’s mind is running too fast and too little to process exactly what it was because this is not what she expected.
There's a moment when their lips touch, where the world narrows to that point of contact. Where everything goes silent and still and it feels as though the universe has stopped because Sam has pressed her lips to Alex's. Then, as if trying to anchor her, Sam's other hand comes up, fingers pressing lightly, barely there against Alex's neck as if steadying both of them.

Finally, Sam pulls back a little.

Alex doesn't open her eyes because she can't. She's barely processed that they've been kissing and her brain doesn't have the time to catch up to the fact that they've stopped before Sam's mouth is on hers again. And that's all it is, their lips pressing into one another's over and over, never going past that.

They’re so close, but Sam still feels so far. It takes all of Alex’s willpower not to push against Sam, feel their bodies pressed together.

It feels like it goes on for so long that the sun must be rising by the time that they part, but instead of making Alex tired it makes something inside her feel awake and pulsing and like she could go run 30 laps and still be full of the same energy.

Alex exhales shakily. She hadn’t even realized she’d been holding her breath. Then, she can’t help a slight laugh. 

"Wow," Sam breathes.

Alex can't respond, unable to find her words. Her eyes are still closed. 

She doesn’t even realize that she’s leaning into Sam’s hands until they’re slowly retreating off her skin.

Alex’s eyes flicker open just in time to watch Sam back away from her, easy casual smile in place. She doesn't understand how Sam can be so... collected, when Alex feels like she's just stepped into a different world.

She glances over at the time, it’s barely a minute later. She watches the number change. 

"You're... really good at that," Sam clears her throat.

"Uh..." Alex clears her throat, "You aren't so bad yourself."

Sam shakes her head, turning away to pick up a few more plates off the table. "You don't have to lie to me Alex. I'm rusty, I'm sure. It's been a while."

"It cant have been that long, you seem pretty well practiced to me." Alex has no idea where the words are coming from, because the inside of her brain still feels like she's trying to swim through honey and syrup, like she's going to be trapped in this post kiss daze for years.
Sam smiles at her over her shoulder and Alex feels her heart jump at the blush on Sam's cheeks. She turns away as fast as she'd looked over. "A few months at least."

"Yeah, well..." Alex stutters. "You're... good. Really good."

"Thank you."

"Like... the best." Alex suddenly wants to hit herself. Why would she say that? She's kissed two women in her life before this, she should know how to handle herself afterwards by now, but here she is acting like a teenage boy. Why is she so awkward? Why can't she just be as casual as Sam's being?

"Put these in the sink for me?" Sam asks and suddenly Alex realizes Sam’s already gone back to doing the task at hand.

Quietly, Alex thanks the universe for the fact that Sam's back stays turned to her, so she can’t see just how much of a flustered mess Alex is.


 

Alex was good.

Really good.

She and Lena haven’t slept together for a while, and before that arrangement had popped up, Sam had been in very few pleasurable encounters.

And while Lena was good, their styles we're a little different. Clashing like the wrong sides of a puzzle piece. As a couple, they simply never fit, never would, their pieces didn't line up right. Lena had been a good kisser in all aspects but they just weren't compatible in that way, so while it was good, it wasn't what either of them really needed from one another for it to be permanent. 

As lovers, they could make it work if necessary, but they're a little too similar, constantly fighting each other for control. When it was all said and done, they'd much rather laugh and joke with one another than cuddle and fall asleep, which is where they found their fit. As friends, they were a perfect match, seamlessly keeping up with one another in every aspect. These dynamics, of course, made their arrangement good, great even. They were both good at sex, but unfortunately, their personalities and their desires didn't align correctly for it to be more than casual. 

It's easy to be a good kisser, but to be compatible with another person is much harder.

This is where the difference between Alex and Lena lies.

At the surface, Alex is a good kisser, but below that, from the moment their lips touch, Sam can feel the compatibility.
It's like when Ruby had tried to do puzzles as a kid, shoving pieces that didn't fit into one another because they were close enough to work while she looked for the real compatible parts. Alex isn’t that. Alex is the opposite. Alex is finding the perfect match, slotting right into place against Sam.
It makes Sam feel warm all over. She's not sure she's ever felt that level of perfect harmony... ever.

It’s nothing though. 

The second their lips part and Sam can snap herself out of post kiss haze, she forces a grin and gets back to work. Just because they’re compatible doesn’t mean it has to be more than that. Sam is so busy with work and Ruby and Alex is just as bad with cop stuff. Plus, they’re friends, of course they’re compatible.


 

“You two seem like you’re getting really close,” Kara says in the morning, when the topic of the party comes up. 

Alex thinks about their banter, thinks about the conversation they’d had on the balcony, how everything had seemed to slow down when it was just them, about the mistletoe.

She isn’t quite sure how to respond.


For the entirety of the six days between Christmas and New Years, Alex only sees Sam once in the halls. 

“Hey,” Alex greets.

“Hi,” Sam responds, she looks rushed. “I’d love to chat but-”

“Uh, actually I have to get going too… But  I, uh… I meant to ask you the other day, but what are you doing on New Years? We might be going to Kara’s again-”

“As much as I’d love to….” Sam cuts her off, “I can’t.” She looks sad to say it. “There’s… a work thing on new years. A party. I’d invite you but I doubt it will be much fun. It’s a lot of investment talk and old men thinking they know better than Lena or I how to run the company when they’ve all bankrupted at least one of their own.”

Alex nods, clears her throat. “Yeah, I get it.”

“Thank you for thinking of me though.”
“No, yeah… Of course,” Alex replies, and it’s fine. It’s a good reason for Sam to say no, but for some reason it still feels like someone’s just dropped a weight on her chest.

Somehow, it makes her feel almost lonely. 

Later than night, she tries to call Kara to make plans anyway.

“Hey, Kara,” she greets, “Did you want to get together for New Years?”

There’s a long pause, which is very uncharacteristic of Kara, who’d normally be jumping out of her skin at the chance to plan an event as well as see Alex. 

“Kara?”

“Um…” She starts nervously. “I totally wasn’t thinking -”

“You have plans, don’t you?” Alex sighs. They hadn’t made plans before this, so there’s no reason for Kara to keep her day open, but still it makes Alex feel even lonelier all of the sudden.

“I’m so sorry, Alex.”

“It’s okay, Kara.”

“It’s just… Lena invited me as to a work event and she’s-”

“A work event?”

“-So pretty - Yeah. A work event. She said it might be less insufferable with me there.”

Alex’s heart sinks.

Lena and Sam work together. It’s the same event and for some reason Sam, who’s known her for months, doesn’t want her there, while Lena, who’s known her sister for less than a few weeks, needs her there to make the event worthwhile.

Sam doesn’t want her there. She knows Sam said it would be boring, but they’ve been doing things that should be boring together for the last two months. Sam doesn’t at least think having Alex there might make it better?

“I think it might be a date-” Kara continues.

Alex’s throat constricts.

That makes sense. Why you’d bring a date to a boring work party and not just a friend, you wouldn’t subject a friend to something so uneventful, but with a date… Just being around the person you’re into automatically makes it better.

Alex doesn’t know why this realization makes it worse.

There’s a pause where she suddenly realizes her sister has stopped talking and is waiting for her to respond. She coughs, “That’s great, Kara.” 

Alex is happy for Kara. She and Lena do make sense in a way. Every time she’s ever seen them interact it looks like her sister’s got stars in her eyes, in a way she hasn’t seen in a long time, and Lena isn’t too much better. They could be good together.

And yet she still can’t truly focus on that because Sam doesn’t want her there.

“She’s so pretty…” Kara drifts off, sounding awed. Normally, it would make Alex smile, because Kara hasn’t been back out there for so long since her last asshole of a boyfriend… But right now? Alex doesn’t know what else to say.

“Good luck on your date,” She finally manages. “Lena’s nice.”

“She is, isn’t she?”

“Talk soon, Kara.” Alex hangs up and she feels bad about it, but also there’s a sick feeling building in her stomach and she needs something to distract her-

She reaches for a bottle of whiskey and calls Winn.

As the phone rings, she thinks about how Sam had called her a softie when it came to Winn. For a moment, she resents the statement. Wants to stop thinking about Sam and for some reason doesn’t want her to be right. Before she can hang up, he answers.

“Howdy, Alex!” He greets cheerfully.

It does make her heart melt a little. As much as she’d hate to admit it, he is like her brother.

Maybe Sam was right.

“Winn, hey, um...” Alex starts awkwardly, “I was just wondering what you were doing on New Years?”

“New Years? Oh, um… I don't have any plans. Why? You and Kara planning-”

“Kara’s busy actually. I was thinking… That maybe you and I could hang out? I know we don’t really do that but…” She trails off. A part of her wants to tell him she’s too hard on him, that she should be nicer, the other half can’t let her admit it. She just hopes he can hear it in the pause.

Nice!” He cheers. “I could bring my Playstation if you wanted?” He rambles. “We could kick some zombie ass-” He cuts himself off, as if realizing an error, “Or… Or alien ass?” His voice tips up like a question. “If that's what you prefer?”

She chuckles a bit to herself, her mind, if only momentarily, off Sam. “Either is good, Winn. See you then.”


 

Just an hour before Winn is meant to be at her apartment, Alex realizes how her laundry has begun to overfill her hamper. She decides maybe she should do it, at least to keep Winn’s respect. From there, she sighs and gathers up the dark clothes, aka the majority, and heads out of her apartment.

Laundry, on New Years, she thinks as she makes her way down the stairs, a few years ago Alex would’ve been out for a full forty eight hours in celebration of the new year, but instead, she’s home alone doing laundry. How pathetic is that?

She’s so lost in thought that she’s already putting her clothes into the machine when a voice cuts through her thoughts.

“Hey.”

Alex pulls her head out of the washing machine, looking up to find Sara placing a basket of clothes on the nearest counter. “Hey.”

“How are you?” Sara asks, and Alex supposes the question is warranted, as it’s been a long time since they’ve talked. She isn’t quite sure how to answer.

“Um, well,” She clears her throat. “I’m okay.”

“Oh yeah? You and the new girl seem to be getting close…” Sara offers a suggestive raise of her brow.

What?

“The girl who moved in a couple months ago?”

“Huh?” Alex asks, draping her hands over her knees as she watches Sara start to put the laundry into the machine next to her own. 

“The one with the kid?” Another pointed look.

Alex ignores it. “How do you know that we’re close?”

Uhhhh…” Sara starts, looking at her as though she’s being an idiot, “Well, for one I live right down the hall from you, Alex, and as we both know, the walls are... thin... to say the least.”  

Alex feels a blush creep onto her cheeks. After she and Maggie had broken up, Alex had been a wreck. A few days after she’d helped Maggie move out of the apartment, Sara had shown up at her door, asking if she wanted to go out for drinks. 

Sara’s excuse had been that she needed more friends. Alex had seen how constantly Sara talked to just about everyone in the building. There was Ray, who lives just a few doors down from the both of them, and Cisco, who Alex had never even seen before Sara had dragged him out of his own apartment to help fix her internet connection. Then there was Leslie, who has always been surly and rude towards Alex. Sara seems to be able to charm some warmth out of the many other inhabitants of the building Alex doesn’t even know the names of.

Alex was more than wary of Sara’s abundance of friends and otherwise, knew that Sara was feeding her a lie to get her out of her apartment. But she could see the concern in her eyes and was grateful for someone beside’s Kara checking in on her.

They had been acquaintances before that night and Alex had found as it went on, she actually liked Sara. Learning things about her in a short amount of time proved Sara to be understanding and wise, though a little bit cocky.

Alex had been spiraling. Sara had been sympathetic. One thing lead to another and-

Yeah. Not Alex’s proudest moment. 

It had felt like a mistake right at first, and made Alex feel awful and like she was suffocating under the weight of being with anybody other than Maggie. But after a few days of pointedly fleeing from Sara in the halls and ignoring the occasional knock on her door, Sara had cornered her and given her advice. It settled her down, made the whole thing feel less like a betrayal and more like a natural reaction to being hurt like she was. It helped, at least for a little while.

Sara keeps talking, snapping Alex out of her memories. “I come and go a lot and it seems like whenever I’m doing one of those you guys are talking.”

Alex had never even noticed Sara around Sam. “Uh… Yeah. We’re friendly.”

Sara nods, slowly, and looks back at her clothes like she’s disinterested. “Just friendly or?”

Alex shakes her head. “Just friendly.”

“Hm,” Sara nods, picking her basket back up, looking nonchalant in that way that Alex knows is fake, like she thinks she knows more than Alex does. 

She’s about to say something again, defend herself for some reason, when Sara speaks again. “I like the hair,” she smiles, pointing towards her own head in a way that’s sort of mocking before she’s backing out of the laundry room, leaving Alex alone with the interaction hanging in the air. 

Alex is thankful when Winn gets there. If anyone would be able to get her mind off her troubles, it’s him. Despite this, Alex still finds her mind drifting back to the party. To Sam. It makes her play less competitively, which must make Winn notice something’s wrong. Instead of pressing her about it, which he’s done in the past, just for her to shut down and run away from him, he gives her a quick hug, makes her a drink, and then keeps playing. It’s like a promise that he’s there if she needs him.

Alex keeps her eyes off the clock, so she’s not really sure when it hits the New Year, but eventually, Winn falls asleep against her couch. She slowly drapes a blanket over his form and turns the TV off. Venturing back into her room, there’s still a gnawing sensation in her chest she can’t place.