Alea iacta est : the dice is cast
Her head is pounding.
Alex opens her eyes against the light streaming in through the blinds, and the glare of the sun only makes her headache worsen and her mood go through the floorboards. Not that she was in a good mood to begin with. She never is on mornings like this, and she’s been having them more and more often.
She groans as she turns in bed, patting the crisp white sheets for her cellphone. Her hand collides with the cool glass surface, and she squints as she lowers the opacity enough for her hungover brain to be able to look at it.
48 new messages. 14 missed calls.
Most of the messages are from J’onn, a few from Kara, one from her mom, and a couple from whoever she went dancing with last night. Friends of friends.
She opens the search engine on her cellphone before opening J’onn’s messages, just to be prepared. After two failed attempts at typing her name, she presses the microphone button.
“Alex Danvers,” she says out loud through a dry throat. She’s too tired to get up and find water.
The articles that pop up are all from at least a week ago. So she didn’t do anything last night that landed her on the front page of a trashy magazine. That’s a win. She lets her cellphone fall from her hand and closes her eyes for a moment. J’onn can wait.
Her head spins for a moment before it all settles. Her eyes throb, and her feet ache from her shoes—heels that she borrowed from Kara and must be somewhere in this hotel room, hopefully—but apart from that she’s not in bad shape. The room reeks of alcohol, true, or maybe it’s her, but she’s grown used to it. And she can just throw away this jacket with the way smoke is clinging to it. She’s fine. She doesn’t deserve a talking to. She knows better than to try and get up right now, though, so she tries to catch another hour or three of sleep before attempting to call her mom and appease J’onn.
She closes her eyes, feeling every place where her clothes are too tight and stiff after the night. She’s too tired to fix any of it right now. Her bra strap digs into the skin of her shoulder, and her mouth tastes bitter, but she can’t be bothered. She just needs to sleep.
Alex frowns against a persistent, annoying thump, the only thing keeping her from sinking into oblivion.
And then she realizes it's someone knocking on the door.
“Alex, open up.”
“Alex, I know you’re in there,” J’onn repeats, and Alex covers her ears, feeling like a child. “Alex!”
She opens her eyes at once. She knows the difference between an exasperated J’onn—an angry J’onn who thinks she’s wasting her life—and this. He’s worried, genuinely worried, and she hates to be the one to put him in this position.
So she stands up on shaky, unstable legs, and makes her way to the door even as the world spins around her.
She opens the door.
“How did you find me?” She sounds even worse than she feels.
“You’re predictable on your choice of hotel,” J’onn says, even as he looks her up and down, the familiar, discrete way he’s developed to see if there’s anything wrong with her apart from a hangover.
She nods in acknowledgement. She’s predictable in a lot of things it seems.
“I paid the janitor to keep him quiet,” he tells her, once he realizes she’s not missing any toes or bleeding out. “You threw up in the hallway. Really, Alex?”
Well, she didn’t remember that part.
“Good morning to you, too.”
“Nice answer on that last question,” M’gann mentions, and Maggie shakes her head as she climbs into the car awaiting them at the door. Winn follows after them.
“What kind of question was that?” she asks once M’gann has settled in beside her. The driver takes off. “You have a bit of a ‘reputation’?”
M’gann shrugs. “You kind of do.”
Maggie rolls her eyes.
“But you gave a great answer,” M’gann tells her. “Funny, charming. It was good. They loved you.”
Maggie nods, acknowledging that. She’d been slightly nervous beforehand, had thought through each question carefully before giving an answer. It was a run of the mill interview at the end of the day, but she hadn’t had a spread like this, and not in a magazine like this, since before The Informant. It was her first as a proper lead.
“They’ll send me a preview in a few weeks, but I know it went over great. The pictures looked amazing. I loved the outfit.”
Maggie smiles. She, too, had loved the suit, the hat, and the long black coat. She’d felt straight out of a noir film.
“Now,” M’gann says. “Winn, let’s review.”
Maggie nods, as her assistant begins rattling off where she has to go and at what time. The day is far from over.
She’s used to it by now, the jumping between networks and interviewers, the frantic driving from the chauffeur they’ve appointed to her, and the snacking in between (with whatever Winn hands because she was too busy to find lunch), but it never fails to give her a rush.
“I know you’re a pro at this by now,” M’gann tells her. “But just a reminder: the focus here is teasing your new love interest and getting people excited for the new season. Okay?”
“Drive away the audience and tell them Blake is going undercover as a nun, got it.” She smiles at M’gann shaking her head. The woman is fond of her, Maggie knows it.
“And if they ask about your love life-“
“Swerve like the fucking matrix.”
“Divert. I told them what topics were off limits, but you know how these anchors are, they go off script sometimes. This last interview was tame. Oh. And no swearing. We don’t want another Barbara Walters incident. That’s not the image we’re trying to sell.”
“That was years ago,” Maggie argues. “The one swear word that accidentally slipped out didn’t even make the final cut, and Barbara—she did tell me to call her Barbara after that—thought it was funny.”
“I was there. Her lips faintly turned up.”
“Exactly, she was laughing hysterically on the inside.”
M’gann rolls her eyes, but her fond smile is still present. The car stops in front of the building.
“You’re good?” M’gann asks her.
“I wish I could stay, but I know you’ll do great.”
M’gann touches her shoulder before she and Winn get out of the car. “Good luck.”
“I’ll walk you to your dressing room,” Winn tells her, as they power walk through the doors of the studio. “I just got the number this morning, little late if you ask me.”
Maggie chuckles. Winn speaks a mile an hour and more than most, but he’s a life saver.
“Hair and makeup will be in to touch you up in fifteen minutes, so you have time to eat something. I called and asked them to have coffee ready, I brought your agave nectar from home. There are pastries too, no sugar, and donuts. I think that’s a cop joke? And then it’s show time.”
Maggie smiles. “Got it.”
The lights never get less blinding, no matter how many times she sits there.
She can barely see the small audience in the studio through the glare, but she can hear the applause when the show goes back on air, and the anchor at her side commands a pleasant smile onto her face before turning towards the camera.
“Thanks Peter. Today I got the better deal since sitting here with me is Nightingale star Maggie Sawyer! Maggie, it is a pleasure to have you.”
She smiles with practiced ease. “The pleasure’s all mine, Sam, thank you for having me.”
The anchor smiles at the nickname, and Maggie returns the gesture. Samantha Parks is a married mother of three, but the woman is always sweet when Maggie visits for an interview; Maggie is not one to turn down the chance to make a beautiful woman smile.
They go through the usual opening banter: how she’s been, where she flew in from (“I’m afraid it was only a car ride today”), and how she’s liking the city. Maggie relaxes as more questions are asked. It’s easy. Like riding a bike.
“Now, Maggie, in your last interview with us you name dropped a few people you’d like to play your upcoming love interest. Alex Danvers was one of those names, and I can’t tell you the kind of buzz that caused on social media. Do you have any more information on that?”
“There’s not much I can say,” she tells her, shrugging. She’s practiced at playing coy, and there are a few half-hearted protests from the audience. “But, I will tell you that we’ve already gotten in contact with a few fantastic actresses, and I’m really excited about starting the casting process and finding my Claire.”
They’ve actually gotten in touch with one actress she knows, or at least, has heard of. The very name she dropped last time she sat here. It was the one question she hadn’t been prepared for, and it had left Maggie scrambling to think—and fantasize—about which actress she’d like to play her future love interest.
Gabriella had been deep into a rewatch of that medical drama, Body of Medicine, and Maggie had joined her. She’d liked one of the actresses. Alex Danvers wasn’t only pretty, like most actresses were, but her intensity when playing Jane Holt was captivating. Maggie had said her name at once and then mentioned a couple other actresses she admired, pipe dreams. Yes, Angelina Jolie. Megan Fox, of course.
She hadn’t realized there would be an actual chance of getting Alex back then.
When Gabriella told her the actress had actually quit the show, she’d been surprised, and even more so when she’d googled Alex Danvers’ name and read a bit about her. She wasn’t surprised when she’d grown up in showbiz, the daughter of an acclaimed director. More often than not, knowing the right people was what got you good roles, but Maggie thinks Alex Danvers could have achieved it on talent alone. She’d also read she’d had a somewhat turbulent year before quitting the show, but she stopped short of reading gossip about her. Maggie would want the same respect.
Still, she’d found it the perfect timing to mention her to Anthony as someone she’d like to get on board. Maggie always craved to act with someone who could make her better.
He hadn’t been so enthusiastic.
“Look Maggie, I’m going to be honest. You’re our leading lady, we value your input, always, but...Danvers’ latest project is stumbling out of clubs drunk and mouthing off at paparazzi,” he’d said. “I don’t know if she’s the right fit for this.”
“The paps are trash,” she’d told him. “I don’t think it’s fair to judge her for that when I’d do the same thing. Plus, she’s talented as hell, and I don’t want my acting partner dragging me down. I’m not saying it’s her or nothing, I’m saying I’ve seen her stuff, and I know she’d be good. Watch her audition and you’ll want her too, trust me.”
“That’s a big assumption you’re making Sawyer, that she’ll even want to audition.”
“Like you said, she doesn’t have much else going on,” or so Google had led her to believe. “I think she’ll be there if you ask nicely.” Anthony had looked at her, and hummed, and then left with one of his ‘I’ll see what I can do’.
Part of it had been her wanting to go against him, push for what she wanted so he’d prove just how much he valued her input—and part of it had been genuinely wanting him to give the woman a chance.
She’s glad they got in touch with her.
“In that line of thought,” Samantha’s question swiftly pulls Maggie back to the present. “We’re talking about Blake’s love life. Can we talk about yours? People want to know! You were spotted with singer Cecilia Ivy at 1 OAK last month, is anything still going on there?”
Maggie doesn’t let the easy smile slip from her face.
“Was I?” She laughs. “Man, that was a fun night, I saw Cirque du Soleil for the first time that night. Have you ever seen them?”
“Well, I can’t say that I have-“
“Oh, you need to see a show. It’s such a fun experience and the acrobatics were incredible. After the show, I actually called up one of the Nightingale writers and told them we needed to incorporate more acrobatics in Blake’s action scenes.”
“You did?” Samantha asks. “You already do most of your own stunts, right? You up for that?”
“I am! I love it. I think I’d enjoy being a stuntwoman actually.”
“A woman of many talents. So we can expect some Cirque du Soleil type of stunts in the upcoming season?”
“Yeah,” she says easily, as if said call had ever taken place. “I mean, I’ve seen it once in person, that should be enough for me to master it now. Who needs years of practice, right?”
Samantha laughs, and Maggie sees the camera man giving them the blessed ‘wrap it up’ sign that signals their time is over.
“Well, Maggie it’s been a pleasure as always.” Samantha turns towards the camera. “The second season of Nightingale premieres this fall. Tune in on Thursday, October 11th, at 9/8 central on ABC. Back to you, Peter.”
She can’t breathe for the few seconds it takes her stomach to cramp up, and then she’s expelling the acrid liquid into the toilet bowl.
It’s the part Alex hates the most about throwing up. That choking moment where she can’t breathe or control her body, her entire stomach contracting before making her empty its contents.
She catches her breathe while acid dribbles down her chin and throat, causing a sharp burning sensation. And all the while J’onn’s voice comes in through the door. He hasn’t stopped talking since he got there.
“It’s a great opportunity, Alex. Thanks to Maggie you have a foot in the door already. Nightingale could be the comeback we’ve been waiting for.”
Alex has heard of the show.
She can’t remember if Kara likes it, or if it’s one of those annoying new dramas that for weeks at a time covers the city with publicity, money spent on press that should’ve been spent on making sure the show was decent to begin with, and the name has stuck in her head.
Either way, she knows it, and she knows it’s successful. She knows it's a damn miracle that she was called for an audition. Her, specifically. The opposite of the past, because these days nobody wants anything to do with her—her last name is still soaring with Kara, but she’s been left behind in the dust after her takeoff.
“I don’t know her,” she tells J’onn, wiping her chin with the back of her hand. She needs a shower. And breakfast. And painkillers. “Why would she tell the producers about me?”
“Maybe she liked one of your projects,” J’onn says off handedly. “Or she’s an angel, making miracles happen.”
Alex snorts. She stands up and stumbles away from the toilet and the penetrating smell of puke.
“I think we’re way past that.”
J’onn knocks on the bathroom door, and Alex flushes the toilet and sits down on the closed lid for good measure before letting him in. He walks in and sits on the edge of the bathtub, folding his large, dark hands over his knees. He looks at home there, as if hotel bathrooms were a normal place to hold meetings with the actress you manage. He meets her eyes, concern and sympathy nestled there in equal measure. He doesn’t look anything like her dad, but sometimes J’onn reminds her an awful lot of him.
Alex almost wishes she hadn’t thrown up the last of the alcohol in her system.
“I think you should do this, Alex,” he tells her, his deep voice bouncing off the bathroom tiles. “I know if you show up to the casting it’s almost a sure thing you’ll get it. It’s a great show, a great role—you said you wanted to work again. Why are you hesitating now?”
She hesitates because Nightingale—she remembers the show now, clearly, down to the face of the lead—is one of those shows that makes her hair stand on end. That makes her look away.
“Fourth billing, and I could negotiate that after your first season,” J’onn keeps talking. “You’d be the love interest of the lead.”
And that’s the problem. She doesn’t know if she can do that. Kiss a woman, touch her—even if it’s just for the cameras, if it’s just acting. It makes her hands sweat and something in her gut feel cold and heavy just thinking about it.
“I’m going to be honest, Alex,” J’onn tells her. “This could be your last chance.”
Alex thinks of her mom, of the way she presses her lips together and says ‘Alexandra’ in that tone of voice every time she sees her; of Kara, and the questions reporters ask about her that her sister doesn’t know how to answer. And of J’onn, who’s worked so hard for her, far more than a manager should, to the point he’s become like family. And he’s still here, fighting for her, even when she’s made it hard on him.
She swallows her uncertainty and nods.
"I'll do it. I'll audition."
J’onn has breakfast sent up to her room, and then he arranges for a car to pick her up and take her home before leaving to make some calls—calls to confirm she’ll audition for a role she isn’t entirely sure she wants. But it’s one she needs.
She uses the ride home to google the show and everything to do with it.
It’s a remake of an old cop show from the 80s, and Alex thinks it’s the type of thing she could get into. A bit of Castle, a bit of Law & Order. The type of show people binge watch, which would explain how it got popular so fast. She remembers now that it was Kara who wanted to watch an episode with her a few months ago, but she said no to watching it first, and fell asleep before they got to it in her sister’s extensive lineup.
She watches the trailer, finally catching sight of the actress who apparently gave her name to the producers. She pauses the video. So that’s Maggie Sawyer.
She’s...she’s pretty, Alex guesses, but in their line of work that’s a given. She’s different to what Alex expected though. If her years auditioning have taught her anything it’s that it’s unlikely you’ll be a leading lady if you’re not tall, blue eyed, and blonde—and this woman is nothing like that. The exact opposite, actually. She can’t tell from the scene on her cellphone screen, but the woman looks short, maybe even shorter than Alex. With a compact body and muscle and small—Alex presses play. It’s irrelevant. And Alex doesn’t know her, she’s sure of it now. She’d remember meeting her, no matter how wasted she was.
The trailer runs along and she sees Maggie Sawyer’s character—Blake, the character seems to be called—hit a guy with the butt of her gun, before knocking down a second one. The show seems to be all action, explosions, and funny one liners.
And Blake is gay.
Alex wonders what kind of publicity strategy it is to hook people into a trailer before springing that on them, but it’s very clear from the scene Alex’s eyes are trained on. Blake presses a redheaded woman in a long dress against a wall, and runs her hand up her thigh—Alex jumps when the car comes to a stop.
“Is it here?”
“I-yes. Yeah. How much do I owe you?”
“Car’s already paid, ma’am. Have a nice day.”
Alex puts away her cellphone with red cheeks before getting out of the car.
She doesn’t even think to call her mom.
She walks into her apartment and only eyes her phone—and the messages from her mom—briefly before going to open a window and let some air in.
She knows what J’onn thinks, but there’s still a chance she won’t get the role and it’ll be just another disappointment to tell her mom about. Fleetingly, she considers calling Kara, but she’s still in Vancouver filming, and she doesn’t want to distract her.
So with nothing else to do Alex pulls her laptop out and keeps looking into the show.
A few of the scenes are on YouTube, and Alex disentangles her old earphones as she watches a three car crash unfold on the screen. It’s...exactly the type of show she always wanted to be in. She liked being a doctor in Body of Medicine (regardless of how much her mom loved to remind her she dropped out of medical school to be a ‘fake doctor’) but...she always wanted to play a cop. Or an agent. Or a detective.
Walking around with fake guns and doing fight sequences had always seemed exhilarating, and playing a kidnap victim in one of her dad’s films when she was younger was as close as she ever got. Despite her reservations, she’s actually getting excited to audition.
Not just for the possibility of working again, which she’s missed, even if her last few weeks on Body of Medicine were a nightmare as everything spiraled out of her hands. But getting to check off a role on her wish list of characters to play. If she remembers J’onn’s words right, the role up for grabs is a detective, fresh out of the academy. The love interest of the lead.
Alex isn’t about to look for more scenes, but she does look into the actress behind them, the woman she may possibly be working with.
Twice in a day, she’s not what she expects.
First of all, she didn’t actually expect her to be, well, gay herself. She’d thought it was just a role, but Maggie Sawyer is...she’s a lesbian. She started modeling age 14 according to the article she clicks on, and there aren’t any big interviews she can find about it, or announcements she made. There’s no ‘Maggie Sawyer Comes Out of the Closet” People.com pieces or dramatic announcements. She seems to just...have always been publicly gay, from that young of an age, and she still made a name for herself.
Alex…doesn’t understand how that could work for her.
Maggie Sawyer’s last few roles have been exclusively gay women, and Alex stops googling so she can actually watch something she’s been on. She picks the first film she can find on Netflix, one called Amazing Grace from a few years ago. It’s a historical drama, and regardless of how much Kara makes fun of her for it, it’s a genre she enjoys.
She starts the movie, and the beginning doesn’t pull any punches. She watches as Maggie’s character’s brother dies and raises her eyebrows at how good the woman is when she cries over his grave. She looks incredibly young too, just barely a teenager, and Alex is surprised to realize she must have been 19 years old when the movie was filmed.
The film switches points of view between Maggie’s character and an older man, a Sergeant, and Alex has to admit that she spends his scenes waiting for hers to be back on the screen.
She watches Maggie’s character, Sofia, put on her brother’s clothes and cut her own hair, and then enlist in the army with her best friend. She gets immersed in the film as she watches them train and then be sent to the frontlines of the civil war. She uses the Sergeant’s parts to get something to snack on while she watches, and returns when she hears her voice come from her laptop.
She frowns as Sofia’s best friend declares his love for her before dying a few scenes later, and finds herself holding her breath as in the end, Sofia chooses between going back to her family—who valued her brother more than her—or leaving with a General Adams who found out her secret and kept it, earlier in the movie.
She leaves with the guy, and Alex doesn’t...get it.
It seems ridiculous to choose a stranger over your family like that, all in the name of ‘love’. Sofia’s mother had already lost one child. It didn’t make sense. And the General was a bland character at best, like Maggie Sawyer’s co-star.
The closing credits find Alex deeply unsatisfied with the ending of the film, but she at least concedes that Maggie is a good actress, and in, what? 4 years? She must have gotten better.
Alex goes even further back and watches a compilation of her scenes from the first show she was on, age 18. It’s called Rosewood Street, and it’s exactly the type of teen show that Kara would love and that makes her roll her eyes, but Maggie almost makes it bearable. She likes her character, Maya, and watches her go through inane high school problems with more interest than she likes to admit. (Alex notes that Maggie is the only person on the show who’s playing her age—she’s always been annoyed at 30-year-old teenagers.)
She’s taken by surprise when Maya is killed right before boarding a plane to her dream college. (Alex is something in the vicinity of jealous, too, because she’s always wanted to have a death scene.) Maya gurgles out an ‘I love you’ for the guy who cheated on her with her best friend, and then dies, and the video is over.
It’s hard to stop herself from looking further into Maggie Sawyer then. She clicks on an old interview and finds out she loves dogs and her favorite color is pink, reads the last few days worth of her social media accounts, and then finds herself in a forum for her fans.
She knows that people are seldom what they seem to be from online articles and fan encounters, but it’s hard not to get invested as she reads more about this Maggie—it all sounds far too good to be true, so it probably is.
She looks at smiling pictures where she’s not wearing any makeup, her cheek pressed against the fan’s as if they’re old friends—she has a striking smile, framed by deep dimples on both of her cheeks. Alex keeps reading about her, and what people think of her, through page after page of the forum.
She closes her laptop when she becomes increasingly engrossed in two fan’s theories that Maggie is dating singer Cecilia Ivy. Her research is done.
All in all, it doesn’t seem like Maggie Sawyer would be a bad person to work with.
"Maggie! Maggie! Where you going?”
Dealing with the buzz and yells that follow her constantly has become routine, but Maggie still hasn’t mastered the art of turning it into background noise.
She doesn’t hate paparazzi per se—she did have a good few months where she looked at them like vermin after all that happened with Emily—but she doesn’t go out of her way to avoid them. They’re making a living; a slimy, exploitative one, sure, but it’s a job nonetheless. She has a few acquaintances who don’t go out without baseball caps and sunglasses, and simply have yoga class at home to avoid exactly this. Maggie couldn't live like that. (And if she wears baseball caps sometimes it's just because she likes them.)
That doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying to be followed from the door of the Yoga studio to her car by no less than three men carrying cameras, but she tries to put her best—sweaty—self forward.
“Maggie! Where you headed to?”
She plasters a smile on her face. “Off to the studio.”
“Any new projects?”
“I’m a hundred percent focused on Nightingale’s Season 2 right now.”
She’s halfway through the parking lot, and she briefly hopes there are no big sweat stains under her armpits. She might tell herself she doesn’t care, but deep down she can’t stand to see pictures like that out there, if only because she knows there are people who will use whatever they can to mar her image.
And it’s an image M’gann has put a lot of work into crafting. Maggie has a lot of respect for the woman.
“Maggie, look this way! Big smile!”
She reaches her car and juggles her yoga mat and water bottle to get the door opened to her black jeep. The camera shutters never stop going off.
If they’re going to stand there the least they could do is help me, Maggie thinks.
“Maggie, this side! You look beautiful!”
“Seeing as how I just got out of yoga, I’m pretty sure you’re lying, but that’s a nice gesture.” She drops everything on the passenger seat and gets in the car. She rolls the window down. “Have a nice day everybody.”
She rolls the window up, and all but one of the men leave, satisfied with their intrusion in her life. Maggie ignores the guy apparently content with taking photos of her car. It is a nice model, after all.
She takes her cellphone out from her gym bag and checks her messages. Anthony tells her he’ll be in the studio today to oversee the casting—which, okay. That’s strange enough. M’gann wishes her luck on the chemistry reads today, and Maggie thanks her.
Gabriella’s last message to her is ‘at the restaurant’ from last night when Maggie asked her where she was going to spend the following day.
She records a voice note. “Hey, leaving yoga right now. I’m gonna wash this grime off me at home, and then I’m headed to the studio. Talk to you at the restaurant after?”
She’s surprised when Gabriella sees it and then starts recording a message right away. She’s about to start typing ‘don’t text and cook’ when she gets a voice note from her aunt. She presses play.
“Good luck today, kid. I hope you find your lady love!”
Maggie shakes her head, smiling.
Really Intense Pap Douche still in her rearview mirror, she starts the car and heads to the studio, her whole body starting to buzz as she wonders how today will go. Lady love. As if.
The car cruises through the calm streets of Los Feliz, and for the first time in her adult life Alex wishes they hadn’t just escaped the nightmare of the LA traffic.
She wants more time to think about her character, needs a few more hours she doesn’t have to calm down the strange, tremulous feeling in her stomach as the driver gets them to the studio. She’s been nervous about auditions before, but never like this. Because never has so much hinged on one single audition going right.
J’onn sits beside her, looking out of the dark tinted windows, and Alex gets the feeling he’s giving her space even as from right next to her.
The first audition was easy, a simple recording—by J’onn—with a short scene where her character introduces herself. She could do it as many times as she wanted, and from the waist down she was still wearing her lazy sweatpants. There’s no second chances here, and the scene isn’t hers alone.
She reads over the description of her character—Claire Lawson, NYPD—one more time.
Alex stops reading.
That’s where the character gets difficult, where stepping into her shoes feels to Alex like a thousand little pins all over her body, the feeling one gets when a limb falls asleep and you try to move it.
It makes her uncomfortable, but she’s not-she’s not homophobic. She hopes it’s not what J’onn thinks, or anyone else for that matter. Not that anyone else knows. Except, what if she gets it? God, what is she going to do during interviews? She doesn’t want to come off as weird, but Alex knows sometimes her poker face is shit. What if they think she hates gay people? The only possible way her career can sink any lower is if the public thinks she’s a bigot.
“Alex. You’re thinking too hard.”
She looks up at J’onn. “Are you a mind reader now?”
“I don’t need to read minds to know there’s a lot on yours. You haven’t stopped frowning since we left your apartment.”
She sighs. She can’t lie to J’onn. But she also can’t talk about this.
“It’s just...everything.” She waves her hand, hoping he lets her off easy. He nods, and not for the first time Alex thanks the heavens she has him.
“I know you're nervous, Alex, but you’ve done this before. You’ll do great.”
She hasn’t quite done this before, not with a character like this, and not now that she’s just, so confused about so many things...
“Do you really think that?” she asks J’onn.
He puts his hand on her shoulder, and it grounds Alex. “I know that.”
A quick shower and a granola breakfast later, Maggie walks into the room designated to hold the chemistry reads for Claire Lawson. They tell Maggie they’ve narrowed it down to a dozen girls through the audition tapes (Maggie briefly thinks that’s not very narrowed down, but she doesn’t expect any of them to know what a lesbian looks like). Anthony makes sure to tell her the girl she wanted so much is one of them, before heading over to grab a cup of the admittedly good coffee the studio has provided them with.
Maggie gets into place in front of the cameras, gearing up for a long day. She hasn’t been in Blake’s shoes for a while, not since they wrapped up season 1, and it’s like stepping into a warm bath. Any nerves she might have had disappear as she embodies the badass, no-nonsense detective she loves.
She starts at 10 am, and some of the girls are good.
They don’t talk over her in an effort to make the conversation seem more natural, and they give her the space for the dramatic beats Blake is so fond of.
Some are just painful.
Maggie actually takes a step back when Girl Number 9, a tall blonde, actually gets a bit too far into her personal space.
“Claire would never be that aggressive,” she says out loud. For a moment, she’s wary she’s overstepped since she’s just an actress—the lead actress, yes—but still not anyone with creative control here. But Anthony huffs out a laugh.
“Agreed,” he says, from his chair in the corner. His feet are up on the table, in what she knows is an effort to show the girls who’s boss, to intimidate them. It’s the ultimate man-spreading.
Maggie has fantasized about dropping hot coffee in her boss’s lap more than once.
“She was projecting,” Lorena, the casting director, says. “That girl’s a stunt double...I actually think I’m going to keep her in mind for fight scenes, but that was all her. She’s aggressive so she makes Claire be aggressive too. She wouldn’t be nearly as physical.”
“Yes, she’d be...intellectually aggressive. Smart without being conceited. Naive without being dumb. I don’t think we’ve seen anyone understand Claire like that just yet,” Bruno, the other producer, replies.
“My main concern is that she have chemistry with Maggie,” Anthony pipes up. “She can understand the character later,” he tells them. “I’m trying to build something here, something people will go crazy over, something that will carry us into a dozen seasons by itself.”
Maggie inwardly cringes at the thought she might be doing this for the next 12 years. She loves Blake, but she loves herself more.
“Well, three girls to go,” Maggie says.
Girl Number 10 is wildly different than Girl Number 9. She’s on the shorter side of what the producers asked for, and her 5’5” to Maggie’s 5’3” means—with the boots she’s wearing—they see eye to eye.
She plays Claire more insecure than anyone else so far. She goes toe to toe with Maggie when the scene calls for it, but then she retreats. Maggie thinks she’s...graceful. Her Claire is delicate.
“She was great,” Bruno says once the woman walks out.
“Did you like her, Maggie?” Lorena Vasquez, patron saint of always wanting to hear her opinion.
“I mean...yeah. Yeah, she was good.”
“I don’t know,” Anthony says. “I think there’s something missing. Where’s the fire? The...pizzaz?”
Lorena chuckles. “I think back in the 80s along with that word.”
Maggie has a nice laugh at Anthony’s expense.
Girl Number 11 is another one of the painful ones, and Maggie’s sure she got to this room only because she’s absolutely, stunningly gorgeous. Big blue eyes, and blonde hair, and she’s...she has it all, yeah. She’s not exactly Maggie’s type, and she’s not one to treat women like a piece of meat, but she’s...hot. The hottest woman that’s walked through the door today. If Maggie had been three years younger she would be blushing through her lines.
But she’s more mature now, and can only be disappointed when her acting falls flat.
Anthony mentions the girl only had one credit under her name but he wanted to give her a chance—of course—and Maggie genuinely hopes she gets better. She already has half the job in the bag, it’ll be much easier for her to get roles than it ever was for Maggie looking the way she does.
Halfway through the chemistry read with Girl Number 11, Maggie begins to accept that Girl Number 10 will be her girl. Her Claire isn’t exactly what she pictured, but she seemed nice. And at least Maggie won’t have to stand on boxes to be on the same level with her as she sometimes has to with James. Her neck will be saved the strain, too, during their future kiss scenes.
Once Girl Number 10 walks out, Maggie realizes she’s forgotten someone. And it’s exactly who she was most excited to do the scene with. In her defense, it’s been at least 6 hours and she’s exhausted.
“One last girl to go, Maggie.”
“Alex Danvers,” she says.
“The one and only,” Anthony sing songs.
Alex sits outside the door.
The audition is underway by the time she arrives, and she sits in the chair vacated by the woman who walked inside. J’onn left her at the door with a ‘Good luck’ and a hug, and Alex has spent the hour since then getting her nerves under control and trying to get in the right mindset to channel Claire.
She does what she’s always done for her characters: draws from her own life.
She thinks about Claire’s need to please her parents. Thinks back to when she was younger and her dad was alive, how she tried her hardest during ballet lessons she never liked so she could show him what she learned when she got home. She eventually accepted she was useless at dancing, but she still remembers wanting to do everything to see him proud of her. Just as painful, she thinks of her mom, who doesn’t even know she’s auditioning just in case she doesn’t get it.
She thinks of Claire wanting to be the best cop she can be and impress Blake while she’s at it. How she craves her approval, but doesn’t want to beg for it. She wants to earn it. How she’d rather fight with her brain than with her fists, even though she’s plenty capable of it.
She looks up. She’s thankful she’s the last one so no one bats an eye at her last name.
“You’re up,” the receptionist says.
Alex takes a deep breath and walks in.
When Alex Danvers enters the room, Maggie can immediately feel her presence.
Lorena discreetly raises her eyebrows at her outfit, and Maggie does the same. She’s wearing...jeans. And an olive colored T-shirt. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but after a whole day of women walking in dressed in black pantsuits and an elegant blouse, all certainly aiming for the Claire Lawson look...she’s dressed down. It doesn’t look like she doesn’t care—her hair, just past her shoulders, is neatly combed behind her ears, and her black boots shine under the fluorescent lighting. But she’s not...trying as hard. Maggie is already intrigued.
They meet eyes before Alex is supposed to slate, and Maggie is unexpectedly caught in hers. The intensity and determination shining there is unmistakable. It’s the same intensity that caught her eye when watching Body of Medicine. It’s not that she doesn’t care at all. She knows right then and there she made the right call asking Anthony to get her.
Alex deftly shakes hands with both producers and the casting director, and then greets Maggie with a curt nod and a similar handshake. Maggie is slightly taken aback. She’s not...rude, exactly, but she’s serious. Maybe too serious. She doesn’t come off as at all similar to the warm, optimistic Claire they’re looking for.
Maggie is slightly worried for a second. This is the woman she went to bat for, the actress she put a good word in for with her showrunner because she believed in her talent. If Alex is one of the painful ones...Maggie might never live it down. Not to mention the disappointment will do her in.
But then Anthony yells action.
The transformation in Alex is magical, and it’s one of Maggie’s favorite things to witness as an actor. Alex’s eyes brighten, her back straightens, and she throws her shoulders back. They settle into an easy rhythm as Blake and Claire, and Maggie feels the scene she’s done almost a dozen times today is fresh again, new, exciting.
Maggie doesn’t think she’s ever felt this comfortable with an acting partner before. It’s an exhilarating feeling, like seeing snow for the first time when all you’ve ever known is sticky, uncomfortable heat.
“I work best alone,” Maggie says, deepening even further the already low tone she uses for Blake.
“Well, if you’re really the best I’m sure you can be the best alone or with a partner,” Alex returns brightly.
They run through the lines, and Maggie has done this enough that at least a small part of her can focus on the reactions around her. She thinks Bruno, Lorena, and even Anthony, might like her just as much as she’s decided she does.
The scene is over, but Maggie doesn’t want it to be.
“It’s a joke Lawson,” she improvises. “Now get up, I have a tour to give you.”
“Oh?” Alex adds, and Maggie looks up. Nobody has improvised today. Nobody has dared to. And Maggie would never advise it, but Alex seems so confident she doesn’t doubt she knows what she’s doing. “Sorry, we don’t have that kind of humor where I’m from.”
“Well, you’re certainly not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” Maggie says.
“Wouldn’t I be Dorothy since I’m human?” Alex asks, the right balance of defiant and naive.
“No. You’re definitely the yapping dog.” Maggie says, and the undertone of laughter in her voice...that’s all her, not Blake.
“Would that make you the Wicked Witch of the West?” Alex asks as she steps forward, her eyebrow raised. Maggie swallows. She’s taken aback. There’s a current in the air, between their characters, and she wonders if this is the chemistry they talk about, the thing that Anthony wanted.
“Most would say so,” she replies, channeling Blake’s loneliness even when she pushes everyone in her life away. “Enough small talk.” She intends to end the scene with that—nobody likes when actresses go off track, and she’d hate for Alex to try and prove herself further by trying to say the last line. Maggie is relieved when Alex takes her guidance with a slight nod.
They work well together.
The room erupts into applause.
It breaks her out of the moment of concentration she’d found herself in, and she takes a self-conscious step back as she realizes how close they’d gotten during the last part, where they went entirely off script. She’s never done that with anyone but James, and that’s just a throwaway one liner here or there. This was...different. Maggie has been in Blake’s shoes for a year, but it was as if Alex was Claire, only one minute in.
“Impressive,” Anthony says. “Thank you for coming, Miss Danvers,” he tells Alex, giving her a smile. Maggie has seldom seen him as excited. “We’ll be in touch.”
Alex looks taken aback at the sudden dismissal, but she nods.
“Thank you,” she tells the room, and then turns to shake Maggie’s hand again. “I-good scene.”
She turns around and leaves. Maggie has little time to think about her awkward parting words because then Lorena is asking her if she’s thinking what everyone else is, Bruno is saying that the chemistry between them was palpable to everyone in the room, and Anthony looks like he’s basically salivating at the thought of Alex being their Claire.
And Maggie...part of her is still living in that moment, caught in Alex’s presence.
Alex can feel she got the role.
She walks out in a daze, surprised that it went as well as it did, and relieved. She feels even better than she did after the first callback for Body of Medicine. She delivered every line the way she’d practiced in front of her mirror. And when they improvised...she would’ve never tried to start that, but when Maggie did, all Alex wanted to do was follow along.
She’s never improvised before.
She’s always thought there’s a script for a reason, and her dad had usually been the one writing those scripts, and he was a genius. It’s never been her place to direct where a scene is going. But she felt good improvising today, and she knows it’s only because Maggie made her feel like she could.
She’d be an easy person to work with, acting-wise. Alex can feel that. And she didn’t seem stuck up, so she’s probably nice, too. If she’s half as nice as her fans make her seem she’ll already be the kindest person Alex has ever worked with.
It was perfect, except for one thing.
Near the end there, she’d gotten nervous, and bolted.
‘Good scene’? What the fuck was that?
She didn’t know Maggie enough to be starstruck, and growing up in Malibu—and in the business, most of all—she doesn’t have it in her to be starstruck. So she doesn’t know why her brain short circuited for a second, as people clapped around them and she found herself staring at Maggie Sawyer’s dimpled smile.
The clapping—that was a good one to tell her mom. And J’onn. She could hardly wait to call him and—her phone buzzes.
“J’onn!” she answers. “I was about to call you, I’m just heading outside.”
“I was waiting outside, the place filled up with paps. You’re gonna have to go out through the backdoor.”
“I’m in the staff parking lot. I brought the car around.”
“Okay, I’ll meet you there.”
Alex turns back and tries to find the right door to exit through as she walks through the long, sterile looking hallways. She asks for directions when her phone buzzes again. J’onn worries when she takes too long sometimes, and Alex knows that’s entirely her fault.
Orange rays hit her face when she opens the heavy metal door labeled ‘EXIT’, the late afternoon beautiful despite the heavy clouds in the distance.
“Hold the door!”
Alex looks over her shoulder, and Maggie is there. Her stomach jumps. Maggie steps into place behind her, smiling sheepishly.
Alex stares at her.
“I’m sorry, Game of Thrones?” Maggie asks, and Alex briefly thinks she should have taken Kara up on her offer of watching the damn thing last summer. “Nevermind. Thanks again. I keep saying I should exercise with these doors, they’re so heavy -oh,” Maggie’s eyes get lost behind her. “They’re outside.”
Alex looks out the door, and sure enough the paparazzi have made their way around the building, their cameras flashing away. It’s afternoon. Why is that even needed?
“Your car here?” Maggie asks, and Alex nods. She catches sight of J’onn, and begins walking towards her ride. The yelling begins soon after.
"Alex! Maggie! Look over here! Alex!"
It’s enough to sour her mood after the triumph she felt inside. “Alex,” she mutters. “Alex. They don't know me."
“Alex! This way, gorgeous!”
A step away from the car, a different voice calls out to her.
“See you around, Danvers!” Maggie smiles. “Hopefully."
“Me, I mean-Danvers?" She means to say something along the lines of ‘you too’ but that, whatever that was, comes out instead. Nobody’s called her by her last name since she was in middle school.
"Well,” Maggie’s smile is full of teasing, Alex doesn’t have to know her to realize. “I don't know you.,” she repeats Alex’s previous words back to her. “Yet." Maggie’s handwave drips with charm as she gets into her car. Alex isn’t quite sure how that’s even possible.
She gets into her own ride, and J’onn greets her with a smile.
“It went well, I hope?”
She looks at Maggie’s car pulling out of the parking spot and into the street, swiftly avoiding the paparazzi.
“You have no idea.”
“Did you see it?!”
“I’m about to,” Maggie tells Gabriella, smiling at how, regardless of how many magazine covers she has or interviews she does, her aunt is never any less excited.
Maggie laughs as she puts her phone on speaker and sets it down on the arm of the couch. She folds her legs underneath her while she grabs the issue of The Hollywood Reporter. She’s not on the cover, but the 6 page spread inside is the stuff of dreams.
She reads over the first paragraphs, the usual fluff about her origins—Gabriella had helpfully supplied the information about where her family had come from—and then stops as she comes across a quote from her aunt.
“‘Maggie was always the brightest little star’,” she reads out loud. “‘Perhaps not the most coordinated, but she was always excited to perform.’” Maggie chuckles. “Gabriella, when did they ask you this?”
“M’gann gave them my number, they called a couple of days after the photoshoot.”
“And you didn’t say anything,” she mentions, amused.
“I wanted you to read it first. How was that for my first printed interview?”
Maggie laughs, and reads the line again.
“Not very coordinated, Gabriella?” Maggie shakes her head. It’s exactly the type of thing her aunt would say to a publication asking about her childhood. “You never even saw me perform.”
“Please, Giorgia sent me pictures of you playing the star of the tree in first grade,” Gabriella tells her. “I remember because it was my first semester of college, and I almost jumped on a plane back to Nebraska to see it with my own eyes.”
Maggie’s smile slips off her face at the mention of her mother, but there’s no one around to see it.
“Have you-uh, have you talked to her recently?”
“Not since last Christmas, as usual,” Gabriella tells her.
“I wouldn't talk to her behind your back, Maggie, you know that.”
“I do.” She knows Gabriella is in her corner, that she always has been. “She’s still your sister though.”
“She’s nothing to me,” Gabriella says fiercely, “neither of them are.” Gabriella takes a breath. “Let’s talk about something else. How about the casting, how did that go?”
Maggie is thankful for her aunt every day, but especially in moments like this.
“I'm pretty sure she’s gonna get it.”
“The one and only. I've never seen Anthony so excited about anything.” Maggie had been pretty excited too, truth be told. It wasn’t often she felt such a connection with someone on the first audition. They just clicked together as actresses.
“They all really liked her.”
“She’s a good actress. Great, even,” Maggie tells her, honestly. “I think she’d be a good scene partner.”
“She a good person?” Gabriella asks, and from the sounds of it she’s gotten up to do something.
“Hard to tell from a 10 minute cold read.”
“Right. But that’s important. I can't imagine having to work with someone—and kiss them—if i couldn't stand them. And if you don’t like her then I’m gonna be the one getting an earful and you can get unbearable.”
Maggie laughs. “Are you kidding me?”
Gabriella doesn’t answer, and Maggie hears a discussion going on in the background.
“Huh-I have to go sweetheart, something’s up in the kitchen. I’ll call you later, okay?”
Maggie tries to shake off the disappointment. Her aunt is busy running an entire restaurant; she should let her work.
“Okay, bye. Love you.”
The call disconnects.
Maggie sits back, finishes reading the article, and then puts the magazine away after taking a look at the pictures. She’s not a fan of looking at herself on screen, but it’s different with photos. She looks good in these.
She looks around her house, the open area of the living room somehow seeming bigger and emptier without Gabriella filling the silence with her chatter. Her aunt has her own apartment close to La Nuvola Bianca, but she spends so much time here it’s as if Maggie never moved out. She likes it that way. This place is too big for only her.
She has nothing to do but wait—Gabriella promised they’d go shopping for winter clothes tomorrow—so she resolves to get the small things out of the way. She signs off on the monthly donation she makes to Hope For Paws, the animal rescue organization she stumbled upon during one of her morning jogs. She’s reading the newsletter they send to all donors and volunteers when a photo slips out. It’s an adorable German Shepard, his tongue lolling out as he seems to smile for the camera. She turns the photo over, “Thanks to your generous donation Miss Sawyer, Lucky here was able to successfully have his leg amputated. And he was adopted earlier this week!” Maggie keeps the picture.
She approves a payment to Nebraska Smiles, the children’s orthodontics clinic near Blue Springs whose name she’s become familiar with. She sends a message to M’gann, thanking her for her praise regarding the article, and once all of that is done it’s only been an hour of her time.
She orders some takeout from La Nuvola Bianca, and Esteban on the phone recognizes her voice. If she can’t have her aunt at least she’ll have her amazing food. She resolves to take a bath while she waits for dinner to arrive.
She puts her hair up and steps into the warm, soapy water, feeling her muscles relax. She lets her head slip back and stares up at the light fixture, her eyes roving over the glass. Her bathroom is larger than Gabriella’s living room in her old apartment, where she spent the first few months after she moved in with her, sleeping on the pull out couch until her aunt could get her a bed. It’s certainly bigger than the room they shared until she was eighteen.
Sometimes Maggie can’t believe she’s here.
Which is why she feels so selfish when, looking around, she doesn’t like her life when she’s alone.
It’s this side of lonely.
When J’onn shows up to her apartment three days later to tell her they’ve offered her the part, Alex isn’t surprised.
The first thing she feels is relief.
She got it. She’s going to be working again. She’ll be able to tell her mom she has a job, and Kara will be able to give an answer when reporters ask her about her sister’s future projects. She’s relieved.
She hugs J’onn, who pats her back fondly.
“They actually called me last night, but I didn’t listen to the message until this morning. They chose fast,” he tells her, not giving Alex enough time to overthink this and feel the nerves simmering just below the surface. He pulls away. “Of course they did,” he says, and he looks so proud Alex feels her throat get tight.
“Do you have it?” she asks, realizing that they left J’onn a message.
“I want to hear it!” she pleads. “If you have it.” She feels like bouncing on her toes, ecstatic as she is. It’s a job. A great one.
"What's wrong?" Alex deflates slightly.
Her mind runs a mile a minute, conjuring up scenario after scenario where there’s conditions to her working, or a caveat. It was all too good to be true.
“Nothing, Alex. It’s just, the showrunner, King...he’s not really…”
Alex gives him a look.
“What did he say about me? I want to hear.”
J’onn sighs. He must have known it would only make her more determined to listen to whatever it is he was sent. He could've just said he deleted the message, but J’onn doesn’t lie to her, and for that she’s thankful. He’s never treated her with kid gloves.
J’onn puts his phone on speaker a minute later.
Alex almost wishes he hadn’t.
“At the beginning I was skeptical,” Anthony King says. “I mean, it’s Alex Danvers—we were all a bit skeptical.” Alex cringes at the way he says her name. When did she become that actress? The trainwreck recognizable by her name as someone to avoid? “But! She won us over. We’re so excited to welcome her to the Nightingale family if she accepts.”
She can’t get one good thing. Even when telling her manager she got a role she wanted, they find a way to drag her through the mud.
“He’s a moron,” J’onn tells her.
“He’s my new boss,” she states.
“Don’t pay attention to-”
Alex shakes her head.
“And he’s honest, too. Alex Danvers, who would want to work with her? Can she even work anymore?” Her voice sounds as low as she feels.
“Stop that,” J’onn tells her. “You got the job.”
Somehow it doesn’t sound as sweet as it did ten minutes ago.
“So...” J’onn trails off.
J’onn gives her a patient smile. “Are you in?”
“I think it’s obvious I need it, and it’s a miracle I even got it.”
She’s going to take it because she has to, there’s no other way around it. She wants it, too, but it’s so much harder to admit that when the showrunner himself was surprised that she was good.
“I still want to know what you think.”
“Yes,” Alex tells him. “I need it,” she repeats, and the excitement bubbling up in her stomach is only slightly dampened by the thought that they expected her to be a failure and she surprised them. If she was younger, she’d walk away from this so easily, her pride bigger than her reason. She can’t afford to be that girl anymore.
“Congratulations,” J’onn tells her, and Alex has it in her to smile.
God, she needs to tell her mom.
“Yeah, I just haven’t had breakfast yet.” She walks to her kitchen. “And I need to talk to my mother.”
Alex gives him a look. “Would it be too much to ask you to do it for me?”
She’s a mess, she knows she is, but J’onn has never judged her. He gets it, she knows, and he understands why, maybe more than even her mom or Kara. They’re the same, deep down.
“Of course. I’ll call King and then Eliza.” He grabs a banana from her breakfast island. “Eat something.”
She has a bowl of cereal while J’onn makes all the necessary calls. She watches him turn his charisma on as he talks to producer after producer, and makes arrangements to meet them over everything from her paychecks to her relocation to New York. Alex has no idea how he does it.
He leaves her mom for last, and she’s sorry she finished her measly breakfast because now she has nothing to keep her occupied and ignorant of the conversation going on three feet away from her.
J’onn sounds happy for her when he tells her mom she has a new role, and Alex wishes she could see her mom’s expression. Find out whether she’d be happy too, or weary of what she’ll do to ruin it.
“She’s busy right now, on the phone. You know how it is, Eliza. But she’s excited.”
J’onn throws a look her way, and Alex looks out the window. He doesn’t like lying, and she hates that she makes him do it. She walks past him on the way to her room, and hears something that sounds like “Thank you, J’onn. For everything.” coming from the phone.
“It was all Alex,” he says.
She takes a shower while he talks to some other people, and once she comes out everything’s ready for her to sign.
It’s all done in one morning.
She’s looking forward to a celebratory drink later in the evening, maybe even calling some of the girls from last time, when J’onn’s phone starts ringing, and even he looks surprised at who it is when he answers.
J’onn hands her the phone.
“It’s for you,” he tells her. “Maggie.”
Alex’s heart thuds in her chest, hard. She clears her throat before taking the phone.
“Danvers,” Maggie greets, and Alex feels a smile play on her lips when the other woman uses the name from the parking lot. “I just wanted to call to congratulate you on getting the role.”
“Thank you,” Alex tells her.
“We’re gonna have a lot of fun on set. You’re going to love the crew,” Maggie says. “I don’t have much time right now, but I just wanted to let you know I’m excited to have you on board. I’m really glad you’re my Claire.”
Alex swallows. She definitely doesn’t fixate on the possessive pronoun.
“Yeah, me...me too.”
“I have to go now. Bye, Danvers.”
Maggie gratefully accepts the glass of wine her aunt hands her, and she hums when the first drop of red touches her tongue. It’s the good stuff from the restaurant.
“Do you like the girl?” Gabriella asks as she sits on the other end of the couch, pulling Maggie’s feet into her lap.
“I don't know her,” she tells her aunt. “But she seemed nice enough.” She thinks about it while she lets the heady taste of wine slide down her throat. “Actually, no, she didn’t. She seemed really uptight. Not while she acted, she was great then. Really great. But just...every other moment.”
Maggie isn’t trying to judge the woman. It was a big audition. She must have been nervous. Maggie was so nervous when she went in for her first in-person audition for Blake she was sure it showed and she’d never get a callback.
“Well, her acting is what matters, isn't it?” Gabriella asks. “And hey, a few weeks with you and she’ll loosen up, you have that effect on people.”
“Mhm, and you’re not biased at all right?”
“I am biased, but I’m also right,” she says, and Maggie smiles. Having dinner and a drink with her aunt was exactly what she needed to finish off a crazy week. She's going to miss this while she's in New York filming season 2. She's never spent more than three weeks without seeing her aunt since she was 14 years old, it's going to be a change for sure.
“You should bring her by for dinner sometime,” Gabriella tells her. “I’ll make my gorgonzola gnocchi. The LA Times-”
“Proclaimed it was ‘mouth wateringly sumptuous as it melted in your mouth’,” Maggie finishes for her, smiling. “I know, zia,” she tells her, using the Italian word that feels more like a pet name than simply ‘aunt’ in another language. “You keep telling everyone.”
“Because they did!” she says, shaking her hand.
Maggie laughs. “Oh my god, you’re literally the Italian meme right now.”
“You know,” she mimics the hand gesture, “this is how Italians talk.”
“Kid, you’re really perpetuating Italian stereotypes now, and I am not a fan.”
“It’s a meme, Gabriella.” Maggie laughs, folding her legs beneath herself.
“You know I’m too old for that.”
Maggie shakes her head, as she reaches for the bottle of wine to top off both of their glasses.
“You’re thirty-five, not eighty-five.” Maggie doesn’t point out how she doesn’t even look 30, let alone her actual age.
“In this town, I’m practically ancient,“ Gabriella points out. Maggie can’t argue with that, but Hollywood can’t be trusted when it comes to aging.
“You’re not actually worried about being old, are you? Because you don’t look your age, and even if you did, everything you’ve accomplished these past years should be something to be proud of.”
Gabriella gives her a fond look, and Maggie feels like a kid all over again, like she did when she was in 9th grade, and she’d clean their tiny apartment so Gabriella wouldn’t have to when she came home from work. That look that tells her Gabriella loves her, more than her own mother ever did.
“Plus, just like fine wine, you're getting better with age,” she tells her with a light smirk.
“Just for that comment you get some of the leftover tiramisu I brought home, you little charmer.”
Maggie is out of the seat before she even finishes the sentence.
Alex enjoys the moment before a little too much.
The low hum of conversation and the sound of cutlery are the only background noise accompanying her announcement, and she enjoys it for a minute—the feeling of being on top of the world—before finally coming out and saying it.
“They called me yesterday, I got it.”
“Oh, Alex! I’m so happy for you!” If Kara’s squeal wasn’t enough for the entire restaurant to look at them, the way she jumps out of her seat and hugs Alex definitely is. Alex doesn’t get what’s the point of wearing glasses so people don’t immediately recognize her, if she’s going to draw attention to herself like this.
But deep down, she’s glad. It’s been a long time since she’s felt celebrated like this.
“Eliza! Oh my God!” Kara turns toward their mom. “Wait, why aren’t you surprised?”
“J’onn called me yesterday-”
“I knew, I wanted Alex to be the one to tell you.”
“Oh, I’m so happy for you!” Kara repeats, and gives Alex another crushing hug before she returns to her seat. Alex feels a weird twinge in her face, before she realizes it’s her cheeks, hurting from smiling so much.
“It’s so good to see you like this, Alex,” her mom says. “You look so…” she searches for words, and Alex just hopes they aren’t ‘less tired than usual’. “Healthy,” she settles with. “And happy. I like it. I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Yeah,” Kara agrees quietly. “You didn’t come to our dinner last month.”
“Yes, well, I was rehearsing and stuff. I’m sorry.” She wasn’t rehearsing. She doesn’t quite remember what she was doing, but she’s sure it involves nothing she’d want her mother or her little sister to see.
“No, it’s okay, Alex, I know now that you were busy,” Kara says. “And I’ve been busy too. It’s just-we cancelled this year’s summer trip and I, I don’t know.” Kara starts picking at her napkin. “I don’t like not seeing you.”
Guilt seeps into Alex, slow and painful like poison.
“You knew about the audition a month ago?” her mom asks, drawing her attention. “Alex, you should’ve told us.”
“I wanted it to be surprise, mom,” she lies.
“Well, it definitely was,” she says with a smile. “Congratulations.”
Her mom leans over the table to press a kiss to Alex’s cheek, and she wishes she wasn’t surprised by the easy affection, she wishes she didn’t realize how much she craves it.
Still, disappointment spreads across her chest when she doesn’t hear the words she was expecting. Wishing for. The ‘I’m proud of you’ doesn't come.
“When do you start filming?” Kara asks.
“The last week of July,” she tells her. “But I have to move earlier, makeup and wardrobe tests are all in Manhattan too.”
“It’s in New York? Alex, you should've started with that,” Eliza admonishes.
“I didn't think it mattered.” Didn’t think you cared, she wants to say, but she’s not 16 anymore, and she doesn't fling her words about as carelessly. Her mom cares. Just not as much as she would if it was Kara moving across the country.
Then, she’d probably go too.
Alex hadn’t even made sure if J’onn had told her or not.
“One of my daughters is moving to the other side of the country, of course it matters!”
“Oh, I love New York,” Kara says. “I'm going to visit you when I finish filming! Have you looked at apartments yet?”
“J’onn is handling that, I think production is going to set us up.”
“I just realized you’re going to be there in December,” her mom says, spooning sugar into her tea. “You’re going to love the snow in Central Park! It's beautiful there that time of year.”
Alex doesn't mention how she’s already dreading the cold, because her mom skipped the talking to for forgetting to tell her she was moving.
“Oh girls, what if we go for New Years to watch the ball drop?” her mom asks suddenly. “Your father and I did that before Alex was born.”
“Yes!” Kara’s answer is immediate, and Alex thinks her sister hasn’t changed her reactions since she was 11 years old. “Alex, what do you think?”
“The only thing is it gets so crowded,” her mom mentions. “Kara, maybe you could get one of your friends to seat us backstage?”
“I thought you liked a normal life,” Alex mentions.
“You know what, you’re right. We’re going to freeze our butts off like everyone else.”
Kara laughs. Alex can’t help but chuckle at her mom’s use of the word butt.
“We could go before we head up to Aspen,” Kara mentions. “Alex, you would've loved it last year.”
It’s extremely doubtful, considering she’s found as many excuses to avoid the trip as possible since she was old enough to avoid it, but for the sake of brunch she doesn’t mention anything.
“That’s a great idea honey. It won’t make up for our summer vacation, but almost.”
Their food arrives shortly after that, and Alex thinks that no, a trip to see a fucking ball drop in freezing weather while packed in by people on all sides and then a weekend in the slopes that she’ll find a way to avoid won’t makeup for the one vacation of the year she actually looks forward to.
They usually go somewhere warm, Italy one year, Mexico the other. They went to Panama one year, when she was seventeen and her dad was still alive, and they scuba dived in both oceans on the same day. Their summer vacations are one of the few traditions her dad started that they haven’t lost, and Alex has tried not to miss them.
Except this year Kara had a movie to work on, and that took precedence.
Alex reaches for the mimosa she ordered and takes a long drink, enjoying the slightly acidic taste going down her throat.
"So is Claire gay?"
She coughs, the drink going down the wrong path. She looks up at Kara’s interested face. She doesn’t dare look at her mom.
“She's, um. Yeah. Yes, she's-she's going to be Blake’s love interest, of course.”
Kara shrugs. “I mean she could’ve been bisexual, I don’t know."
"What do you know about that?" Alex snaps. Kara gives her a strange look.
“I mean...Michelle is bi, you know that, right?” She says, mentioning one of her little model friends. “And Paulo is gay. He’s done our hair since forever!”
Kara pops a fry into her mouth, and Alex resents her ability to eat whatever she wants without putting on weight. She has to start training for Nightingale, soon, and she’s already dreading the limitations to her diet.
“Michelle actually loves Nightingale,” Kara says, still chewing. “I watched it with her when you said no. Imagine! if you’d watched it with me now you’d be part of a show you liked.”
“Who said I’d like it?” Alex asks her.
“Alex,” Kara whispers, and Alex frowns. Who’s listening? “You kind of have to like it, you're a part of it now.”
She bristles up at that, and she’s not sure why. (Except she is, she knows, but she can’t spell it out in the middle of the day, during lunch with her mother and sister and closest friend, not even inside her own head.)
“Kara!” her mom chips in. “Why don’t you tell your sister what you told me last night?"
A smile spreads across her sister’s face as she starts telling her about an audition her manager heard of, and Alex is equal parts relieved and upset she’s been swiftly removed from the spotlight.
“It’s not a sure thing yet, but he thinks I might get to audition.” Kara giggles. “Captain Marvel, Alex.”
The name of the superhero leaves her lips with something akin to reverence, and Alex wishes she wasn’t trapped inside her own head, imagining everyone around her talking about Kara in that tone of voice for the next few years if she gets the role.
“Your sister could be an Avenger, Alex. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Yeah,” she says, before downing the rest of her mimosa in one large gulp. She signals for the waitress to bring her another one.
“Having fun, are we?” Her mom asks, in that particular tone of voice of hers, and it makes Alex want to order a bottle of bourbon and drink it straight from the tumbler, or get up and fucking leave.
“Well, we’re celebrating two things today!” She exclaims, surprised at how easy it is to let the dam open and her bitterness out. “I got a role, and Kara might get an audition for a role. Absolutely the same.”
“Oh, Alex,” Kara says, extending her hand above the table, but Alex moves away before her sister can touch her. “I’m happy for you! Mom’s happy too, it’s not like-”
She hates the pity in her voice. How she’s so clearly trying to placate her, the stupid girl with her ridiculous hurt feelings.
“I haven’t said anything,” she tells them. “I’m happy for you. I hope you get it.”
Kara looks away, and their mom gets that look of disappointment Alex has been waiting for since she sat down.
“This would be a very important role for your sister,” her mom says."
"Never said it wasn’t,” Alex points out and grabs her mimosa straight out of the waitress’s hands when she comes around. “Cheers!” She tells the table, before taking a long drink.
“Alexandra,” her mom says, tense, beneath her breath. “I can’t deal with you when you get like this.”
“Like what?” Alex asks. “We’re celebrating, aren’t we?”
She can’t have one thing. One single fucking thing. One moment where she’s enough and her mom is happy for her, with her. She was stupid to agree to this lunch.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” her mom tells her. “Will you please mature while I’m gone?”
“Alex…” Kara gives her that look, the one that inevitably makes her feel guilty, and she stares at her plate, her sad egg whites and bacon going cold.
“Fine,” Kara says. “Have you met Maggie yet?” her sister asks, picking up the conversation as though nothing had happened. “I mean, I know you said you did the chemistry read, but I mean like met, met.”
“No, we haven’t really talked. She did call me to congratulate me after I got it though.”
“She did?” Kara looks excited, almost...jealous, and Alex relishes it for the second it lasts. “She always seems so nice.”
“She’s...fine. Like I said, we haven’t really talked.”
Something lights up behind Kara’s eyes.
“Oh my god, can you get Michelle an autograph? She saw Maggie at New York Fashion Week last year but she was too scared to go up to her, and she beats herself up over it every time she gets drunk,” Kara tells her, speaking a hundred miles per hour. “She’s like, literally in love with her. Maggie’s a lesbian icon or something—I’d score some major best friend points if I got her an autograph. Or a shout out on her twitter! Her birthday is coming up, can you-”
“I mean it Kara, this is a job, it’s not you being ten years old and dad bringing you to set so you could ride The Rock’s shoulders.”
Kara smiles faintly. “I loved that day.”
Alex shouldn’t have mentioned anything. She should’ve just embarrassed herself and gotten her sister the damn autograph. She’s used to getting her way, in any case.
“You don’t talk about him anymore,” Kara mentions, and Alex looks away, past the white fence beside her into the street.
"Tell mom I had to go."
“Alex, no.” Kara’s hand is tight on her wrist. “Sit down. Please? For me?” Alex looks toward her sister, who’s giving her the eyes that always made both of her parents bend to her will, and everyone she ever meets, too. “ We won't talk about it anymore. In fact, I won’t talk at all if you don't want me to. Today is your day. We’ll play the donkey game, remember? Like when we were little.”
Kara mimics a zipper closing across her mouth.
Alex chuckles, and the tight band around her lungs begins to disappear.
She remembers being 16 years old, and having a chatterbox for a little sister. Kara got ahold of English faster than most kids her age, but she still had a heavy accent back then. Her tutor told her talking would help, and her parents had taken that to mean Alex had to be who she talked to, all day long, about whatever crossed her mind, and she should be the one to correct her pronunciation too.
So she came up with a game where the next person to speak in the room would be a donkey. She always won.
“I only came up with that game to get you to shut up.” She laughs, and Kara joins her.
Alex sees her mom come back from the bathroom, and the smile slips from her lips.
“Alex,” Kara says quietly, her hand over hers. “Mom loves you, she just worries. Cut her some slack, please?” Kara squeezes her hand. “Let’s just have a nice brunch, I missed this.”
Alex takes a deep breath, and nods.
Kara has assistant pick her and mom up, and Alex hugs them both goodbye and watches them get on the car. She knows they both mean well, she does, but, she's always left feeling exhausted after spending time with them. She sighs as she makes her way to the parking lot, pulling out her phone to check it, a faint breeze hitting her face.
She has a text from J’onn.
She isn't sure how she feels about the woman—her future co-star, she guesses—having the power to call her, but she can't think about it too much because her car arrives shortly after.
She settles in the backseat for the drive home. She hates the traffic in LA. It's probably the thing she misses the most about Malibu. She misses her bike, too, and she can’t wait until her timeout is done and she can get back on her Ducati. She's fantasizing about cruising the highway, comfortably seated on her motorcycle's leather seats, when her phone rings with an incoming call from an unknown number.
"Hi," Maggie Sawyer's voice greets her. "It's Maggie. Your agent gave me your phone."
"Yeah, I know. Um, hi."
"I was calling to invite you to get drinks and apps with me in a couple of days, if you're free."
"This Saturday. Place is La Nuvola Bianca, I'm not sure if you've heard of it, it's on Olive street."
"Yeah, sure," she says, aware she has no clue of the place. She doesn't want to seem clueless in front of her—or over the phone.
"Great," Maggie says. "I'll see you at 5. I'm looking forward to it."
Alex hears the call disconnect, and sighs. She's not a fan of the plan, but she guesses she has to, since they'll be working together for the foreseeable future.
She gets home that afternoon, and there's a packet on her coffee table.
She's not surprised, since J'onn has a key (and isn't that something, how her agent has a key to her place but her mother doesn't). J'onn does more parenting than her mother, anyways. When she opens it, she finds a script. The script for Nightingale's first episode of season 2. She thumbs through the pages, and it's strange, opening a script for the first time in so many months. She feels strangely homesick all of a sudden.
If she closes her eyes and really focuses, she's almost back in her childhood home in Malibu, opening her first script, her dad's name on it. She can almost imagine the sounds of the ocean three steps from the front door and the sound of her dad writing in his studio, while she studies with the single-minded concentration of a kid who doesn't know there's things more important than starring in a movie.
Alex opens her eyes.
She's not there anymore, but the weight of the script in her hands reminds her of it so keenly she almost loses her breath. It's been a while.
She cracks the script straight down the middle, right around where her character first appears. She grabs the yellow highlighter and black pen suspiciously placed on her coffee table as well (J'onn, again). She has to get to work. The new city in a few weeks, the new character, and the set awaiting her all feel like something she’s been waiting for without knowing she needed it.
It feels like a new beginning.