Actions

Work Header

yearning to breathe free

Chapter Text


Alea iacta est : the dice is cast

.

.

.

Floriana Lima

alexarticle1

 

 

 

.

.

.

 

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. 

She can’t. 

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.” 

Fuck. 

“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.” 

M’gann smiles. 

“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. 

Maggie nods. 

“I wish I could stay, but I know you’ll do great.” 

“Thank you.” 

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 falters. 

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.

 

clairelawsondescrip

 

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.” 

Lorena nods. 

“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.

“Danvers?”

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.”

“Shit.”

“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.

“Thanks, Hodor.”

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.

“Well, hurry.”

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.

“Oh.”

“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.”

“Alex Danvers?”

“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.”

“Did you?”

“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.”

“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.

 

maggie-1

maggie-2

maggie-3

 

 

.

.

.

 

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.

“Alex-”

“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.

J’onn grimaces.

"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.

“So what?”

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.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I just haven’t had breakfast yet.” She walks to her kitchen. “And I need to talk to my mother.”

“Oh.”

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.

“Hello?”

“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.” 

“Goodbye, Sawyer.

  

.

.

.

 

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.” 

“The what?” 

“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-” 

“You knew?!” 

“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?” 

"Sure.“ 

“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. 

"Don’t.” 

“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-”

"No."

“Alex!” 

“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.

cellphone

She frowns.

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.

"Hello?"

"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."

"I-sure. When?"

"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.

 

 

script-page

Chapter Text

 

A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi : a precipice in front, wolves behind

 

.

.

.

 

tweet28

tweet29

tweet27

tweet11

tweet25

tweet13

 

She can’t stop reading them.

Tweet after tweet after tweet of people reacting to the news of her casting.

It didn't take long for Anthony King and the rest of the higher ups at ABC to announce her casting after she had accepted it, and barely 2 months after J’onn presented her with the possibility, the world knows she’s a part of the show. Some of the reaction is good, some of it the opposite. She’s trying to keep track of it, to measure the negativity and the positivity on a scale, and see which one comes out on top. Get a feel of how much she’s hated.

Her dad always said measuring her worth based on what she read about herself from people who’d never met her was ridiculous, but Alex can’t help it, and her dad isn’t here to teach her better. So she keeps reading.

 

tweet26

 

Well, that’s not so bad.

Alex exits the app momentarily to check on her Uber, and when she sees he’s less than 2 minutes away, she shakes herself out of her pity party to go down the stairs.

Uber. Fucking Uber. She has to take Uber.

God, she misses her car. Losing her license is probably the thing she regrets the most, right after getting booted from Body of Medicine . The tiny Nissan that picks her up is so sad she almost considers skipping the meeting out of respect for herself, but she told Maggie she’d be there, and she can’t afford to have her future co-star disliking her from the start. She’s actually desperate to leave a good impression.

If things go well, and she needs them to, she could be on the show for a good number of seasons. She spends the entire ride to the restaurant trying to put her best self forward, and clear her head, and remember how to be polite. But try as she might she can’t make her teeth unclench when she thinks about every message she read this afternoon alone.

By the time the car stops outside a restaurant with large glass walls, a sign reading ‘La Nuvola Bianca’ outside, she’s still simmering with annoyance.

She enters the huge crystal double doors, and as soon as she gives the hostess her name she’s ushered inside. She follows the hostess, as they weave through the white tables and people and climb the spiral staircase onto the second floor. She looks around. She researched the place before coming, just like she’d looked into Maggie. It doesn’t look the same and Alex is willing to bet it’s because night hasn’t fallen yet. This city has a way of changing completely as soon as the sun slips away, for good and bad.

She thinks the restaurant might look as magical as it did in the photos she saw of it during the evening, when the seemingly thousands of strings of lights scattered through the space are turned on. Even in the daylight, though, it still retains its elegance somehow, instead of looking like a hipster joint trying too hard to appeal to millennials. She thinks she might have liked to dine here some time—if that was a thing she did. It isn’t.

She follows the hostess through a second set of double doors into another dining room, even more elegant than the space below. Lights span across the uncovered wooden roof arches that make up the ceiling, and there’s a view of the city outside the floor-to-roof windows. Alex suddenly feels incredibly out of place in her jeans, shirt, and boots. Her jacket is probably her mother’s or Kara’s, the nicest thing she could find in her closet. Her favorite clothes are back home in Malibu, and she’s avoided getting them back in the hopes of avoiding a lecture. Plus she’s thrown away a nice leather jacket or three because they smelled like smoke or were covered in puke.

She’s glad the second floor is deserted, and that Maggie invited her at this hour.

She’d never admit to it, but she feels slightly intimidated. Not by Maggie, exactly, but by everything this job entails. The show already has one successful season under its belt and diehard fans, and Maggie has a movie with a $30 million dollar budget (Alex had indeed done her research) out in theaters next week. Maggie’s last movie was a success, if she’s to believe media sites there’s talk of her being nominated for an Oscar, despite how many girls she’s photographed with, the press still loves her. Girls. Plural. Because Maggie Sawyer is gay and proud and loud about it, and she’s still so successful...not to mention, young. God, she’s Kara’s age.

What does she have compared to all that?

Alex hates feeling out of place, hates the vulnerability that comes with feeling like you’re at a disadvantage.

The tweets and articles in reaction to her casting serve as confirmation to the nagging feeling in the back of her mind. That she’s in over her head. That people will hate her next to Maggie. That her name and reputation are too low to be salvageable.

Alex wishes she didn’t feel so on edge and filled with doubt mere minutes before meeting Maggie.

She catches sight of her sitting at the bar, and all her wishes go out the window. The hostess leaves. Alex feels better when she sees Maggie isn’t wearing anything fancier than she is, a pair of jeans and a black sweater, a leather jacket hanging over the back of her chair. Maybe she’s not here to be judged, Alex thinks.

She takes a deep breath and makes her way to the bar.

“Hi, Maggie,” she says, hoping it’s not too casual. The woman in question looks up, and a smile spreads across her face—dimples popping out—as she stands up to greet her.

“Danvers!” Maggie leans forward to kiss her cheek in greeting, and Alex is dumbfounded. Maggie acts like they’re old friends. “Was traffic too bad?”

Alex shakes her head. She's not about to say she had to take a fucking Uber.

“This is…” Alex looks around. “A nice place. I looked it up on yelp, nothing but rave reviews.”

“Don’t let the owner hear that, I’ll never hear the end of it.”

“Your aunt,” Alex mentions. “She’s the owner, right?”

“Did your research, huh?” Maggie asks. “I like a woman who comes prepared.”

Alex tries not to shudder at Maggie’s words, like a fucking weirdo.

“I...like to know the people I’ll be working with.”

“Well, feel free to ask me any other questions you have, Danvers.” She smiles and spreads her hands, “That is the point of this meeting: getting to know each other.” Maggie sits, and signals for Alex to do the same beside her. She follows suit.

“Is it?” She asks, hoping she doesn’t sound as skeptical as she feels.

“Yeah. I mean, we kind of are going to spend almost every waking moment together in a few weeks.”

“Right.” Alex, laughs, slightly forced. The thought of it sends an uncomfortable hot flash through her body. She hates navigating uncharted waters. “But, well, I know about you.”

“You do?” Maggie raises an eyebrow. “Well, let’s hear it.”

Alex’s competitive streak flares up, with something as simple as this. She can’t help it.

“You came to LA at fourteen to pursue modeling. Your first big role was on Rosewood Street,” she lists. “After you left that, you went on to star in three other movies. Your favorite animal is dogs. Your favorite color is pink. Did I miss anything?”

Maggie smiles.

“You got one thing wrong, my favorite color is magenta.”

Alex rolls her eyes. “Pink, like I said.”

Maggie gives her a look, before shaking her head and smiling again, the dimples appearing.

“If this is the level of preparation you have for a friendly get together, I can’t imagine how great you’ll be when we’re on set.”

Alex’s mood quickly sours.

She’s heard those words before, and it ended with her getting fired. The memory spears through her mind fast and angry, and it erases all traces of comfort she’d begun to feel. Maggie isn’t her friend. She’s her co-worker, and Alex’s reputation precedes her.

“Why?” She asks. “Have you heard...something about me being difficult on set?”

“Huh? No, I was just-“

“Because it’s not true,” she tells her, lightning fast. “I’m always professional. ” I wasn’t for a while but I’m trying to be now, she thinks. “You don’t need to worry.”

“I didn’t think I did, but thanks for the reassurance,” Maggie tells her, giving her an odd look, and Alex feels her cheeks warm. “So, drinks, what’ll you have?”

“Scotch. neat.”

“A woman with taste, nice.” Maggie motions for the bartender, who walks straight to them with nobody on this floor to attend. “I’ll have a Manhattan and the lady will ha-“

“Scotch.”

It’s a reflex. She doesn’t like it when whoever she’s with orders for her. Besides, it’s a date thing, and she’s not on a date with Maggie.

“Right,” Maggie says. She nods at the bartender, who sets out to get their drinks ready.

Meanwhile, Alex shifts uncomfortably on her stool, eyes glued to the bar counter. She’s worried now, Maggie’s previous words brought everything from her time in Body of Medicine back, and she can’t help but be filled with dread when she thinks about Maggie doing her research on her, just like Alex did with her, and finding out...everything about her. Maybe if she had known who Alex was she wouldn't have put in a good word for her. Alex isn’t sure why she did, and by this point she’s too afraid to ask.

She decides to bite the bullet on at least one of those.

“So.. you must have done some research too, right?" She asks Maggie, her mind already running a mile a minute and thinking of all the trashy articles she’s starred in, all the shots of her wasted and with her makeup smudged. “Googled my name, found...things.”

“Sure I did," Maggie says, and Alex resists the urge to close her eyes against whatever her next words will be. She just hopes Maggie won't ask her if it’s true she had a threesome with Dave Franco and his brother. It’s the latest ridiculous rumor her name has been a part of and all because she was photographed with them at a bar. But people will believe anything they read about her it seems.

“Well, Alex Danvers, age twenty-six,” Maggie lists, “best known for her role on the hit medical drama Body of Medicine as Jane Holt: accomplished heart surgeon and one half of the popular ship Holtzman.”

Alex winces.

She could live the rest of her life without hearing that portmanteau and it wouldn't be long enough.

Maggie continues, “Daughter of Jeremiah Danvers, the famous director.”

“Late,” she tells her. “The late Jeremiah Danvers. They always mention that.”

Before her name or after, she’s never seen a single article about herself that didn't mention her dad, that didn't remind her he was gone.

“I’m-I’m sorry. I didn't mean to-”

“It’s fine. It was a long time ago.” The bartender hands Alex her drink, and Alex is thankful for the respite. It never gets better, talking about him, but most days she can get through a short conversation without feeling like she wants to run away. Not today. Kara’s words from last week still rattle her, even if it was nothing but the reminder of a happy memory.

Most days it hurts too much that he’s gone. Some days Alex is glad that he can’t see her like this.

She takes a sip of her scotch. It’s good. Maggie’s aunt must have good taste.

“Um, what about your parents?” She asks, diverting the conversation. “I didn’t read anything about them on wikipedia. It must have been hard to move out so young.” Alex tries to be sympathetic, to act like a fucking human being.

Maggie shrugs.

“Not really, I had my aunt.”

Maggie’s drink arrives.

“Thanks Esteban.” she turns toward Alex. “He makes the best peach mojitos, you should try one before you leave.”

Esteban nods at her, and gives her a small smile as he retreats to start serving the few people who’ve started walking in.

“So! What did you think about the character when you first heard of her?” Maggie asks. “You walked out and the producers went crazy.”

The swift change of topic almost gives her whiplash, but she’s thankful—and that’s saying a lot, considering how she’s not entirely comfortable with Claire Lawson yet.

“I thought she was great,” she tells Maggie, before taking a sip of her drink.

Maggie is still looking at her, waiting for an elaboration Alex supposes. She stays quiet. She doesn't know what’s is and isn't appropriate to say, and either way—her characters are such a private thing for Alex.

The way she pours so much of herself into them and into her understanding of what makes them tick feels far too intimate for a conversation with a woman she just met in the middle of a deserted restaurant.

“Right,” Maggie says.  “So you said traffic was okay?"

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie casts a forlorn glance towards the old woman in the corner engaging in lively conversation with her husband who-oh god, her husband is asleep. An old woman talking to her sleeping husband is having more fun than they are.

Maggie’s had her fair share of awkward moments in Hollywood, but she’s always managed. She became withdrawn, after everything that happened with her parents. Gone was the little girl who’d loved reading her assignments in front of the class and reciting poems first when the teacher asked for volunteers. She’d made it through the rest of 8th grade keeping her head down, trying to disappear. After Elisa...that changed again. And if her former best friend taught her anything, apart from keeping women at arm's length, it was that charm went a long way and Maggie would do right to use it.

So she did. And a shy kid faking bravado as she talked to strangers in the hopes of furthering her career, turned into pure confidence as she learned how to use her words and smile to improve any situation. Elisa had known that trick at age 14. For Maggie, as sheltered and innocent as she'd been, it had taken her a little longer, but she finally got a hang of it.

It wasn’t helping her now.

Alex...She looks over at her again, and the woman is staring at her drink as if it’s the most fascinating thing she’s ever seen. She’d thought after the way they’d clicked during the audition that it’d be easy sailing from there, but...it’s not. It’s awkward and stilted, and it’s the type of conversation that Maggie would have exited from with an excuse at least 15 minutes ago. But she can’t. Alex is her co-star now, her Claire, and they don't have to be friends (like Maggie had imagined they would be, truth be told) but she does need to talk to the woman. Have a degree of...trust between the two of them, if the relationship and chemistry they're going to be building on screen is to be believed.

But she realizes getting Alex to open up is going to be a challenge. Maggie can feel how resistant the woman is to talk about anything more personal than the weather. Her optimism going into this casual meeting (meant to simply get to know each other) was a bit misplaced.

She doesn’t know Alex well enough to gauge whether her reticence is normal for her or triggered by Maggie’s presence, but neither option is particularly appealing given the long, regular hours she’ll know they’ll be spending together.

She sighs.

Alex looks up. She gives Maggie a tense smile, and takes a breath before talking.

“So...Detective Blake Davenport? Who came up with that name?” Alex snorts,and it sounds forced, like she’s trying too hard to be funny. Maggie’s been there, but like 10 years ago. “Sounds like they read one too many harlequin novels.”

Maggie cringes, but she tries not to take it personally.

“I...actually had some input,” she tells her.

“Oh.”

They hadn’t been set on a name for her character when she signed on, all they had was her last name, and they even toyed with the idea of using her own given name for her. Maggie wouldn’t punish anyone, not even a fictional character, with the name Margaret, so she flat out refused. But she’d always liked Blake. She had a friend in first grade named Blake, and though she moved away midway through the school year, Maggie still remembers. She thinks it sounds strong.

“I didn’t mean-”

“I think I’m gonna go check on our dessert,” she says, not in the mood to listen to Alex stumble through another round of awkward apologies.

She walks in through the kitchen double doors, and a chorus of “Hey, Maggie” and “Hi, Mags” greet her, along with the back of a blonde head pointedly turned away from her. Darla is still mad at her, then.

Maggie sighs.

“What’s got you in that mood?” Gabriella asks, coming out of the freezer with mirror bags of clams. “We ran out of the fresh stuff,” she says, by way of explanation. “Why does your face look like you just smelled the fresh stuff?”

“Alex is....” She throws her hands up, unable to explain the past hour of her time.

Gabriella gives her a look. “I see.”

She hands the bag to Mario, one of the cooks, and pulls Maggie aside.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s awkward. Everything is so awkward. I thought we’d get along because something just...clicked, when we did the chemistry read, but she’s just so..."

“Maybe she’s nervous,” Gabriella suggest. “A little starstruck, even.”

Maggie snorts, “I don’t think she’s ever seen a single thing I’ve been in.”

Gabriella opens her mouth, but she’s interrupted by Darla, who deliberately ignores Maggie as she talks to her aunt.

“Miss Rossi, table 7 says the steak is under cooked.”

Gabriella rolls her eyes. “That’s because they asked for it rare.” She sighs. “Bring it back. Helen-”

“I’m on it!” the other cook exclaims.

“Good.”

Maggie watches her aunt flawlessly run the kitchen, and wishes she could have that sort of ease handling a conversation with Alex Danvers.

“Look, kid, maybe it’s gonna take her some time to warm up to you. You’re like that too.”

“What if she never does?” Maggie asks, picking at the corner of the sink. “I'm moving to the other side of the country, alone. She’s gonna be the person I spend most of my time with.”

Maggie hasn’t given much thought to just how real that was until now.

She’s never been without Gabriella before, not for such a long amount of time. Rosewood Street filmed in LA, and so did Nightingale's first season. All her films have been short shoots, and when they weren’t Gabriella was there. She’s having a hard time thinking about being alone in such a huge city, and maybe that’s why she’s been so intense about getting to know Alex. She wants the set in New York to feel like home, and the woman is currently a stranger.

“Maggie…”

“I just can’t get a read on her. Sometimes she’s fine, sometimes she’s downright...acidic.”

Gabriella smiles.

“Want a little extra creme on your tiramisu to counteract her?”

Maggie forces a smile, “Funny.”

“I think you coming into my kitchen to escape your future co-star is hilarious, actually.”

Maggie gives her a look. Gabriella turns around and grabs two small crystal cups with perfect chocolate squares in them, and neatly drizzles them with her special coffee-caramel sauce. Maggie’s mouth waters.

She extends a finger to swipe a little taste, but Gabriella slaps her hand away.

“I’ll bring it out in a few minutes,” she tells her, smiling as though she knows the delicious smell of coffee has made her forget her previous comment.

“Go,” Gabriella tells her, pointing her finger at her. “Out of my kitchen. Play nice.”

Maggie walks out of the kitchen and back to the bar.  

 

 

“I’m sorry if I offended you,” Alex says, as soon as Maggie sits down.

“No, no. it’s fine,” she says. “You don’t need -you don’t have to pretend to like everything about the show. I like honesty.”

There were a few things Maggie didn’t like either, in the first few episodes. MInor things that she had no control over because she wasn’t writing the storylines. Nothing is perfect. And she does enjoy honesty.

“I’ve...never actually seen the show,” Alex says.

Maggie raises her eyebrows. ”That’s...really honest.”

Alex blushes.

“I’m sorry, I’m just. I’m-”

“Defensive,” Maggie finishes for her. It’s not the ‘playing nice’ her aunt told her to do, but sometimes a direct approach works better. “And a little tense. And that’s okay. Look Danvers, I didn’t invite you here to...size you up, or anything like that. I want us to be friends.”

If she wants honesty from Alex, she can be honest too.

“Me too,” Alex says softly, and Maggie gets the feeling this is the first time this evening she’s seeing the real Alex Danvers.

“I’ve been where you are, you know?” She’s been asking Alex questions, trying to get to know her, and she realizes she hasn’t reciprocated too much. “I was the new kid, too,” she explains. “My first show, Rosewood Street ?”

Alex nods.

“I did see your scenes in that one,” Alex tells her, with a small smile.

“Ah. How I died was absolute bullshit, right?”

Alex laughs, honestly laughs for the first time, and Maggie feels they’re on the right track.

“Yeah,” Alex admits.

“Right. So, I came in during the second season like you.” Maggie remembers how nervous she’d been the night before, how Gabriella had talked and talked until she fell asleep, because she couldn’t manage it. “Everyone’s at least five years older than me. They’ve all been friends for a year, and they’ve all had other gigs when this was my first real acting job.” She’d been so green, back then, so naive. She hadn’t even finished high school yet. “It was awkward, I’m not gonna lie. It took a while before I felt like part of the group. And then two years later I got killed off, but that’s another story. The point is, I don’t want you to go through that. I love working with the people on set, we all get along, we go out for drinks on the weekends. It’s not all work.” Maggie meets Alex’s eyes. “You’re a part of that now. If you want to be?”

Alex keeps her eyes trained on her, and Maggie knows her words weren’t wasted.

“I do,” she says. “My previous show, I...it wasn't so much like that. I mean -we got along fine,” she’s quick to say. “It’s just…”

Maggie’s been there, trying to figure out whether you can be honest about someone or you have to pretend that everything was great just in case they’re friends of friends. Hollywood can be such a clubhouse.

Alex finally shrugs, wearing an embarrassed smile. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

“Well, I did just lay out my heart for you, Danvers. You’re returning the favor,” she jokes. “It’s what friends do.” Alex smiles at that, and Maggie pats herself on the back. Maybe it won’t be as hard as she thought. “Plus, our characters are gonna get together at some point. It’ll be so much easier if we’re friends.”

Alex’s shoulders tense up at that, and Maggie hopes the feeling swirling uncomfortably in her stomach goes away. She hopes Alex isn’t weird about it. It’s not the first time she’s played a gay woman, and her co-stars have always been straight, but it’s never been a problem.

“So...we good?” She asks.

“We’re good.” Alex nods.

“And that’s our dessert,” Maggie says, eyeing her aunt walking toward their table with their perfectly timed tiramisu plates.

“Maggie!” She greets, as if they hadn’t seen each other minutes ago, and leans over to kiss both her cheeks. God, her theatrics.

“Eavesdropper,” Maggie whispers before her aunt pulls away.

“Alex, this is my aunt, Gabriella,” Maggie introduces them.

“Nice to meet you,” Alex tells her shaking her hand. Gabriella shakes it, eyeing her.

“The pleasure is all mine, I was a huge fan of you from your time on Body of Medicine .”

“Thank you,” Alex says, and Gabriella nods before she’s called away to the kitchen.

“Your aunt seems nice,” Alex says, once she’s out of view.

“She is,” Maggie tells her, though it’s an understatement. She picks up her spoon and finally tastes the tiramisu she never tires of. “So, as I was saying.” She swallows. “‘Dawson’. Did you know they gave us a name already? Anthony is really excited about the whole thing.”

She’s not trying to test her, she definitely isn't.

“I was, too,” she confirms. “When he told me I was getting a long term love interest. It's something you don't see often.”

“No?”

Maggie will never blame anyone for being ignorant, but she can't help thinking that it's obvious.

“Not really,” she tells Alex. “It’s rare enough she’s the lead and she’s gay. And Blake had a couple of hookups in season 1 but nothing serious. They’re giving her the epic love story all straight characters get now.” Maggie cringes. “No offense, by the way.”

“None taken,” Alex tells her.  “I...I agree.”

Maggie smiles. Alex looks honest.

Maggie grabs the cup holding the last of her tiramisu, and raises it up high, signaling a toast. Alex follows suit.

“To giving people some much needed representation on screen,” she says.

“To new friends.”

They clink their dessert cups together, the clear sound resonating through the room with an air of hopefulness.

They end on a better note than they started.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex’s flight lands in New York City at 6:08 pm.

Her left ear is still clogged, hurting with the change in pressure, and she just -ugh, she hates flying. She stands up as soon as she can, stretching her legs. First class has a lot more room than flying coach (and Alex can only remember having to go through that particular nightmare once before), but it’s still not enough room. She always feels tight and uncomfortable after exiting a plane, and she walks through the terminal with her mood through the floor.

She finally exits the airport, and thankfully finds the man holding up a sign with ‘Danvers’ on it without much trouble. There are no paps that she can see.  She’s not as fun to photograph when she’s sober apparently. She didn’t enjoy any of the complimentary tiny liquor bottles on the plane, they might as well not show up.

She gets in the black SUV and settles in while the driver handles her one bag. J’onn took care of sending most everything else to her new apartment—including her favorite bottle of scotch—and Alex only has a few of her old winter coats from high school, back when she still let her parents drag her to Aspen each winter (it might still technically be summer, but she’s not taking any chances), in her carry on.

She hates the drive between JFK to the city, and she dozes on and off in the car while they move. It seems like very little time has passed when the driver clears his throat and announces they’ve arrived; Alex thanks heaven for small mercies. The car leaves her in a tall, white bricked building in Greenwich Village, the place production is setting them up in during filming.

Alex checks her phone while in the elevator. J’onn tells her he’ll be visiting her tomorrow. Her mom apologizes that she’s not there, she’d already promised to be with Kara on her last week on set in Vancouver.

Alex presses the power button and the screen goes dark. It’s not disappointment she swallows, it’s acceptance, but it tastes just as bitter.

The apartment has an open floor plan, and Alex likes it. She steps through the door, dragging her luggage after her, and takes in the space. A living room spreads out to her left, with a chimney and a set of couches. A door she assumes to be the bathroom is the only room in the place, apart from the closet to her right. A kitchen on the far right, and a few steps above the rest of the apartment, her bedroom. Which consists of a bed, a bedside table, and not much else.

She guesses she could make an effort to turn this place into an actual home for the next few months. She sits down on the couch, and turns on the TV. It can wait.

“This is my job now..”

No way.

“And I’m going to do it.”

Maggie’s voice blares from the TV, as pictures of flying cars and fiery explosions litter the screen.

The Informant , out in theaters this weekend.”

Alex falls back against the couch, and turns off the TV. Well, at least her co-worker will be having a nice weekend.

Alex reaches for her luggage.

Not too late for her to have one as well.

 

.

.

.

 

“Maggie, over here!”

She smiles, sightly dazzled by the dozens upon dozens of flashes.

“Maggie!”

She tries to turn to wherever her name is called, a smile on her lips. It’s not forced in the least.

Gabriella is waiting for her inside, her director, Lizzie, is answering questions ahead of her, and Maggie’s name is on the lips of every reporter in front of the red carpet.

She’d worked her ass off to be here, for almost an entire decade.

Even if she didn’t know it when she started, this is where she always wanted to end up.

A banner with her face on it falls from the building at her right, and she might have been called a star many times before, but she hadn’t felt like it, not really. She’d felt like a little girl from Nebraska playing a part, smiling for the cameras and pretending like it didn’t hurt her still to be unwanted. Or like a moderately successful woman fighting tooth and nail to be better, to prove to herself—and her family—that she was worth something.

But now…

Maggie feels like a star.

 

 

She laughs so hard her stomach hurts.

She can’t quite remember at what, and she’s slightly tipsy off the champagne that has been flowing freely all night, but it doesn’t matter.

“We’re here, miss,” the driver says, and Gabriella elbows her.

“Thank-thank you,” Maggie tells him, and picks up her heels from the floor of the limousine. Her aunt follows suit.

They stumble the few steps to the door of her house, and she opens the door on the first try.

She’s drunk off happiness more than anything.

 

.

.

.

 

J’onn arrives at her apartment on Sunday.

He brings her a plant as her housewarming present (which she knows will end up dying from neglect, but she appreciates the gesture), and Alex is too happy to see him to say anything about him not bringing her a more fitting present like a bottle of wine. J’onn has few flaws, but one of them is listening to her mother’s concerns too much.

He helps her settle in.

She unpacks the few cardboard boxes he had shipped here, and once the bed has her favorite bed sheets on and her netflix account is logged in, she feels a bit more at home.

She’s found her new plant a spot on fireplace mantel when J’onn starts to talk.

“So, are you ready?”

“To keep a plant alive?” She asks, wondering if the heat will be bad for it. Plants like heat, don’t they? Or is that just sun?

“It’s a plastic plant, Alex.”

“Oh.”

“I’m talking about the helicopter ride. You must be excited. And the interview next week.”

“The what?”

He gives her a look. “I take it you didn't read the email I sent you.”

“I’m sorry. I was busy last night, the flight was-”

“I sent it three days ago, Alex.”

She cringes.

“I’m not your father, I’m not trying to scold you. But you have to-”

“I know. It just slipped my mind. What...what interview? And did you say helicopter?”

J’onn gives her a small, practiced patient smile.

“The network is paying for you and the rest of the cast to go on a helicopter ride over New York City. Sort of a welcome to the city. You technically don’t have to go, but it’ll be good for you, and you can officially meet the rest of the cast before you have to be on set.”

“Okay. And the interview?”

“Run of the mill, in and out. Week before you start filming. It’s not live, so don’t worry. But it’s your first TV interview for Claire Lawson and with Maggie, so we want it to go well.”

“Maggie, too?”

“Yes. The world’s first look at you two together. I got an email from Anthony King. Apparently, you two are called ‘Dawson’ now.”

Alex rolls her eyes.

“I’m starting to hate that word.”

J’onn laughs, and pats her back.

“Come on, it’ll be your first TV appearance in over a year. We gotta prepare for it.”

“Back at it, are we?”

“Indeed, and we’re lucky to be.” J’onn sits on her couch, and Alex think of how lucky she is he’s here. "I’ve already sent what you’re willing to answer, and they won't mention anything about the incident with the paps, they won't bring up any rumors. And no talk about Lord or anyone else you’ve dated or rumored to have dated.”

Alex sighs. At least that’s one less thing to worry about.

“And...they won't ask about your dad, either."

Alex looks up at him. “Thank you.”

She can see it in his eyes, how he almost says something like “I miss him too”, but J’onn keeps it to himself. He’s careful with her that way, and she’d be angry if she couldn't recognize that sometimes she needs it.

J’onn nods.

“You’ll do great, Alex.”

 

.

.

.

 

“Where are we going?” Maggie asks.

“You’ll see.”

They weave through the crowded streets of Lower Manhattan, Maggie following Gabriella’s footsteps as she’s the only one who seems to know where they’re going. They’d taken a break from unpacking her new loft to find something to eat. They’d been just a little hungover at the airport earlier that morning, before the sun had even come up, and Maggie had slept for most of the 5 hour flight to New York City.

She wanted to get everything ready this weekend, before Gabriella has to go back to work on Monday, La Nuvola Bianca needing her to run smoothly.

They’re a few blocks south of Washington Square Park when she begins to doubt her aunt’s intentions of getting them lunch. Finally, they come to a stop on the corner of a street in Nolita, and Gabriella slings her arm around Maggie’s shoulder, turning her to face the building.

“What do you see?”

Maggie ponders her aunt’s question.

“An empty building,” she answers truthfully.

Gabriella gives her a smile that all but confirms she’s hiding something.

“Actually...that’s my empty building. Well, half the bottom floor. And what you're looking at is La Nuvola Bianca, New York City.”

Maggie turns around.

“Gabriella. You didn't.”

“You really thought I was gonna let you move out here alone, for months? Not that it’s because of that,” she waves it away. “This is just good business-”

Maggie is hugging her, as tight as she can, before the last word is out of her mouth.

Gabriella laughs and holds her back.


They sit in the floor of the empty room, enjoying kebabs and nachos slathered in cheese. Maggie’s eyes had zeroed in on a food truck called “The Vegan Bandwagon”, parked on the corner of the street, and Gabriella had followed in her hurried footsteps.

“I can’t believe this tastes good,” Gabriella tells her, dipping one of the falafel crumble nachos in the vegan cheese.

“What do you have against vegan food?” Maggie asks.

“Nothing! But I’m Italian and a chef, we use real cheese.”

Maggie laughs, and takes a bite of the grilled artichoke in her veggie kebab.

She’s still processing the fact that Gabriella is going to be with her in New York, and it has her more than a little euphoric.

“This place is far smaller than the one in LA,” Gabriella points out as Maggie looks around from her place on the cold tiles. “But it’ll do.”

“I like it,” Maggie tells her. The large windows lets in the light, and it must have been a tavern before, because a large bar of deep red wood dominates the far right side of the space. Maggie could see herself bringing a date here. “Could be cozy. You should get a pool table.”

“It’s a restaurant, Maggie,” Gabriella tells her, chuckling. “New York,” she sighs. “I think even the fucking rats have to pay rent.”

Maggie snorts.

“You use that language In front of your niece?”

“I cursed in front of you when you were a kid and you turned out just fine, piccola.“

“That stopped being cute after I turned twelve.”

“Eh.” Gabriella shrugs. “You’re still small.”

Maggie throws a nacho at her, and the orange triangle bounces against her sweater. She laughs, feeling like a kid again. She’s always been thankful for the ridiculous age difference between them, but the fact her aunt is barely eleven years older than her is never as clear as when Gabriella takes a cherry tomato from her kebab and flings it at Maggie.

She catches it.

“Ha!” She pops it into her mouth, enjoying the way it explodes in acidic flavor.

Gabriella shakes her head. Then she looks up and around, seemingly taking in the space around them.

“You know, I saw a couple places before, but I loved it here. ‘North of Little Italy’ . I wish my mother had the foresight of moving here when they left Italy instead of settling in the asscrack of nowhere.”

“Hear, hear,” Maggie says, raising her bottle of water for Gabriella to toast with her can of coke.

“Life. C’est la vie.”

“Since when do you know French?”

“I'm a chef, i have to know French.” Maggie gives her a look. “Okay, I have like twenty percent on Duolingo, I mean I have to do something when you’re filming.”

“How about work ?”

“I’m the boss, it’s almost too easy these days. Which is why I needed this. Not just to keep me busy by the way, but to expand our brand too."

“Your brand,” Maggie corrects her. Gabriella looks almost guilty.

“Actually, you’ll be getting a notification soon, I want this to be in your name too.”

“Gabriella!”

“Margaret!”

“That’s low,” Maggie tells her. “I bought that first place for you,” she tells her. She and Gabriella don’t fight over many things, but who owns La Nuvola Bianca is the one discussion that’s never finished.

“It’s even named after you,” Gabriella insists.

“It isn’t-”

“After you favorite piece, then,” Gabriella corrects.

Maggie smiles. “Nuvole Bianche, Ludovico Einaudi.”

“Does that song still make you cry?” Gabriella asks.

“No,” Maggie denies, though it’s very much not true. Gabriella taps her leg and gives her a knowing, teasing smile, and Maggie sticks her tongue out at her before she keeps eating. Maggie enjoys her food quietly for a while, and then she looks up at her aunt.

“Zia?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really glad you’re coming with me.”

 

.

.

.


 

 

soarin-nightingale-spread-1

soarin-nightingale-spread-2

soarin-nightingale-spread-3

 

.

.

.

 

Alex has never understood the fascination with New York City.

The starry eyed look people get in their eyes when they breathe out the words ‘New York City’ in a reverent tone, as if it’s the answer to all their problems. She starts to see the appeal a bit more now, looking down from the helicopter window as it travels above the city. The sun casts the buildings in a warm glow, making the towering skyscrapers gleam. It’s the kind of scene you usually only see in movies. New York.

She closes her eyes, and for a moment, she’s back in her living room watching Sunday morning cartoons as her parents cook breakfast in the kitchen, the faint strains of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” floating into the room. If she really concentrates she can hear her mom singing along to the song and her dad joining in with his off key warbling. Her mom had always loved the city. She never talks about her modeling days, but Alex knows she spent a lot of time in the city during that time. And when she married her dad they lived in New York, before moving to Malibu to raise Alex in a quieter place.

She’s broken out of her reverie by a particularly loud exhale from Maggie.

Jesus. She sounds like she’s practicing one of those breathing techniques taught in Lamaze classes. She opens her eyes and sees Maggie to her left, eyes tightly closed. She’s...tense. Well. That’s a first, she thinks.

Maggie has been easy going and confident since the moment she met her. Always ready with a quick smile and joke, while Alex is still trying to process the situation. It’s almost satisfying to realize she’s just a normal woman, who can get scared in helicopters like everyone else. Almost. She feels bad for reveling in Maggie’s obvious current discomfort. God, she’s such an asshole.

She tentatively reaches out to touch Maggie’s arm, “Don’t like flying?”

Maggie opens her eyes, “It’s the height I don’t like.” She grimaces. “I’m fine with flying in planes because you get so high up you’re in the clouds. It’s so far removed from the ground, but in a helicopter…”

“You can see everything,” Alex finishes for her and Maggie gives her a short nod in confirmation. They truly can, down to the tiny cars and the people walking below.

“My aunt says my fear of heights is because I’m so short,” Maggie jokes, or tries to. She forces a chuckle. “Since I’m-” the helicopter tilts, and Maggie gasps. “I’m used to being close to the ground.” Maggie lets out a weak chuckle and rests her head on the back of the seat.

The rays of sunlight coming through the window turn her hair into fire, reflecting off her eyelashes when she closes her eyes again. Alex briefly thinks it’s not fair that someone looks so beautiful while they’re afraid—and she then tries hard not to think that. Maggie is beautiful, yes, and Alex is just...jealous. That’s why she notices. She wishes she was that pretty.

She shrugs. “You’re afraid of heights, that’s normal.”

“It’s irrational,” Maggie says.

“It’s very rational. You could die.” The helicopter lurches forward after the words leave her mouth, and along with the swoop in her stomach, she feels like shit. Maggie goes pale.

Alex shifts marginally closer to her. “Wanna know a secret?” she asks, feeling like she owes Maggie something. She lowers her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “I’m afraid of lions. Now that’s an irrational fear,” she scoffs.

Maggie looks up, ”Lions, Danvers?”

“Yep,” Alex nods her head vigorously. “I had a bad experience as a child—it’s a long story. I hated zoos as a kid.”

“That’s a good fear to have,” Maggie tells her, smiling and scrunching her nose up at Alex. She doesn’t seem as concerned about the height below, and Alex pats herself on the back. “You’re never going to meet a lion in real life.”

Alex closes her eyes in shame.

“I...I’ve never watched The Lion King.

Maggie’s laugh is audible through the whole helicopter. They’re sitting up front, with the pilot at Maggie’s side, but Alex is sure even in the back the rest of the cast heard her.

“Oh c’mon, you’re kidding!” Maggie laughs again. “It’s an animated lion.”

Alex lets herself dissolve into giggles

“It still roars, okay?”

Maggie looks at her, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “I guess that means Madagascar is out of the question too.”

“A movie about animals escaping New York’s Central Park Zoo?” Alex huffs. “Yeah, good luck ever trying to get me to watch that.”

Maggie is about to respond when the helicopter suddenly jolts and dips down sharply. Alex feels her stomach fly up like she’s on a rollercoaster for the second time.

“Looks like a brief patch of turbulence ladies,” the pilot informs them, as if they can’t tell already.

Maggie’s eyes are clenched shut and her knuckles white as she grips her armrest.

Before Alex can even think her action through, she reaches out and grabs Maggie’s hand.

Maggie’s eyes fly open at that, and she flicks her eyes down to their hands before looking up at Alex’s face. She’s surprised. Alex can’t tell if it’s a good or bad surprised—it’s not like they’re friends, is it? And friends don’t even hold hands, do they? She moves to take her hand away, but Maggie tightens her grip.

“Thanks, Danvers.”

The turbulence lasts for a few minutes, and Maggie holds her hand throughout every jolt and lurching turn.

Alex tries not to think about it.

 

 

“Make sure to duck your head when getting out,” the pilot informs them. “It’s been a pleasure flying you two.”

Maggie gives him a tense smile.

“Have a nice day,” Alex tells him, because it doesn’t seem like Maggie is going to.

A car is waiting for them as they leave the helicopter pad, and Alex starts moving to get into it before Maggie speaks.

“Hey, how about we just walk back to the building? It’s such a beautiful day and,” she checks her phone briefly, “google maps says it’s just 20 minutes away.”

Alex smiles involuntarily. “Sure, I could stretch my legs.”

The rest of the cast and crew head to a bar to celebrate, but Alex admits she’s not feeling it. Maggie’s idea sounds more appealing, even if Alex isn’t a fan of walking among throngs of people.

The sun is just setting as they walk back to their apartments.

Their shadows merge along the sidewalk, and Alex remembers her appreciation for shadows and reflections and light. She had a short lived stint as an amateur photographer back in middle school—swiftly abandoned when she realized she had no talent for it—but she’d always been interested in playing with dark and light. How things could seem to be something they’re not.

Looking at the ground, she and Maggie seem to be one.

Besides the ever present stench of New York City, the walk is nice. It’s a nice moment, walking to her new home with her new co-star about to start shooting her new project. Her mom should see her now.

Alex is pulled out of her thoughts by a sudden hand on her arm.

“Danvers, hold on!” Maggie exclaims, eyes darting back and forth. She cranes her neck like she’s looking for something. Alex whips her head around too, thinking maybe Maggie spotted some paparazzi? They’re barely a block from the apartment.

Maggie pauses, and Alex holds her breath.

“No lions, we’re safe,” she says, and then keeps walking. She smirks at Alex over her shoulder.  

Alex is torn between the swift feeling of mortification blooming in her chest and the warmth spreading across her body. Maggie’s teasing her, like Kara does, like friends do. She knows they discussed wanting to be friends back at La Nuvola Bianca, but she’s barely hung out with Maggie since, and never outside of work. Discussing something vs actually living it out is quite different.

Friends. Such a simple word, but it’s been a foreign concept for Alex most of her life. She learned at an early age that most people only wanted to befriend her because of who her dad was. It was difficult to sparse out other kids’ intentions, so she just didn’t bother trying to interact with them at all. Then Kara came along, and her life wasn’t her own anymore. And then her dad.... And then a whole load of shit.

Alex hasn’t had a lot of time to make friends.

She hurries until she falls into step again with Maggie, and playfully nudges her shoulder, feeling like a child. “If there was a lion loose, I wouldn’t be the one in danger.”

“Why’s that? You do track in high school?”

“Nope. I’m not that great of a runner actually. But to survive a lion you don’t need to be the fastest person, you just have to not be the slowest.” Alex feels a smirk forming on her own face. “And well…” She makes it a point to look Maggie up and down. “Short legs...” she trails off, humming innocently.

Maggie barks out a laugh. “I should have seen that one coming.” She steps in Alex’s pathway and pivots to face her. “Care to test that theory?”

“Hypothesis,” Alex blurts before she can stop herself. “If it’s not proven then it’s a hypothesis, not a theory.”

“Nerd,” Maggie scoffs warmly, bouncing back on her heels before breaking out into a run.

What the fuck.

She looks at Alex over her shoulder as she calls out. “What? I’m testing the hypothesis.” She puts an extra emphasis on the last word.

“How old are you?! This is -this is ridiculous,” Alex sputters out.

“Catch me if you can, daddy long legs!” she hears from the increasingly smaller figure in front of her. Alex can’t believe she’s doing this, but she feels her legs start picking up speed and soon she’s flat out running after Maggie.

 

.

.

.

 

Another late night talk show, another interviewer. Maggie is used to it, but she’s not sure Alex is.

In the grand scheme of things, she knows that Alex grew up in this business, and she probably has more experience than Maggie dealing with all this, but it doesn’t...show. Production sits them next to each other on the same long couch, and Maggie can feel how tense Alex is beside her.

She’s gauged so far that she’s a woman who likes her personal space, and this feels like the first mistake already. The lights are bright and hot, and where Maggie feels her nerves settle into something manageable under the pressure, out of the corner of her eye Alex only seems to get tenser.

She glances toward her, noting her back is ramrod straight in her seat.

“Hey,” Maggie touches her arm and smiles. Her skin is so cold. “It’ll be fine,” she tries to soothe her. “We’re in this together.”

Alex gives her a pained smile in response.

The show starts, and the host—Jack Connell—introduces them with the usual small talk. Maggie handles the greetings for both of them, hoping Alex will loosen up as the interview continues.

"A lot of things have changed from season 1,” Jack says. “The show moved production to New York, there's the Claire Lawson character coming in...a lot of changes. How are you liking the city?"

“I love it,” Maggie says honestly. “I love the energy here, the people. ABC actually treated the both of us to a helicopter ride over the city, and it was like nothing I’ve seen before. And I actually can't wait for winter, I’d love to see some snow on the ground in central park.”

“And you, Alex?”

“I'm not-not as much a fan of the cold. You know, having to wrap up in a million layers and looking like a marshmallow. It’s not my thing.”

Maggie cringes.

“Well, she grew up in Malibu!” Maggie says, inviting Jack to laugh with her. “Don't worry Danvers,” she mock whispers. “I’ll make a snow-lover out of you yet.”

“You guys look great together. Can I just say that?” Jack says, and Maggie plays it coy when the audience whoops and claps, playfully knocking her elbow against Alex’s arm. “Are Blake and Claire similar? Do they get along right off the bat or are there some issues there?"

“Well, when we start the season it’s only been a few weeks since the Doderick case was closed,” she explains, immediately feeling the rest of her nerves settle as she talks about the stories she loves and knows by heart. “And Blake...she’s on desk duty, she’s still dealing with the aftermath of shooting this man, there’s a lot on her plate. She is in this place where she feels like her life is stuck...and then Claire walks in and breathes new air into everything.” Maggie lays her hands in her lap, aware—as Gabriella teases her about—that she inherited her proclivity to talk with her hands when she gets excited about a topic.

“It doesn't come without complications, though. They’re really similar in a lot of ways, but also polar opposites in others. You’ll have to watch to find out, but there is a really great conflict there. Nothing like me and Alex," she says, remembering to push her ‘friendship’ with her. M’gann had briefly reminded her this would be their first interview together, and she should make it count. “We just clicked,” she says.

Maggie looks at Alex, smiling, and although she’s slightly more relaxed than before, she doesn’t look comfortable at all. The smile is a little awkward, actually. Maggie briefly hopes everyone in the front row has glaucoma.

"We can see that,” Jack says. “And how was the casting process with Miss Danvers? It was just a few months ago you said her name when asked about possible actresses you’d like acting opposite you. How did that factor in?"

“Well, I did tell my producer about her. I’ve always wanted the best for Nightingale , and I really thought the best would be an actress as talented as her.” She turns to smile at Alex and Alex is caught off guard. Maggie can see it. She’s not playing anything up for the cameras this time, she means it. “I loved her work in Body of Medicine , and once I heard she was available I kind of pushed our showrunner, Anthony, a little, to get her to audition.”

Maggie turns to look at Alex, her smile genuine, nothing like the wide one she plasters on for interviews or photoshoots. She’s not pretending and she wants Alex to know.

“When she walked in, I knew she was my Claire.”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex’s brain short circuits at Maggie’s smile.

For a minute she forgets it’s all an act for the cameras, that Maggie likes her this much. That she thinks this highly of her. (Or maybe she does, but Alex doesn't think much of herself these days, it's hard to think Maggie would.)

“And I think we can all see you were right, Maggie. Now, Alex, what can you tell us about your character, Claire Lawson? She’s the new crayon in the box! What do you think she brings to the show?”

Alex swallows saliva. She feels like a fish out of water. Maggie has them eating out of her hands and all Alex’s hands are doing is sweating like crazy.

“Claire is a rookie cop-I mean detective, sorry.” She coughs out a chuckle and prays it doesn’t come off as deranged. “She’s fresh from the academy…and she uh-brings some levity and heart to the show it didn’t have in season 1. And kind of building off of what Maggie said, Claire is a good uh, what’s the word I’m thinking of…” She laughs awkwardly. “It’s that thing you put over food when you package it or put it in the oven...”

“Foil?” Maggie offers helpfully.

“Yeah. That. Claire is a good foil to Blake. I’m excited for you all to see her.”

Alex can’t tell who is more relieved when the interview ends, her or Jack.

She’s quick to step down off the stage, and the staff guy can’t get her microphone unclipped from her uncomfortable, tight dress fast enough. She’s itching to go back to her dressing room, take the stupid thing off, and get home—but a hand on her arm stops her.

“Hey, all good?” Maggie asks.

“Yes, I’m fine,” Alex answers. Maggie’s taken off her heels, and Alex has to look down to meet her eyes. She never realized how short the other woman was, because she’s always the one filling the room.

“Look, don’t beat yourself up over this. You were nervous, it happens.”

Alex closes her eyes. So she wasn’t the only one to notice she was fucking on edge the entire time.

"It wasn't live," Maggie continues. "They'll edit it and make it look good."

Alex shakes her head. “He probably thinks I’m an idiot.”

“Who? Jack? He won’t remember either of our names by tomorrow morning. Don’t worry about it, Danvers.”

“Easy for you to say. How did I forget the word foil?”

“Hey. You were good out there, okay?”

“Thanks for lying.”

Maggie smiles.

“My pleasure.” Alex can’t help but roll her eyes. “Look, we’re gonna have a bunch of these in the years to come, you can’t go quitting on me now. We’ve just started,” Maggie tells her.

“Sorry you had to carry the whole interview,” she tells Maggie.

“Don’t worry, I do my push ups,” Maggie jokes, showing Alex an admittedly impressive bicep.

Maggie surprises her next by giving her a quick hug.

“We can do this, Danvers,” she tells her before pulling away, off to her dressing room.

Alex nods, even though Maggie can’t see.

She hopes they can.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex has always loved wardrobe and makeup tests.

Getting to transform herself into a different person is one of the best parts of the job, but she doesn’t particularly enjoy it this time. She has to cut her hair.

She’d known it was part of the deal pretty much since the start, since they were sure of what look they wanted Claire Lawson to have, and Alex had talked to the writers and heard all about how Claire is practical and how her short, severe haircut reflects how uncompromising she is as a person, but she’s still...nervous.

The woman standing behind her can certainly tell.

“You’ll look great, sweetheart,” she says, before draping black plastic around her shoulders, and Alex takes a deep breath. Kara asked her to record her change of look, but she’s not doing that.

She doesn’t even love her hair that much, but it...it’s her. She’s not sure what to think of having short hair for the foreseeable future. (Not to mention, short hair...her character...Alex knows it’s a lesbian thing. And plenty of straight women have short hair, she assumes, but she’s getting her hair cut specifically because her character isn’t and Alex -she’s not entirely on board with it yet.)

“Oh, Maggie!” Alex jumps with the woman’s words. Could she put the scissors down at least? “We were just about to start with your girl’s makeover,” she tells Maggie, who’s just popped her head inside the makeup trailer.

Why does she have to call her ‘her girl’?

“Oh. Don’t kill me, Danvers, but I wanted to see.” Maggie steps inside. “Why that face?”

Alex looks at herself in the mirror. She consciously relaxes her brow.

She meets Maggie’s eyes in the mirror.

Maggie gives her a dimpled smile, and then Alex feels her hand on her shoulder, comforting, squeezing.

“Your hair is gorgeous,” Maggie tells her, her fingers in Alex’s waist length curls. She shivers. “But I trust this woman with my life, she’ll make it even better.”

Alex takes a breath.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it, Danvers. I’ve been where you are.”

Maggie winks, and Alex knows she didn't imagine the callback to their previous conversation at La Nuvola Bianca.

She smiles at her. Maybe they can be friends -maybe they already are.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex spends the entire ride home that afternoon running her fingers through her hair.

She’s always surprised when it stops just at her jaw. It’s going to take a while to get used to, but she doesn’t look bad. It actually...looks kind of good, cool.

She sent a picture to Kara, and her sister immediately got back to her with a single word in all caps. Badass.

She starts to believe it.

Her phone rings just before she opens the door to her apartment, and she answers immediately when she sees it’s J’onn.

“Hi? I’m just getting home.”

“Sorry to bother you, but my flight just landed. King flew me in, and he wants us and Maggie to meet at ABC Studios.”

“Right now?” Alex asks, frowning. “I just got back from set. I had a wardrobe test today.”

“Right. How did your haircut go?”

Alex smiles.

“Good. I...think I might like it.”

“That’s the spirit. Get a car to the studio, will you?”

“Got it,” she tells him, locking her apartment again. Her current clothes will have to do. “What is this about?” Alex asks J’onn. “I don’t think I’ve forgotten anymore emails.”

“You haven’t. I have no idea what this is about either.”

 

 

Alex walks into the meeting blind.

They both do. Maggie is already there when she arrives, with a woman by her side that J’onn tells her is her manager. 

“Ladies, thank you for coming,” Anthony King says as he walks in. “Mr. J’onzz, we haven’t officially met.”

They shake hands, and Alex takes a seat next to Maggie at the long round table. They share a look, and for the first time Maggie looks as lost as she is. She shrugs, and Alex mimics her. They smile.

Anthony stands at the front of the room.

“I’m sorry about the rush, but the sooner the better. I have...a proposition for you.”

Alex frowns.

“Listen,” King says. “What would shake up our current fanbase and maybe even bring in new fans?” Alex tries to catch J’onn’s eyes, but he’s not looking at her. He, too, is frowning. “What would bring us press, drama, fans going crazy?”

Alex is lost.

“A relationship. But not between Lawson and Davenport, no, we already have that. But hear this: between the women that play them.”

She doesn’t know what that means.

She hears Maggie’s manager already protesting, and J’onn starts talking, but Alex is still struggling to understand. The words sound like white noise.

“It would be the perfect way to generate buzz for the show!” Anthony says, speaking over them all. “We’re confident Dawson will be a hit. But a relationship between Maggie and Alex will make it even better! The reaction after Alex’s casting announcement alone gave us an indication of what this could do for the show.”

Oh. Alex knows what he’s implying now. That she pretend to date -pretend to be…

“And then when your EW article came out,” he says, speaking directly to Alex. “The sheer number of hits broke their website in half. This is what we want. If we use this-”

“What are you saying?” Maggie asks, the first words she’s uttered so far, and Alex whips her head to look at her. She feels her voice come back to her.

“One year. Red carpets, some dinners, a vacation maybe, and a few kisses—all duly documented by cameras. People will love you together, they'll root for you. It’s going to be amazing."

"You're…” Alex speaks up. “You’re talking about a lie that-"

"Not a lie, a PR contract. And the best decision for both of your careers right now." 

Chapter Text

Cogita ante sails : look before you leap

.

.

.

 

“I have...a proposition for you.”

Maggie narrows her eyes.

She’s dealt with Anthony for over a year now, since the moment she walked into her first audition for Blake Davenport, but she’s never quite sure what’s going to come out of his mouth. M’gann is just as lost as she is, and that unsettles her. Even when he ‘forgot’ to inform Maggie of something, her manager was always up to speed. Alex and the man by her side, she assumes that’s the J’onn Alex has mentioned, don’t seem to be any better off than them. What is Anthony up to?

“Listen,” Anthony says. “What would shake up our current fan base and maybe even bring in new fans? What would bring us press, drama, fans going crazy?”

Maggie is more wary than ever.

“A relationship,” he says, as though it was obvious. “But not between Lawson and Davenport, no, we already have that.”

Maggie feels something heavy drop in her stomach, and it keeps sinking with every second that passes. She already knows what his next words are.

“But hear this: between the women that play them.”

Maggie sees Alex tense up at her side, and M’gann is already opening her mouth to protest. Maggie herself feels just as shocked as if she hadn’t known this was what he was aiming for. It’s classical Anthony. She should’ve seen it coming when he called a meeting like this -but how could she?

“It would be the perfect way to generate buzz for the show!” Anthony says, disregarding M’gann and J’onn’s words. “We’re confident Dawson will be a hit. But a relationship between Maggie and Alex will make it even better! The reaction after Alex’s casting announcement alone gave us an indication of what this could do for the show.” He turns toward Alex. “And then when your EW article came out, the sheer number of hits broke their website in half. This is what we want. If we use this-”

“What are you saying?” Maggie asks. He hasn’t put it into words yet, hasn’t presented them with a perfectly packaged reality like she knows he’s already planned to. Ever the businessman, he wouldn’t have sprung this on them without making it seem as profitable for the show—and for them—as possible.

“One year,” Anthony states finally. “Red carpets, some dinners, a vacation maybe, and a few kisses—all duly documented by cameras. People will love you together, they'll root for you. It’s going to be amazing."

"You're…” Alex speaks up, and Maggie turns to look at her. “You’re talking about a lie that-"

"Not a lie, a PR contract. And the best decision for both of your careers right now."

“-could ruin my career!” Alex exclaims, and Maggie flinches.

She can’t dwell on it, but something deep inside her chest recoils at Alex’s words. Does she really feel dating Maggie would ruin her career? Because she’s a woman? Maggie shakes her head, focusing on the matter at hand.

“The show did fine last season,” she argues. “It’s going to do fine now.”

Anthony looks at her for the first time, as if finally acknowledging she’s half of the plan he wants to set into motion.

“Yes, but is fine enough?” He asks her, condescendingly. “Maggie, sweetheart, Under Fire is about to premiere, and I’ve been spending every waking moment thinking about how to stay number one.”

She should’ve expected him to get like this. Under Fire was ABC’s new baby this year, and of course Anthony would have felt threatened when Nightingale lost its brand new shine. But she didn’t expect this.

“I’m gonna be honest,” he continues. “I thought Claire Lawson would do it, but bringing in a new actress isn’t going to cut it, especially considering her reputation.”

“Watch it.” The response is automatic. She can’t help feeling protective of Alex.

“We deal in honesty here,” he keeps talking, ignoring her protest. “You were the one who wanted Alex Danvers in the first place, this is the baggage we have to deal with since her reputation isn’t going to give us a boost.”

“King…” Alex’s agent speaks up, and Anthony has the good sense to stop his tirade. Even if it might have been true, and whatever she had felt when Alex had so vehemently expressed her disgust at his idea, he’s being an asshole.

“I’m telling you both, this could be a great thing. Not just for the show, but for the two of you.”

Maggie feels bewildered, and one look at Alex’s pale face lets her know so does she.

The fucking irony of Anthony even mentioning honesty when what he’s proposing is the exact opposite.

“There’s the matter of my client’s sexuality,” Alex’s agent speaks up, and -of course. Alex is straight. She hadn’t given the woman’s public image a second thought, but of course. What the fuck is Anthony trying to pull?

“Are you asking her to...what? Come out as-”

“We’re not asking her to explicitly say anything about her sexuality—we just want her to date Maggie.”

Maggie blinks. It’s barely been five minutes since he started talking and she has no idea how the conversation got to this place.

“Everyone knows Margaret is gay,“ Anthony says. “When someone asks your girl about what she’s into, she doesn't address it. After the contract runs its course it'll blow over, she won't have to talk about it again.” Anthony shrugs. “The public has a very short memory span."

Maggie stares at him.

It cannot possibly be that simple to play with people’s lives the way he’s trying to. Also she’s annoyed at his full use of her name. Asshole.

“Look, I’ll leave you all to think about it, consider it, sleep on it.” Anthony offers them a smile while he picks up his jacket. “And I hope you’ll be able to give me an answer by Sunday.”

 

 

The sound of Maggie’s heels on the linoleum floors is audible to everyone in their vicinity, but no one gets in her way.

M’gann trails after her, and Maggie has her aunt on the phone before she even makes it into the closest empty room she can find.

“This is ridiculous,” she tells Gabriella, putting her on speaker. “Everything I’ve worked for, and he thinks I need to -what? Date someone?! As if my acting wasn’t enough? Since when am I not enough as an actress? The show’s season finale had more viewers than the first episode! How often does that happen?!”

“Maggie, I don’t understand,” Gabriella says.

M’gann takes her phone, and Maggie sits down while her manager puts her aunt up to speed.

She doesn't hear what M’gann tells Gabriella from the other side of the room, but she can’t imagine how she’d phrase it without it not sounding absolutely bonkers.

A few moments later, M’gann walks over to where she’s sitting, placing the phone at the head of the conference table.

“Maggie? M’gann just told me what Anthony suggested. How’re you holding up?”

“I had to sit there, listening to my boss go ‘She's a girl who likes girls, that's fashionable now! Let’s do it!’” Maggie throws her hands up in disgust. “How do you think I’m holding up?” She asks, immediately feeling guilty. She takes a deep breath. “Can you see how that’s bullshit? This isn't right.”

Maggie sinks into her chair, finally getting a second to process what Anthony offered.

A year of pretending to date Alex for the paparazzi, in the hopes of promoting the show, of bringing in buzz. It’s not...it’s never been how she’s wanted to do this. She’s worked her ass off for years, kept her eyes on the prize like she was a fucking race horse. There were so many offers, so many shortcuts for good roles and for good press. Hollywood is a cesspool, and there were plenty of moments as a model where someone whispered if she’d just sleep with this person she’d get a better contract, or if she’d just hang out with this other person and call some paps she could be on the front page of whatever magazine for a day.

She never took up those offers; she kept her head down and worked hard, determined not to let the business change her. She’d seen what it had done to other actors. To her first real friend.

It was never how she wanted to play this.

She looks up, and M’gann is quiet, her thumb touching her lips. She bites her nail, something she only does when she’s nervous, or thinking too hard, or about to tell Maggie she just got her an audition for a lead role.

Maggie eyes her carefully.

“M’gann.”

The woman looks up. She doesn’t look as angry for her sake as Maggie had expected, and she begins to feel wary all over again.

“Anthony...he’s callous and insensitive, but...” M’gann snaps out of her contemplation and holds Maggie’s eyes, “he’s not...entirely wrong about this.”

Betrayal stings. M’gann had believed in her since she’d started acting, and this feels like the exact opposite. She hopes her tone isn’t too accusatory as her next words come out.

“You like his idea?”

"Like is a bit strong, Maggie." M'gann sighs. "And don't look at me like that, I'm on your side."

Maggie stands up and starts pacing the length of the room.

She thought M’gann would back her up, like she’d always done with Anthony, with all of the producers back from day one when she was nothing but a high school student with big dreams and not much else. But she isn’t. And she could admit that challenging her might be part of why she’s such a good manager, but it’s not what Maggie wants right now. Frustration makes her feel trapped, her clothes too tight.

It’s silent for a few moments, before she stops abruptly to stand in front of M’gann.

“Then why did you look like you would have suggested this, and he just beat you to it?”

“I wouldn't have,” M’gann tells her, and Maggie believes her. “But the offer is on the table now, and I can't ignore-“

“M’gann!”

“I can't ignore that it would look good for you.”

“What’s going on?” Gabriella asks over the phone. M’gann sits down and looks at the chair in front of her until Maggie does too.

M’gann grabs the phone.

“I don’t think Anthony was too off base with his suggestion,” M’gann tells Gabriella, and her aunt is quiet for a moment.

“Maggie, what do you think?” she asks. Maggie wishes her aunt was here.

“I think it’s bullshit,” she says again. M’gann sighs.

“From a business point of view...Yes, Alex Danvers doesn't have the best reputation, but her getting on the straight and narrow after meeting you looks good for you both.” She rolls her chair closer to Maggie, resting her forearms on her legs so she can catch Maggie’s downward gaze. “Not to mention the girl has pedigree. Her father was an Oscar nominee, I’ve heard her sister is on the shortlist for a Marvel movie. She’d look good on your arm.”

Maggie leans back and crosses her arms, rolling her eyes while she’s at it. Her face is sour. “So arm candy with good connections?”

M’gann ignores her eye roll and continues arguing her point. “Award season is coming up. You took Gabriella last year, and it worked, but we can’t play the family angle much longer. If King is right in one thing it’s that the public has a short attention span.”

“I can't just,” she vaguely waves her arm in the air before releasing it to hit the conference table with a loud thunk, “pretend to be with her for a year for a couple of nights in front of the cameras. Right? That’s insane.” She's grasping at straws here, she knows how a successful PR agreement goes. It’s worked for her before. But she doesn’t want to be that woman again.

“You're not looking at the big picture,” M’gann tells her. “Having a steady girlfriend would work for you, not just for award season. Solid date for the Golden Globes, the Oscars, sure. But you'd also get the conversation back on you, and clean up that bad girl image while you're at it. It may have done you good when you were on Rosewood Street, but this isn't the Teen Choice Awards anymore. We’re in the big leagues now.”

She trusts M’gann, she has since she was a kid. They’ve been working together since Maggie was 17, and the woman has yet to steer her wrong. That’s why it’s so hard to keep resisting what she’s saying.

At her core, it feels wrong to pretend to be with someone. But her career and what she’s built comes first. This is part of the cost of maintaining and reaching even higher levels of success in Hollywood. It’s something she accepted long ago, but it still rubs her the wrong way. She pushes the discomfort to the back of her mind and focuses back on M’gann.

“We both know the Academy voters can be pretty conservative and don’t even watch all the movies they’re voting on. A lot of them base it off name recognition, which you’ve got now, and reputation. Voting for a nice young woman in a steady relationship is more appealing than voting for a player.”

“We don’t even know if I’ll be nominated,” Maggie reminds her. Some of the early reviews of The Informant had declared her role put her in the running for next year, but she knows there’s still half the year left, and anything can happen from now until then.

“You're right, but doing this certainly won’t hurt your chances. The movie’s doing well, better than we imagined.”

She reaches over to grasp Maggie’s shoulder. “This could be it, your big moment.”

Maggie musters up a faint smile at that. They’ve talked about this—this new level of her career with the box office hit and awards on the horizon—forever. During long car rides to and from different sets and meetings Maggie, usually drowsy, can remember telling M’gann her big—bigger than her childhood self could ever imagine—dreams, her hopes. She knows M’gann has a point, and she knows she’s looking out for her best interests as always. She can feel herself teetering over the edge on this decision, but she just needs one more person to help her over.  

“Gabriella?”

“I’ll support whatever you choose, kid,” her aunt says.

She bites her lip, her eyes trained on the table.

She’s not seeing anyone right now.

Her last quasi relationship had been with Darla, and that fizzled out as quickly as it had started. Her long hours kept them apart, and it had felt weird, wrong to Maggie somehow, Darla’s offer to stop working if Maggie would only take care of her. It left a bad taste in her mouth, and they stopped sleeping together after that. That was 3 months ago. And sure, she went on a date or two, but they never amounted to anything.

A PR relationship...wouldn't affect her life.

She still is slightly reluctant, which M’gann notices if her next words are anything to go by.

“It wouldn't be the first time,” M’gann gently reminds her.

Maggie flinches.

“That’s low,” she tells M’gann. “And Emily was different, you know it.”

“Let’s not bring Emily into this,” Gabriella says, ever her defender. “It was a long time ago, and it's over now. Lets focus on the present.”

“I am,” M’gann says. “This could be good for Maggie.”

“I’m not the only person involved here,” Maggie says, and to her own ears it sounds a lot like a decision has been made. She hates herself a little for letting herself be convinced so easily.

“What are you saying?” M’gann asks.

Maggie sighs.

She doesn't know what she’s getting herself into, and she doesn't know what to think of Alex now...her ‘a lie that could ruin my career’ still floats in her mind, and Maggie doesn't know which outcome she’d be more bothered by. Alex thinking it’s terrible to have to pretend to be gay, or Alex having the lack of morals to do it, even if it was good for the show. She remembers M’gann’s words about Alex getting on the straight and narrow after meeting her.

Would Alex pretend to be gay if it would help her career?

For a moment, Maggie is 14 years old again, naive and vulnerable, and she hates it. More than anything, Maggie hates Anthony for putting them in this position.

“If Alex says yes —then I will, too.”

 

.

.

. 

 

Alex paces the room.

“It’s...definitely out there.”

“Out there?!” she stops, and stares at him, running her fingers through her now short hair. “He wants me to fake a relationship with someone! With a woman!”

“Never been my favorite way to fabricate good press, but...He has a point, that it would draw more press to the show and to the both of you,” J’onn concedes, and Alex huffs, resuming her pacing.

“But it’d be worse for me.” She states.

“What do you mean?”

“If people thought I was...dating Maggie.” The words make her shudder. “If they thought I was...gay. Won't that be worse press for me?”

J’onn puts his elbows on the table, as he thinks through his answer.

“It’d be bad only for the people who actually think it’s a bad thing,” he tells her, spreading his hands. “Even if a few people spin it in a negative way, and they will, they’ll be the minority. They’ll be shunned. Not a single respectable magazine—and neither would the lesser ones, actually—paint two women dating as bad solely because they’re two women. They’d lose readers. It’d be almost as bad as coming out in support of President Pence. It’s not socially acceptable anymore.”

“But they’d be thinking it,” she says.

“I don't know what they’d be thinking,” J’onn tells her. “But from a PR point of view it would bring you more good than bad press.”

Alex sits down. It feels like the walls are closing in on her.

“How?” she asks. She’s been trying to dig herself out of the hole she’s been in since she was fired from Body of Medicine , but it’s felt almost like digging a hole in the sand, never getting very far because the borders keep collapsing in on her.

“It’d be another way to get your face out there,” J’onn says. “In a positive light. King said it’d be a year long thing, which if we consider doing it, we could change, of course, but the public likes stability, rooting for relationships." J'onn makes a pause. "Don't you think we should call your mo-” A single look from kills the idea. J'onn sighs and keeps talking. "Fine. I think it would help clean up the party girl image you’ve had for the past couple of years. I'm not saying it wouldn't be a scandal at first, but when that died down...”

“You think it's a good idea,” Alex says quietly.

“I think Maggie is a well liked, well known actress, with a supportive, massive fanbase. She’s the current sweetheart of critics. And you could benefit greatly from being seen with her, but I'm not trying to convince you,” J’onn promises. “That could be as friends, or simply as coworkers, you being on the show is good press as it is.”

Alex nods.

“I’ll tell them whatever you want me to, you don't have to do this. You don’t even have to consider it.”

Alex takes a deep breath.

“Do you think I should?”

She doesn't want to. God she doesn't want to. The sole thought of people seeing her that way, with a woman, with Maggie, fills her with dread and a paralyzing terror that trickles down to her bones. But she trusts J’onn. And she doesn't want to always be in this hole.

“I think you should do whatever feels right.”

Alex nods.

The thing is, she doesn't remember what ‘right’ feels like anymore.

“What am I going to tell my mom? And Kara?”

“Your mom likes to pretend she didn't, but she worked in Hollywood too. She’ll understand. So will your sister. After all, isn't that how she met that boyfriend of hers?”

Alex thinks about Mon-el, Kara’s ridiculous boyfriend and co-star. The producers wanted them to date while they promoted their movie, but by the time they presented the idea they’d already started dating for real.

“That’s different,” Alex tells J’onn. Kara isn't pretending, regardless of how much Alex wishes she was. And Kara has nothing to hide.

“Alex…” J’onn’s voice is impossibly soft, and Alex meets his eyes. “The fact that Maggie is a woman...I understand why it’d be uncomfortable for you.”

"Of -of course," she stutters. "Because I'd be pretending to be-"

"Or because you wouldn't be," J'onn says. 

Alex looks up at him, tears thick in her throat, climbing to her eyes. She shakes her head.

How did they get here?

“I thought about it a few times, getting you a contract with some nice, up and coming actor. Someone who would help clean up your image, spin it in the right direction again. Maybe even someone who could get you roles -but there’s a reason I never even thought about saying it out loud.”

Alex swallows, hard. The thought of having to ‘be’ with some faceless man for the cameras, while technically not any different than her work in Body of Medicine or any of her other movies, still feels...wrong. Thinking about holding hands, or kissing him...she’s uncomfortable at a visceral level, and she can’t think about why. She won’t let herself. But it seems J’onn already has.

He faces her and grabs her hands between his. Alex avoids his eyes.

“There’s nothing wrong with being who you are,” he tells her softly. A tear falls from her eye, rolling down her cheek. “And if you do choose to go ahead with this contract then I’m sorry it will be the way it gets out there. So you don't have to do it. You should have the freedom to wait until you’re ready, whenever that is.”

Alex feels as brittle as glass.

All the negotiations she had with herself, all the excuses she gave in the privacy of her own head...

“You know,” she says, achingly vulnerable and slightly awed.

“Of course I know, I know you. I love you like a daughter, Alex.”

“I... I’ve never …” Why is it so hard to get the words out of her throat? Why can’t she accept it to herself? “I can’t talk about this, I can’t-”

“You don’t have to, Alex.”

She nods, and J’onn releases her hands just in time for her finger to catch the tears that keep falling. She takes a stuttering breath, trying to reign everything in.

“If you think it’ll help…” Alex shrugs, shaking her head. “I’m tired of disappointing my mom,” she tells him. “I’m sick of being the worst part of my family-”

“Alex, you’re-”

“A mess. I’m a mess, and I know it, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of everybody knowing and of them waiting for me to screw up again so it can be on their front page. I don’t want that to be me, not anymore.”

She looks up at J’onn, and he’s staring back at her with nothing but kindness in his eyes.

She’s exhausted, sick of the drop in her stomach every time she sees a new article with her name in the title, fucking done with being a stain on her family’s name, on her father’s memory. Kara is out there proving to the world what a great father he was, and Alex can’t get through a photo album without reaching for a drink as a way to numb herself from the pain. To escape her memories and her mother’s expectations and the pressure of the public watching her every move and waiting for her to prove just how much of a fuck up she is.

She’s done with it. And if this...agreement is the way out of her spiral—the light at the end of the seemingly never-ending tunnel—then she doesn’t need to like it, she only needs to do it. For herself, and for everyone who still expects her to succeed; more importantly, for the few people who believe she still can.

One of which is sitting across from her.

“I’ll do it,” Alex says. “I’ll do what King is asking, I just hope it works.”

“Are you sure?” J’onn asks. Alex nods shakily.

“I’m sure.”

It’s done, and it takes some pressure off her shoulders, while simultaneously putting on a thousand times more.

“Alex?”

She looks up at J’onn.

“You’re an amazing woman,” he tells her. “Just the way you are.”

A sob leaves her lips, and then her arms are around the man who’s almost like a father to her.

 

 

They give King an answer later that afternoon.

Once she’s alone in her apartment, she slowly makes her way to the bathroom and splashes water on her face, the coolness of it helping her to regain her bearings. She grips the sink counter and looks up at her reflection in the mirror. Her face is blotchy, her eyes red from crying. God, she can’t remember the last time she cried like this—maybe when she got the news Body of Medicine fired her. Alex’s disappointment had cut through her like a serrated knife back then, and she hadn’t even bothered trying to stop the ugly, gasping tears from falling.

This time around, she notes, the cause of her tears isn’t bad. It’s progress, actually. But she recognizes now the same feeling she had then.

Fear.

She’s scared of what’s to come, scared of the truths about herself she may be forced to confront. This is uncharted territory for Alex, and she’s never liked the unknown.

Only an hour later J’onn calls her, to let her know Maggie has accepted as well.

 

.

.

.

 

Gabriella’s hands are stained red, beet red to be specific.

Maggie watches from her place on the couch as her aunt chops up the vegetables to add to the sizzling skillet on the stove. The low hum of the television accompanies the rhythmic beat of the knife hitting the cutting board, and Maggie has to sit up straight to avoid dozing off. Maggie had volunteered to help Gabriella move into her new apartment in NYC, and her aunt had insisted she make her a meal in return. Beet rice stir fry, with diced cauliflower in place of a more usual ingredient like beef.

Gabriella never liked the dish—she still claims cauliflower is sick broccoli—but she knows it’s one of Maggie’s favorites. It became a staple of their kitchen when she was younger, and Gabriella had been determined to feed her the recommended amount of vegetable servings for a child her age.

Maggie smiles faintly. Nearly 10 years of feeding her and her aunt hasn’t tired of it yet.

“You sure you don’t need any help?” Maggie asks. “I feel bad sitting here doing nothing.”

Gabriella looks up from her chopping to scoff, “I wouldn’t call unpacking all my boxes doing nothing.”

“Psh.” She waves off her aunt’s comment. “The moving guys I paid did most of it.”

Her aunt lets out a low whistle, “Look at you all fancy with your grunt money.”

Maggie chuckles. “Grunt money?”

“Yeah, money used to pay grunt men to do the dirty work.”

“You make it sound like I’m putting out hits.”

“Well, I don't know everything you do in your free time,” Gabriella says, picking up the chopping board and throwing the beets in the pan. “Speaking of free time...you just signed away most of yours for a year.”

Maggie sighs as she falls back on the couch. She should’ve expected it, they hadn’t really had a long conversation about the contract, not with the move and the new restaurant and filming starting in a few days.

“Smooth transition,” she tells her.

“Thanks, I try,” Gabriella says. “So? Are you sure about it?”

“About?” she plays dumb, fiddling with the couch seams to buy herself some time.

“Alex.” She turns back around to face Maggie, leaning against the kitchen island. “This entire relationship that I don't get.”

Direct and blunt as always, that's her aunt.

“There’s not much to understand,” Maggie tells her. “It would look good for both of us, and the show, if people thought we were together.” She shrugs. “So we’re going to pretend to be together for a year.”

“Simple, huh?” Gabriella raises an eyebrow. Maggie shrugs again. It’s not her first rodeo, but she’s thankful her aunt isn’t comparing what happened with Emily to this.

“What if you meet someone else?” Gabriella asks. “What are you going to do then?”

Maggie shrugs for a third time. It’s really becoming a summary of how she feels.

“It's not like my love life is this amazing oasis you know.”

Her aunt gives her a look.

“Really? Do you remember Darla? Because she’s just a joy to work with these days,” she says, turning to check on the food. “By the way, can you stop sleeping with my employees?”

“Gabriella,” she hisses.

“What? You're an adult now.”

“You raised me. Isn't it weird for you?” Maggie knows their age difference isn’t that large, and Gabriella has felt more like a sister than an aunt at times, but still. It’s definitely weird for Maggie.

“Believe me, finding you with that girl in our bedroom your junior year was way more uncomfortable than talking about it.”

Maggie visibly cringes. “Will you ever let me forget that?” Even thinking about that incident brings up a faint feeling of mortification in her.

Gabriella gives her a look, “Stop derailing the conversation.”

“Fine.” She sighs. “I guess I won’t meet anyone for a year then. Or if I do I’ll keep it super private, I don't know. I'm focused on the show either way, I don't have time for a relationship.”

Even when she was in relationships, they never lasted long anyways. She didn’t spend enough time with her girlfriend, she was work obsessed, she cared more about her job than them, she had a long list of various reasons women have given as they broke up with her. The thing is, some of their comments, while not pleasant to hear, were true. She is dedicated to her career, above all else. Plus she’s young, she has plenty of time to find a girlfriend, especially when her time to succeed in ageist Hollywood dwindles with each passing year. 25 is the new 30 these days.

Her aunt’s voice snaps her out of her thoughts. “That sounds like an excuse.”

Maggie scoffs, “What do you have to say for yourself?”

Her aunt has only had a handful of short term relationships that Maggie knows of. When she was a teenager she knows Gabriella didn’t have any time for her own personal life what with raising her and working full time. (And she still feels guilty about that, despite her aunt’s many reassurances not to.)

“I had a kid to raise and then I had another kid to raise. And now I have another one in New York.”

She rolls her eyes fondly. Gabriella has a penchant for calling La Nuvola Bianca her child, and Maggie never thought she’d have it in her to be jealous of a building but, here she is.

“Your restaurants don't count as children.”

“Your job doesn't count as a relationship.”

Maggie gives her a look. Gabriella narrows her eyes.

“Truce?” Her aunt asks, tilting her head in a conciliatory fashion. Maggie nods with a smile. Gabriella shakes her head with a small chuckle as she sits down next to her on the couch.

“What am I gonna do with you, kid?” She sighs, before turning towards Maggie. “You know, when you started modeling...this isn't the life I wanted for you. Those idiots chasing you with their cameras...and now you having to pretend to be in love with someone.”

Maggie looks up at her.

She knows her aunt feel responsible somehow, for the things she’s had to deal with in the industry, but she shouldn’t. Maggie chose this career, and she stuck with it even after she realized the full ugly underbelly of Hollywood. It’s been her choice all along, and she’s been lucky her aunt has supported her.

“It's nothing compared to what we have thanks to all this.” She remembers sharing a room with her aunt all through high school, and having to walk home when she ran out of bus fare 2 days short of the end of the month. “I would’ve had to lug your boxes up here by myself without all this. I can take it. Plus, it was my choice,” she reminds her.

“And you're still okay with it?” She asks, eyes tinged with worry.

“Yeah,” she tells her, certain. “Alex isn't...she’s not a bad person.” Maggie trusts her gut about people, and Alex isn’t bad. Then again, there are very few people Maggie considers to be truly bad. Not even her parents make that cut. “Plus, I'm gonna keep working with her on the show even after this PR thing is over, so -we just won’t make it a big deal.”

“Right.”

“Right.”

 

.

.

.

 

The atmosphere in the room is awkward. So fucking awkward.

Alex had been nervous in a way she thought she was over when Maggie texted her to meet in this place, and it hadn’t worn off with every step she took. (One thing she loves about New York City, and it’s a short list, is that with enough time and stamina you can get anywhere by walking. As someone without a license and who hates traffic -it’s perfect.)

Alex takes a sip of the water bottle Maggie had provided, telling her that the plumbing wasn’t fixed yet. She swallows the water, and it goes down faster than she’d hoped. Maggie is quiet, which is a change. Alex quickly runs through the past few days in her mind to remember if she said anything stupid to Maggie that would make her mad at her. She can’t remember anything—maybe Maggie’s just tired. Alex certainly is. Moving took more out of her than she’d expected, and she’s been furiously working on the script for the show. Maybe Maggie is the same.

Her eyes wander around the partially finished room before settling on the woman currently occupying her thoughts, the woman she’s agreed to fake date for an entire year. J’onn hasn’t received any details yet of what she’ll have to do with Maggie, but she knows she’s going to have to kiss her at some point. On screen and off screen. Alex thinks about it. From a purely biological standpoint, it shouldn’t be...too unpleasant. Maggie’s lips look plump and soft, the kind of lips casting agents love. Alex herself has been guilty of using lip-plumping gloss before an audition, to try and get lips like that. But Maggie’s are natural, effortless. Right now, her lips are pursed. Her tongue darts out, a quick pink flash, as she licks her lips and emits a small sigh. There’s a light sheen to them now because of the action, and the light reflects off of -Alex stops herself.

She’s being fucking creepy.

She quickly turns her gaze downward to her lap, hands fidgeting. Maggie didn’t seem to notice Alex’s study of her, and that gives her some peace of mind. She chances a look up, and Maggie is staring out the window, her position shifting her hair off her neck. Alex can see the line of her jaw now and the soft expanse of skin now exposed at the juncture where her neck meets her collarbone. Her skin looks smooth and flawless, even her face. Whenever they’ve met she’s been bare faced, and it makes her look so young Alex forgets they’re nearly the same age. She wonders if there’s a reason Maggie wears little to no makeup in her everyday attire—it’s an unusual trait for any celebrity. But it’s not like she needs it, she’s just as gorgeous without it as with it. If Alex squints she can see a brief smattering of freckles sprinkled across her face, and down her chest-

“My aunt bought this place so she’d have an excuse to be in New York,” Maggie says, looking around the space.

Alex is shaken out of her thoughts.

“To be with you?” She asks, blinking. Her heart is pounding and she doesn’t want to think about why.

“Yeah, of course.”

That might have been obvious, Alex guesses, but not to her.

Her mom couldn’t even manage to see her off at the airport, let alone come with her to help her settle in the city. She certainly wouldn’t leave the warmth and comfort of Malibu for this, and Alex can’t blame her. (Her brain helpfully reminds her her mom was willing to leave it to accompany Kara, and that New York City isn’t even as cold as fucking Vancouver….she sighs.)

And this is only Maggie’s aunt, who knows what her actual mother would do for her. She’s lucky.

“Right.” She tries for a smile. “I like...I like the place. It’s going to be great, when it’s finished.”

Maggie nods. “Thanks.”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex’s words from last week still ring in her ears, ‘A lie that could ruin my career.’

M’gann suggested she talk with Alex about what they were accepting to do, but Maggie would’ve done so regardless of her suggestion. This is a year long agreement, and they’re in it together. But she can’t stop thinking about what she said when they first found out.

It’s true that Anthony sprung this on them, but Maggie has found that people's first reactions are usually their most honest ones.

‘A lie that could ruin my career.’ Maggie stares at her distorted reflection in her water glass. She’s aware they’ve been sitting in silence for 15 minutes, but she’s not in the mood to try and keep the conversation going like she has in the past, because apparently Alex Danvers has very little in the way of social skills. How she ever got as far as she did is a wonder to Maggie. No, that’s not true. She can guess how, her father was a famous director, she was born with one foot in the door. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and probably had a golden cradle to go with it. Becoming a successful actress must have been easy —she stops her train of thought there.

She’s not being fair. She doesn’t know what her life was really like, and she knows a different burden comes with having family in the business. But she can’t help but feel hurt by her words. Alex probably doesn’t even remember them, but Maggie has always had a visceral gut reaction to anyone who wasn’t okay with her sexuality, or thought less of it in general. She’s not sure if that’s Alex. She mentally shakes herself and tries to put her personal distaste about the situation behind her.

This is for her career, she can be professional.

She opens her mouth to speak, but Alex beats her to the punch.

“You wanted to talk about...?”

Maggie clears her throat. “The contract. So...you’re okay with it?”

Alex shrugs dismissively. “It’s a good way to get positive press for us both, and to promote the show too.”

Well. Her words don’t do anything to soothe the heavy weight in her chest. At least she doesn’t sound disgusted, Maggie guesses, but she doesn’t know if the clinical, practical coldness she’s met with is any better. Would it really be that easy for her to pretend to like women? To lie to everyone? Maybe Alex isn’t the person she thought she was.

“Um...What does your aunt think of this?” Alex asks. “Your parents?”

“My aunt doesn't understand it, but she’ll support anything I’m okay with and that helps my career,” she tells her. “And I’m okay with this. I thought about it, about what it might mean for my personal life and my free time, but I am.”

Alex nods.

“I don't know what to tell my family. It's embarrassing.”

Maggie bristles up.

“To pretend to be with a woman?”

Alex chokes on air. “No. No, no, no, absolutely not. I’m not —well, that’s just not it.“ She trails off and gives Maggie an awkward smile. The woman doth protest too much, Maggie thinks.

“It’s just...to have to pretend to date someone to…” Alex waves her hand. “I think my manager called it ‘clean up my act’.” Alex huffs out an uncomfortable laugh. “It doesn’t feel good, that’s all. And it’s made me think of how I let my reputation get so bad in the first place but, but you don’t need to hear that.”

Maggie nods. “Sounds like we both have concerns about it.”

Alex looks at her.

“And yet we’re doing it, aren’t we?”

Maggie doesn’t know if Alex is hoping for her to say yes or no.

“We are,” she admits. “It’s...Anthony is convinced it’s going to be great for the show.”

“And the show is the most important thing, isn’t it?”

Maggie nods. “It is. For me, it is.”

“For me, too,” Alex is quick to say. “I know I haven’t even filmed yet but I’m- I’m thankful that I get to be Claire.”

Maggie looks at her, quietly assessing if she’s being honest. She hopes so.

But either way, she feels a wedge opening between the two of them, a chasm growing with every second they get closer to signing away a year of their lives for a lie—no matter how beneficial. Faking something was never going to be a conducive way to grow a real friendship 

She picks up her glass of water, and raises it towards Alex.

“To Nightingale,” she toasts. Alex raises her own bottle and softly knocks it with hers.

“To Nightingale.”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex wonders about which jeans to set away for the following morning, before remembering that it doesn’t matter much. As soon as she gets to set Hair and Makeup will take hold of her, and then she’ll be sent straight to Wardrobe.

It’s just, she wants to seem professional. There were some days in Body of Medicine when the only way she made it in time to set was going still wearing her cocktail dress from the night before and going barefoot, because she couldn’t handle the heels anymore, and she’s trying her hardest to forget that woman. The woman who slinked into her trailer at 5 AM and got out half an hour later, trying to pretend like she’d spent the night at home and not on one of her so-called-friend’s couches.

She settles on a pair of loose jeans and a t-shirt Kara bought her.

She’s too wired to sleep thinking about going back to work in the morning, so she decides to clean the apartment. It’s gotten surprisingly dirty for the short amount of time she’s been here, and Alex makes a promise to herself to stop abusing Uber Eats and actually going to a grocery store to buy food. There’s got to be some youtube tutorial she can follow. J’onn already bought her cutlery and ceramic plates.

She’s removing a package of Lays from the table when she notices a brown package that she doesn’t remember putting there.

It’s addressed to her, and she opens it quickly. Inside, she finds a copy of the July edition of Entertainment Weekly. She opens it, quickly finding the interview and photoshoot she did with Maggie. It’s not...ideal. She looks good in some pictures, but..ugh.

She dials J’onn’s number.

“Did you see the spread?” she asks.

“I did,” he tells her. “What do you think?”

“Who am I kicking?” she asks, sitting down on her couch. It’s the least of her problems, but she still has some pride left in her.

J’onn laughs. “That’s a great picture.”

“Maggie is there looking classy and I’m acting like a fucking weirdo,” she grumbles. And J’onn only chuckles again.

“The pictures are great,” he tells her. “Trust the photographer’s vision.”

Alex did that, back on the old mansion they were shooting at. And look where it got her.

“And the interviewer! The questions she asked...she might as well have called me Blake’s sidekick—”

“Alex-”

"I mean, that's all that I am, really-"

“It was a great interview, Alex,” J’onn cuts her off. And Alex takes a deep breath. J’onn is too polite for his own good, but he has certain tells, and cutting her off is one of them. He probably thinks Alex is being inconsiderate. And she probably is, considering three months ago not a single reputable magazine would have wanted to run a 6-page spread on her, unless it was to announce she was going to rehab. “I’ve got two magazines lined up, both wanting interviews with you.”

Alex picks at the threads on the couch.

“I bet they’ll ask Maggie what it feels like to work with a loser,” she mumbles under her breath.

“They asked for you only, actually,” J’onn tells her, thankfully ignoring her foray into being 12 years old again. “I told you this would be a good move for you.”

Alex sighs.

She knows J'onn is right, and she's being idiotic, but she's not used to...this. For all the faults Body of Medicine's writing team had, at least her character was consistently written to have her own story lines, to be the center of her own story. Claire Lawson is...a love interest. And sure, she'll have an episode or three focused on just her, but she's a supporting character in Blake's story. Alex is an afterthought to Maggie's moment in the limelight. 

“I know you don’t like this, but it’ll be worth it in the long run,” J’onn tells her gently. “Just hang in there.”

Alex gets the feeling he isn’t talking about the photoshoot any longer.

“Okay,” she says quietly. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Goodbye, Alex -wait, one last thing! Check your email. Anthony sent us some information about the contract.”

Alex swallows.

Suddenly, worrying about her first day back on set is so much more manageable than this. She opens her email account on her cellphone, guessing that she can’t pretend it isn’t happening as long as she doesn’t read it.  

She’s in for a long day tomorrow, and a long year, period.

 

AKemail1

AKemail2

 

.

.

.

 

 

“Action!”

 

Blake has always loved late night stakeouts in the police car—making her an oddity amongst her fellow detectives—but she hates them with company.

The moonlight weakly filters through the darkly tinted car windows as Blake keeps her eyes glued toward the warehouse their suspect should be entering, assuming he shows up.

The car starts shaking.

Blake startles, the movement shaking her out of her concentration, until she realizes the cause.

It’s Claire, bouncing her left leg like the fucking energizer bunny. Too lazy to actually say something (and not wanting Claire to think she’s trying to initiate a conversation), she settles for glaring at the offending limb.

“Sorry, I fidget when I’m bored,” Claire says. She stops, but Blake notices she starts tapping her fingers against her leg. “It’s a bad habit of mine. I’m convinced I have restless leg syndrome, but I haven’t gotten an official diagnosis of it yet.”

“Mhm.” Blake hopes her non response will stop any forthcoming words coming from Claire.

It does not.

“So your source, how reliable is he?”

It’s not that Claire doesn’t trust Blake, it just that she’s gotten the impression she doesn’t always mix with...the most reliable crowd. And she really doesn’t want to sit in complete uncomfortable silence waiting for someone who might not even show. Of course she doesn’t voice that to her partner, however, she’s not stupid. And Blake glares at her enough as it is.

“I don’t mind waiting, but wasn’t the guy supposed to show up 15 minutes ago?”

“He’s good, our guy will show up, just wait.” He might not, Blake knows, but she doesn’t want to give this rookie the satisfaction of telling her that. “It’s not like criminals are known for their punctuality anyways.”

“Except for some serial killers, you know, as part of their pattern,” Claire pipes in. “At the academy we read about one guy who always killed his victims at 6:66 pm. He was a big Satan worshiper. Pretty interesting case actually.”

Blake casts her eyes upwards. “I’m on the edge of my seat in fasc-“ Wait. She shifts her body away from the window to face Claire. “Did he kill his victims on February 30th too?”

Claire hums and smiles, “Just seeing if you were paying attention.”

Blake grunts and turns back to the window. Claire meanwhile continues speaking, obviously uncaring of whether her partner is responsive or not.

“The Satan worshiper part was false too, we didn’t specifically study serial killers at the academy—as I’m sure you’re aware—but I looked into it myself. I figured I should prepare myself for when I became a detective.”

Blake is mildly surprised at Claire’s unwavering voice upon declaring her belief she would inevitably end up here, as a detective, as if it was her destiny.

“Sorry to disappoint,” Blake cracks her fingers and blinks furiously to dispel the dry stinging of her eyes, “but the percentage of serial killer cases that comes across our desks is pretty low, single digits.”

She shouldn’t be surprised Claire is so confident. The girl is clearly determined and smart. She knows she shouldn’t underestimate her just because she skipped a couple of years on her way to becoming detective.

Blake knows from experience underestimation can get you killed.

“I know, but you also had that Peter Doderick case,” Claire pauses to think, her nose scrunching up. “Three months ago?”

She cautiously looks over at Blake to gauge her reaction. She knows the case by heart and followed it closely after seeing the news report of a grizzly mother-child double murder. The brutality and sickness of Doderick and the skilled work of the investigative team—headed by one NYPD Detective Blake Davenport—on the case was a mimic of the mystery novels she grew up reading, down to the messy, bloody end, with Doderick dying at the hands of the woman sitting beside her.

Blake gives up the pretense of watching for their suspect. She’s starting to think Claire’s doubts about him not showing were, unfortunately, true. She turns her full attention to Claire.

“You’re terrible at this. I shudder to think of watching you trying to get information out of a suspect.”

“I-I do fine thank you very much,” Claire huffs out, crossing her arms. She should’ve known she couldn’t pull one over the steely Blake Davenport, she’s not known as the best detective in the 6th for nothing. It was stupid to even try and now she’s been caught in the act and is left feeling foolish—something she positively hates. She was top of her class since kindergarten. She’s always been as close to perfect as she can get. With the type of parents she had, she had to be.

What she’s feeling now isn’t far off from what she felt growing up, when she’d confidently spout out an interesting fact (found the night before solely to impress her parents) and seconds later be informed by them that she was wrong, and if she wasn’t absolutely sure she knew she was right she shouldn’t bother speaking at all—that one day it would get her in trouble.

She hates it.

“If you’re done sulking, I could tell you what you did wrong.” Blake is smiling now, her first of the night. “Your body language gave you away. You try too hard to be nonchalant, and you slightly raise your right eyebrow when lying. That’s a pretty obvious tell you should work on.”

It’s really quite amusing to see Claire’s reaction to her words—she’s an expressive person, another thing she should work on—and Blake can tell she’s not one to take criticism, even constructive criticism, well. She might as well have some more fun with her.

“Also I talked to your last superior officer while you were at lunch, and when I introduced myself he mentioned your obsession, his words not mine, with the Doderick case.”

Claire whips her head around. “So that’s how you knew I was fishing for information, not because of my,” she exaggerates the words, “body language.”

“Nah, I would’ve deduced it either way, it is my jo-“ she suddenly goes quiet, her entire body stilling. Claire’s mouth moves to start speaking, but a finger is slapped across it. She follows Blake’s small head jerk toward the warehouse and sees a figure hurriedly walking toward it.

After the man is almost inside the building, Blake slowly removes her thumb from Claire’s mouth, and opens her door, indicating for Claire to follow.

 

“Cut!”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex walks back to her trailer after briefly saying goodbye to the director.

Maggie stayed by his side, animatedly talking to him about who knows what. They must have known each other from the first season, Alex doesn’t know. What she does know is she wasn’t invited to stick around. She is very much the new kid here, and she feels it.

She only really saw Maggie during their scene, since she started her day earlier and Alex spent a good while in makeup, so she doesn’t really...know anyone. And knowing people isn’t her forte when she’s sober.

And she’s really sober, she can feel that, too.

She can’t wait to get home and run herself a bath and drink a good glass of scotch. Her first day didn’t go badly, the opposite of it, really. She had the one scene with Maggie, and they only did it maybe a dozen times even with the angle changes. It’s nothing like the hours she used to pull before, but it’s been a while since she’s worked. She’d almost forgotten how it felt.

She remembered it at once when the director yelled ‘Action’, and then she wasn’t Alex anymore but Claire. Getting into character always came easily to her.

It felt like walking inside her childhood home and seeing everything was still where she’d left it. Alex knows J’onn made the right call encouraging her to be here, even with the...complications. (She tried very hard not to think about her and Maggie’s ‘relationship’, and the ‘timeline’ their teams had come up with for them to act out.) She loves being on set again. She’s missed it. And she’s aware it’s her fault she didn’t do it for so long, but she doesn’t feel as raw as she did back then. Alex isn’t about to ruin this.

She hadn’t realized how much she needed to work to feel grounded until today. Going to the table read had been fine, and the wardrobe tests, makeup...it was what she knew and like riding a bike, impossible to forget.

Even cutting her hair so short for the role had been almost...freeing.

But being on set and feeling the blood rush through her veins as she waited for the director to yell ‘Action’. J’onn was right, Alex needs this. And so far she’s done a good job.

Her only moment of trepidation had been when Maggie laid her thumb across her mouth, and Alex couldn’t be faulted for that. It’s just nobody has...touched her in awhile. J’onn had hugged a couple of days ago, and her mom when she last visited, but Alex isn’t...she’s not close to people. It startled her enough the first time Maggie laid her thumb over her lips that she stumbled over her line and the director had to yell cut.

She got used to it after the third time, and she barely registered it by the last time they re-did the take, but it had only brought to the forefront of Alex’s mind how...alone she is. Her so called friends are a shit show even worse than she is, she hasn’t kept in touch with anyone from Body of Medicine apart from flimsy likes on twitter, and even her own sister was shining too brightly to be concerned with her.

It’s not about sex, she’s long accepted she’s not...built for that, she hasn’t found the right guy yet, but it puts everything in perspective when she thinks about the makeup lady this morning and Maggie being the only people to touch her face this year, and it’s fucking July.

She’s almost at her trailer when she passes Maggie’s, and her door is open wide, even as Alex tries not to shiver from the chill of a late New York City evening.

She seemed too normal for an actress, of course she’d be insane.

Alex can’t not peek inside—it’s Maggie’s own fault, really, for not closing her door—and she sees Maggie is on her cell phone, apparently talking to someone. Alex doesn’t want to intrude, her mind immediately jumping to her talking to a girlfriend or someone like that, and she starts to walk away.

She definitely doesn’t need to hear that.

 

.

.

.

 

“Alex, wait!” Maggie calls out, after noticing her figure outside her trailer. Maggie looks up, and sees Alex has turned back.

“And speaking of the devil…” She catches Alex’s eye over her cellphone, and sees her shaking her head a second too late because she’s already turned the camera on her. Alex plasters a painful looking smile on her face.

“Hey,” she mutters, waving her hand to the camera.

Maggie quickly turns her cellphone back around.

“We’re all tired here after a long day,” she says, trying to excuse Alex’s behavior -or lack thereof. “We’ve been working really hard to bring you all the best episodes we can. All we do here is for you guys.”

She smiles, and watches as heart after heart flutters upwards in her screen. Messages go by almost too fast for her to keep up. Most of them ask for only one thing though: to get Alex on camera again. Bring Alex into the live stream, tell Alex this or that. But a quick look at her co-star lets her know Alex is certainly not up for it.

“I loved chatting with you guys, but I have to go,” she says, and she’s immediately flooded with messages of protest. “Alex and I are actually gearing up to film later,” she lies. “Day’s not over yet! I have to -I have to go, I’m sorry. I’ll talk to you guys soon! Bye! Love you.” She blows a kiss to the camera. “Bye, bye, bye, bye!” she repeats quickly as she closes the app.

She looks up at Alex, still awkwardly standing outside her trailer.

“Look alive, Danvers.”

Alex gives her a look.

“Following the ‘suggestions’?” Alex asks—though it sounds like an accusation to Maggie. She lets it go.

“Kind of,” she replies, shrugging. She probably would’ve invited Alex into her livestream even if she wasn’t supposed to be her future fake girlfriend. Maybe. That smile was pretty painful looking. “I would've done this anyway. Talking to the fans is the best part of this whole thing.”

The grimace that shows on Alex’s face tells Maggie that she doesn’t share the sentiment.

“Don’t like fans?” she asks, slightly disappointed.

She knows she doesn’t know Alex yet, but everything she seems to find out about her leaves her feeling dejected. Maggie loves what she does, she’d do it even if everyone hated her, but the best part of her day really is reading the sweet messages the fans send her, looking at the pictures of people who swear she’s changed their lives.

Maggie doesn’t understand how someone doesn’t appreciate that.

“It’s not that,” Alex says. “It’s just...it can get intense.”

The woman looks slightly uncomfortable, as she always tends to do, Maggie’s figured out, and she nods.

“It can,” she admits. It’s never all fun and games. There are creepy fans, because there are creepy people, and then there are the really terrible moments where someone says they’re going to hurt herself if she doesn’t pay attention to them on social media. She had a hard time with that when she started, but M’gann coached her through it like she did with so many other things, and those instances are few and far between anyways. The sweet kids and the moms on Facebook far outnumber the people sending her mindless hate or begging for nudes.

She tries not to judge Alex too harshly. Maybe she hasn’t had it like Maggie has.

She grew up in the business, Maggie remembers, her dad was Jeremiah Danvers. His films were before her time, she didn’t get a lot of time to go the movie theater in the middle of Nowhere, Nebraska, but it can’t have been easy for Alex as a kid.

“And yet you still like...all this,” Alex says.

"You just gotta know how to handle them, I guess. Most people mean well. And," she shrugs, "it can be fun too."

Alex looks doubtful. Maggie smiles.

“I’ll show you.” She brings her cell phone back to life.

“Let’s take a selfie?”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex stares at Maggie’s cellphone as though it could actually burn her.

“I don’t bite,” Maggie tells her patting the seat beside her, and Alex sits down, feeling her face heat up. This is Kara’s thing. It’s not her thing. She used to have her assistant for this, to keep her social media accounts active, but ever since she quit Alex doesn’t think she’s taken a single picture. What’s the point of documenting her life falling apart?

She should see about hiring someone again.

Maggie sidles up to her, their thighs touching, and then she throws her arm around Alex and squishes herself against her, her soft cheek against Alex’s own. Everything she’d been thinking about not being touched goes up in flames in her brain. The woman at her side definitely isn’t shy.

It takes Maggie telling her to smile for the camera for Alex to shake the surprise off and do it.

She’s so close to Maggie. She wishes it didn’t make her as uncomfortable as it does, but she feels pins and needles all over her skin. She’s careful not to touch her, her hands firmly on top of her own thighs, but that’s not enough for her not to feel like she’s drowning in Maggie. She hates it. She can feel the heat radiating off her skin and smell her perfume. Or is that her lip gloss? Is that what her lips—

“All done.” Maggie scoots away, and Alex feels the chill on her side. But that’s just because her nutcase of a co-star has her door open. “This one looks good. You approve?”

The makeup trailer must have some good stuff, because Alex doesn’t look nearly as tired as she feels.

"Yeah."

“Now...a caption,” Maggie says. She types away on her cellphone, and though she knows there’s only two years between them, Alex certainly feels like the oldest person in the room. She doesn’t understand Maggie’s love for interacting with all those people.

Her dislike of her love interest on Body of Medicine —a bland man who acted as well as a sack of manure—was only rivaled by her dislike of their fans. An alarming number of them wanted the two of them to hook up in real life—shipped them, it was called—even though the actor was happily married with two kids. She had to stop including him in set pictures for fear of the fans spamming her comments with their delusions.

She only had a taste of it when they announced her casting, but it feels different with Maggie already. They’re actually trying to get people to ship them now, for one thing. Which bothers her too, in a different way. Back in Body of Medicine she was just trying to do her job, and more often than not it felt like people only cared about her or her acting in the context of who her character—and her—were dating. She doesn’t want this to be the same, but it’s going to be, it’s what she signed up for and she knows it.

“A few hearts...And those are part of Anthony’s ‘suggestions’ as you so aptly called them.” Maggie holds up her phone for her to see. “All good?”

Alex nods. Maggie presses the share button.

Alex springs out of the couch as soon as it’s done.

“I should go. I think makeup wants me. I mean, wardrobe. For me to return this.”

Maggie eyes her in a way Alex isn’t sure she likes.

“Sure. See you around, Danvers.”

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie watches as Alex leaves her trailer like there’s a fire under her ass.

She assumed from their previous talk that Alex was okay with their PR deal—enthusiastic about it, actually—but her behavior now causes a seed of doubt to grow in Maggie’s mind. If she’s being honest with herself, she knows the doubt was there even before this.

Alex isn’t comfortable around her.

It’s been obvious since day one—though there was that moment after the helicopter ride where she thought she’d gotten through, that they’d gotten over whatever initial awkwardness they’d had and gotten well on their way to becoming friends...but that was before everything. Before the contract and Anthony’s suggestions and the reality of what they’ll be acting out for the world to see in a few weeks time.

She can’t quiet the whisper in her mind saying Alex is uncomfortable because she doesn’t like women who like other women.

It’s not that Alex has been overtly homophobic at all, but she’s spent enough time in Hollywood - hell, she’s lived long enough to know most individuals display their dislike of gay people in more subtle ways. The way people’s smiles turn brittle when she informs them that no she isn’t scouting the room for men because she’s a lesbian. The quick shift in conversation that always comes after that. Because sure, people are fine with her sexuality just so long as they’re not confronted with it and can continue living in their ignorant, heterosexual bubble.  

Alex could very well be one of those people. And she is the woman she’s agreed to pretend to date for a whole year. Great.

She wonders if Alex would’ve acted the same when Blake and Claire got closer, or if she would’ve been okay with it as long as it was fictional.

Maggie sighs.

Maybe she’s judging Alex too harshly. She could just be uncomfortable because she’s a straight woman pretending to be gay for her career. That option is marginally better, barely.

What a fucking joke.

If someone had told her 5 years ago a straight actress would be pretending to be gay to help her career, and not the other way around, she would’ve laughed them out of the room. It could almost be a twisted display of how their society has progressed, she thinks darkly. Almost.

It isn’t fair.

Here is this privileged straight girl with a bad record trying to clean up her act by using her to pretend she’s gay or bisexual or whatever—Anthony didn’t go over the finite details in that regard, he told them Alex would never label herself so it didn’t matter—for the cameras.

It took years for Maggie to be taken seriously as a lesbian actress. For people to look past her sexuality and see her talent and hard work. She had to put up with the thinly veiled bigotry from people in the industry, the inane questions about what it’s like to be a lesbian, and the people who expected her to educate them on all LGBT issues as if she was the spokesperson for a whole community of people.

On top of all that, she had to carefully self monitor her behavior for fear that a screw up could negatively affect any other gay actor trying to make it because some people would paint an entire minority with the same brush stroke.

She put up with a lot of shit to be where she is now. And Alex is just pretending to like women, to like her , for a contract.

It makes her skin crawl.

Maggie knows she signed the contract too, and any moral high ground she has is practically non existent.

But at least she’s not pretending to be someone she’s not.

 

.

.

.

 

It’s cool and dark in her trailer, the only light visible coming through from the cracks of the window blinds.

Alex idly watches the interplay between the light and darkness from her prone position on the couch. She’d wanted to take a short nap, since the driver J’onn arranged is supposed to pick her up in an hour. It had seemed like a solid plan.

If only her brain would let her.

It’s just. Fuck. Why does being around Maggie turn her into such an idiot? And based off the departing look the woman gave her, she’d noticed it, too. How...weird Alex had been in her trailer. She didn’t mean to act that way, but it seemed to be a side effect of being close to the woman, and thinking about all the scenes they had yet to act out together—both in front of the camera and in their lives.

She pulls out her cellphone to distract her from her thoughts. There’s a message from J’onn from a couple of hours ago, wishing her good luck on her first day, and she answers him with a quick thanks. There’s a few other messages, but she doesn’t have their numbers saved, so she blocks them, one by one.

When she’s done, she notices she has a voicemail from Kara.

“Hey Alex!” Alex winces at Kara’s perky, loud ‘it’s morning!’ voice and turns her volume down. “Congratulations on your first day of filming! I hope you’re having fun. I’m so excited for you, oh my gosh, this is like, amazing. It’s your first day of filming, and it’s almost my last day of filming. Ugh, it was so hot today you wouldn’t believe it. I had to get my makeup retouched every 30 minutes because I was sweating it off! Other than that though, my week has been pretty great. Mon-El and I went to the art museum close by and he held the door open for me on the way in.” Her voice get dreamy, and Alex frowns. “He’s such a gentleman. And then the next day production got a free ice cream truck on set and...“

Alex listens to her sister drag on about how Mon-El brought her ice cream without her asking, and she wonders why her sister’s standards are on the floor. Not like she was a great example when they were growing up, Alex has often been accused of having unrealistically high standards, but at least it’s better than getting excited over ice cream, and a free one at that.

“Anyway, I hope you call me soon! I love you! Bye!”

She’s about to put away her phone when a new text comes in. It’s her mom. Better late than never, Alex guesses, frowning, and gears up to see whatever she wrote.

She reads the first text, and the frown dissipates. Alex smiles. She feels as pleased as she did back in school, when her main concern was getting her parents to be proud of her. Her smile disappears as one last text comes in, however.

elizatext 

She closes the app.

She wishes she could blame her mother for the way her mood drops, but deep down she knows she deserves the reminder. If she hadn’t gotten fired from Body of Medicine , her mom wouldn’t feel like she needs reminders to keep her shit together.

Alex sighs as she sits up.

If she was honest with herself, it went back much further. She was losing it when she was in college. She’d thought it would stop after she returned to acting, after she started doing what she really wanted to, but it hadn't. It’d only slowed down.

On Body of Medicine ... She was fine that first season. She really was. And it didn't matter much during breaks. But things got worse. Everything with her mom, everything about her dad, things with Kara, and...what she hates thinking about, but now has to every single day. She couldn't handle it.

Can she even handle this?

Thankfully, a knock on her trailer door with a “your car is here, miss Danvers” accompanying it stops her inner spiral. So much for her nap. Her body protests as she gets up from the couch and stretches, back cracking ominously.

She’s exhausted, but in a good way. In a ‘I’ve done something productive and it tired me out’ way. These past few years she’s grown accustomed to a different kind of exhaustion, the one caused by too many late nights out and excessive alcohol. Today is a nice change.

She’s making her way to the parking lot when she sees Maggie strolling her way, wearing a jacket Alex knows is the wrong side of a thousand dollars worth of leather. She had considered buying it online herself the other day, and had quickly given up on it. Her inheritance wasn’t going to last forever.

Maggie has her headphones in, looking at her phone while she walks, and Alex isn’t sure whether she should greet her or just stay quiet. She settles for giving her a faint half wave. A perfectly polite, non verbal, casual acknowledgment she sees her. She’s not sure if Maggie notices, until a second later when the woman looks up. She stares at Alex for a second, before acknowledging her with a short, curt nod. She turns toward a bike -and of course, the Triumph Bonneville T100 she was admiring earlier had to be Maggie Sawyer’s ride.

Thank fuck she’s not taking Uber anymore. She couldn’t handle the embarrassment of a fucking mini sedan pulling up alongside Maggie’s motorcycle.

If she only had her Ducati, which she knows for a fact is bigger and simply better than a Triumph, it’d be different, but alas.

Her driver pulls in a few moments after Maggie leaves. She settles into the back seat before the driver even has time to get out and open the door for her.

Maggie’s behavior in the parking lot took her aback. Maybe it was just in her head, but Maggie had been...cold. She probably was tired after a long day, but Alex can’t shake the feeling that she did something wrong to deserve that look. Maggie has been nothing but friendly since they met, even though, Alex will admit, she hasn’t reciprocated. Had she already screwed up another relationship in her life? And she wasn’t even drunk. It’s only been a couple of months since she’s known her too, and within that time they’d only talked a few times, Jesus.

She can’t afford to have the star of the show and her soon-to-be fake...dating partner—she can't even think the G word—hate her. That’s not acceptable, but she can fix this, and she will. She’ll be professional and friendly all the time. Well, maybe not friendly all the time—Alex still hasn’t gotten the hang of talking to people without the influence of controlled substances—but definitely professional.

She needs this job. It’s quite literally her last chance to pull herself out of the abyss she's fallen in, and she can’t mess it up. So she’ll go to the cast parties, interact with fans on twitter (she makes a mental note to hire a new social media person ASAP), and post her own selfies and maybe even do that live streaming thing Maggie was doing on the Instagram.

Starting right now.

She grabs her cellphone and takes Claire’s NYPD badge from her pocket, which she only realized she accidentally kept after she was in the parking lot.

Maggie was right about one thing, this is part of the job.

It might not be the best part for her, but if she wants to get back to where she was it’s as much a requirement as showing up on time and memorizing her lines. She snaps a photo.

She can handle this, of course she can.

insta

 

.

.

. 


She expects it all weekend.

She doesn’t have plans, and Gabriella is spending the weekend at the restaurant’s new location, overseeing them taking down a wall to open up more space, so she has nothing to do but stay home and wait.

Maggie remembers back when there was no regular mail on Sunday, but she thinks even if it had been Christmas and the Apocalypse on the same day, Anthony would still have found a way to get the contract to her.

She tries yoga, and when her mind wanders too much for her to focus on her breathing, she gives up and puts on something mind numbing on Netflix while she makes dinner. The contract and Alex aren’t the only things on her mind.

She’s been here before.

It doesn’t bring her good memories.

She’d been young and dumb and made a really idiotic mistake, and in the world of Hollywood and public image a PR contract concerning her romantic relationship had been the only way to get out of it. It’s different now. She has a choice. And she’s choosing to put herself through it all over again, for much longer than last time.

She wonders if it’s right. What happened with Emily wasn’t, but in this case, Alex is okay with it. Enthusiastic even. And they won’t be hurting anyone. But...just the thought of Alex pretending to like women for the cameras, and using her to fix her image—whether it helps her career and show or not—still makes her uneasy.

But then she can’t worry about it anymore, because someone knocks on her door a quarter to 5, and her copy of the contract is here, waiting for her signature.

She signs it before she can spend more time ruminating over it.

 

.

.

.

 

It arrives early Sunday morning.

Alex got a heads up from J’onn the day before, telling her that he received it Saturday night back in LA, and it should be getting to her soon, but he refuses Alex’s request to take a picture of it and send it to her. Something about it not being safe.

Alex wonders if he’s simply testing her patience.

But it does arrive, after all, and she munches on a piece of reheated pizza—taking sips of coffee in between—while she reads it. It makes everything more solid, more real. She leaves her coffee on the table when she gets a call from her landline, and it’s a voice she doesn’t expect to hear -that she’s never heard before, actually.

“Miss Danvers?”

“Yes, this is she.”

“This is your landlord. A Miss Kara Danvers is requesting to park in your space.”

Alex swallows. Kara is supposed to be in Canada.

She clears her throat.

“Yes. She’s my sister.”

“I’ll send her up, then,” the man on the phone says, and Alex closes the call before he’s even done talking. She looks around her apartment, and only spots two bottles of beer and a empty can of Pringles, and she’s quick to grab those and throw them away. Two bottles is hardly reason for an intervention, but Kara talks to their mother more than Alex would like her to.

The only thing out of place in the spotless apartment is her lunch, and the contract currently open on her coffee table. She sits down, intent on hiding it until she can tell Kara about it—she’s been dreading the conversation ever since she agreed to this, and putting it off, too—and finds the third page has been stained with the bottom of her coffee cup. Fuck. She tries to dab it dry with her sweater, but the white paper is marred by the brown of her cappuccino.

And Kara is coming up.

Alex thought she had more time.

She swears to God she hears the elevator stop on her floor,  and she can’t wonder too much about it because then there’s an energetic rapping on her door. She shoves the contract behind a cushion. She straightens up and takes a breath before she goes to answer it.

Her sister’s bright face fills the doorway.

“Alex!”

“Hey! What are you doing here?”

“What am I doing here? I came to visit you, silly.” Kara hugs her. Alex returns it with a tight squeeze for a few seconds before she maneuvers out of it. She stares at Kara in the doorway, and Kara stares back at her.

“I'm- I'm sorry. Come in." She grabs Kara’s yellow duffel bag, and leads the way inside. “I thought...I thought you were filming,” she mentions, as nonchalantly as she can.

“I was. I am,” Kara says, looking around her apartment. “My last day is on Tuesday. But I’m waiting for Mon-El to be done so we’re going back to LA on Friday."

“Right. How’s that going?” she asks.

“Good! Better than ever. He’s a real gentleman.” Kara beams.

Alex keeps her thoughts to herself. She’s only met the guy twice, and only once when he was officially Kara’s boyfriend. She doesn't really like him. Then again, she hardly thinks there’s anyone good enough for Kara. Her sister is too naive and trusting for her own good.

“So! What have you been up to?” Kara asks, plopping down on her couch. “You have a fireplace! I love this place already.”

Alex smiles. She wore an expression not unlike this one when Alex first gave her a tour of their childhood home, and opened the door to their backyard —the spiraling beaches of Malibu.

“Nothing much." She shrugs. "Just some wardrobe tests, a few scenes and stuff. You know.”

“Right. So what have you filmed so far? Anything good?”

“Just some stuff at the precinct.”

Kara gives her a look, the same look she gave her when they were younger and she’d just gotten into a fight with Vicky, or had been hiding something from their mother.

“Is something wrong, Alex?” Kara asks, and Alex winces. She’d  been expecting those types of questions, but not so soon.

“I have work tomorrow, you know,” she says, hoping to stave it off. “I can’t hang out all day with you.”

“I know, silly. I can drop you off on my way to the airport, my flight leaves in the morning.”

Alex looks at her sister, her bright hair and even sunnier disposition almost seeming out of place in the apartment. They'd given her hair yet more highlights for this film, and she’d gone from the dark blonde, almost brown hair she’d had when they were younger, to the kind of blonde Alex rolled her eyes at. At least she could pull it off. Alex had tried, and she hadn't been able to.

“So you made it all this way, for one day?”

Kara smiles. “Of course. You’re my sister.”

Alex looks at the floor, guilt spreading through her. She should've been happier to see her.

“Oh, come here!” Kara exclaims. "Get in here." And then her arms are around Alex and she’s crushing her with one of her bear hugs. Alex breathes in the comfort, she and Kara have their differences, but they’re sisters, and she appreciates her support, even if she doesn't know what's wrong yet. Even in her worst moments as a teenager, when she wished they'd never adopted her, Alex had always known this was a feeling you couldn't replicate. 

“Now...will you tell me what’s going on?” Kara asks.

Alex sighs.

“Anthony King...” she mentions the name she’s come to dislike. “My new boss.”

“Right…?”

“He wants me to sign a PR contract.”

“Well that’s standard, isn't it?” Kara asks. “Do you have to be super active on Instagram? I can see why you’d hate that.”

“Not just a PR contract, a PR relationship...contract.”

"Oh.” Kara says. “...with who?”

Alex swallows down the turmoil making a wreck of her stomach, and keeps her eyes trained on the coffee table, too much of a coward to face Kara’s reaction.

“Maggie.”

Kara bursts out laughing. Alex looks up only to meet her sister’s face, head thrown back and eyes closed as she laughs. Her stomach sinks.

Her sister looks at her, and the mirth goes out of her.

“Wait, you’re serious?”

Alex nods.

“Oh my God, Alex...I’m sorry, I….but you’re not gay!” She flinches. “Why would he want you to pretend -and what does Maggie think? Are you doing it? And J’onn!”

“One thing at a time, okay?” She asks, and Kara nods, sidling up to Alex, their knees bumping together on the couch. “Um...King thinks it’s going to help the show stay number one on the network. And J’onn thinks it’s going to look good for me to…” She clears her throat. “To date Maggie. That it’s going to bring in good press. And Maggie is okay with whatever helps the show.”

“You sound like...like you’re doing it.” Kara frowns.

Alex nods. “I am.”

“Why didn’t you tell me before?” Kara asks, her voice hurt. “We could’ve talked before you chose. I mean…”

“You were away, filming,” Alex tells her. “And I didn’t wanna bother you with my stuff.”

“You’re my sister, Alex!” Kara admonishes. “And this is...this is huge.”

Alex nods. She thinks she hasn’t fully grasped just how huge it is until now, as she tells her sister. Everyone is going to believe what they’re selling. The second cousins she never talks to, her friends from middle school, her fucking college professors.   

“I know,” she says, and she hates the way her voice goes thin, like she’s a step away from tears. It’s ridiculous.

“Isn’t it weird, for you?” Kara asks. “That she’s a girl. I mean, everyone’s going to think you like girls now.”

Alex winces, as a weight drops in her stomach.

“J’onn said it’s worth it.” She sighs. “Do you think it’s crazy?”

Kara bites her lip. “I mean...No. Mon-el and I would’ve done it if we hadn’t started dating for real. It was going to look good for when we tried to promote the movie. People do it all the time.”

“And that’s crazy,” Alex points out. Kara shrugs. Alex thinks it’s funny, in a way. How she’d been the one to grow up in showbiz, to have been raised by a film director, and yet she’s never quite grasped how to handle the business. Kara...Kara was a natural, even if she’d only been with them for much less time.  

“It’s just too bad she’s not a guy,” Kara says. Alex swallows, her throat feeling dry. Almost like it’s closing up. “I mean, you could’ve been like me and Mon-El.”

“Right,” Alex says. Her stomach roils. There aren’t enough words in the world to explain how much she doesn’t want to be with someone like him. Kara gives her a look.

“When are you going to tell mom?”

Alex groans. She lets her head fall back against the couch, and Kara pokes her on the side.

“She’s going to be upset you didn’t tell her sooner-”

“Can you?”

“Can I, what?”

Alex sits up. “Can you tell her?"

“Alex…”

“Be a good sister.”

Kara narrows her eyes. “That’s a low blow.”

“I could just have J’onn tell her, but I’d prefer it if it was you.”

“She should hear about this from you,” Kara insists, and Alex shakes her head. “Or you could not tell her,” Kara suggests. “And let her think you’re dating Maggie.” Kara snorts as she chuckles, but all Alex can muster is a small, uncomfortable laugh.

“I was actually, uh...reading the contract, before you showed up.”

“Oh my gosh, show me!” Kara exclaims, and Alex files away her request, intent on getting her to agree before she boards her plane back to Vancouver tomorrow. She’s not avoiding her mother. She’s...delegating.

After all, she’s a busy woman these days.

She sits down with the contract next to Kara, and they read it all over again together. Her sister graciously doesn’t mention the coffee stain. Alex gets to really think about the terms these time, as she and Kara discuss them out loud, and it sounds both more intimidating and less scary than before.

Alex has always been a logical person. Things lose their power over her once they’re laid out in the open and explained with clinical accuracy. 

She can't talk about the relationship with anyone not in her inner circle, not that she’d want to in the first place. Pretending to date someone is mortifying and that’s saying a lot when she was photographed drunk at a Starbucks once. She has to be photographed on dates with Maggie, she has to—ugh—use social media. All in all, it doesn’t seem as bad as she thought it might.

There’s only one thing she doesn't get -why Maggie’s parents aren't mentioned in the contract.

 

 

 

The sun is bright and high up in the sky the following morning

She says goodbye to Kara at the door of the studio with a hug, and kisses on both cheeks. Kara laughs, saying she is  French after all, and they part ways with a smile—and the understanding that Kara will do Alex a solid and tell their mother about the contract, and prep her for Alex to talk to.

She wishes the thought of talking to her mom about the contract was all that has her nervous this morning, but she can’t stop thinking about a particular point of their contract she noticed yesterday, specifically, who was missing from it.

If Maggie’s parents can’t know about them—will they think she’s dating Alex for real? What if they visit set? What is she supposed to do then, pretend she’s actually with her? Kiss her in front of them? It’s one thing to act in front of cameras, and even in front of paparazzi, but quite another to lie to people to their face.

Why wouldn’t Maggie include her parents? Alex briefly runs over options while she walks to craft services. Maybe they’re old and senile, and they might tell people if they knew. Fuck, that’s even worse. Alex can’t lie to old people.

She catches sight of Maggie sitting in one of the white plastic picnic tables under the tent, a bowl of what looks like salad in front of her.

Alex takes a breath and marches her way.

“Maggie,” she says.

“Alcott,” Maggie greets her. Alex frowns. She thinks the last time she heard that name she must have been 12.

“Were you snooping around on my Wikipedia page?” She asks Maggie as she sits down across from her. Maggie snorts.

“No, did you forget I signed a legal contract that you were a part of?”

Alex sighs.

“It was after Mary Louise Alcott,” she tells Maggie, coming clean about the reason for one of her awful middle names. “My mom’s a fan.”

Maggie smiles, and the dimples Alex hasn’t seen in days make an appearance.

“That’s cute, Danvers,” she says. “What’s the Irene for?”

Alex internally groans.

“Irene Curie. Died of radiation poisoning,” she says. Kara is so thankful their mother didn’t get to name her. “Any other questions?” she asks Maggie.

Maggie raises her hands, palms up. Alex doesn’t believe for a second she comes in peace.

“What’s the Ellen for?” Alex retaliates, remembering Maggie’s middle name.

Maggie chuckles. “Nothing, my parents just had bad taste.”

Alex laughs. It’s such a Maggie answer -and isn’t that something, that she’s known her for just enough to be able to deduce what she’d say.

She quickly remembers the task at hand and becomes serious once again.

“I, uh...I actually wanted to ask you something. About the contract.” Maggie looks up at her. “I noticed only Gabriella was mentioned from your family. Do your parents... I guess what I’m asking is: are your parents not gonna be in the loop? Are they going to think our...that we-”

“Of course they’re gonna be in the loop, Danvers,” she says flippantly, and Alex heaves out a sigh. “They just -they live in rural Nebraska. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the contract or not.”

“Oh.” She breathes easier, and suddenly feels dumb. Of course her parents are going to know. Plus, Maggie’s worked with Anthony for years, of course she gets to avoid bothering her parents with non-disclosure agreements. “Right. Okay. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

 

 

The sign each other’s copies of the contract later that day, at the New York office of King’s attorney. And all that’s left for Alex to do is wait for it to go into effect.

 

pageco

page-2

page-3

contract--page-1

 

.

.

.

 

The opening instrumentals of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” drift through the apartment.

Maggie groans. Her alarm clock reads 4:45 AM, and though she knows she’s supposed to get up, she hits the snooze button.

Fifteen minutes later it goes off again, and she drags her eyelids open and lays in bed for a few seconds before flinging the sheets off to begin her day. A quick fifteen minute shower and she’s in her kitchen eating a double toasted dry sesame seed bagel while drinking her coffee, sweetened with agave nectar, and checking her phone. By 6 AM, she’s driving to set with NPR as her morning companion.

As she arrives on set, she hears a chorus of greetings from a variety of crew members. At 6:30, she’s in hair and makeup listening to the latest gossip from Louise and Mary.

Settling back into the rhythm of filming is easy, besides the change in her sleeping schedule—her body hasn’t quite adapted to the 5 AM wake up calls yet, but she knows by next week that’ll change too.

She loves being on set, she loves the crew and cast, she loves shedding her own skin for 8 or 10 hours a day. And her scenes with Alex are...fun. Going toe to toe with an actress as talented as she leaves her feeling energized after every scene together. They elevate each other’s acting.

Alex is the best scene partner she could’ve asked for. When they’re inhabiting Blake and Claire everything's amazing -it’s the other moments that are the problem.

First there was the trailer incident, as Maggie had dubbed it in her head, with Alex’s awkward scramble to escape from her after a fucking selfie. Then, her horrified look when she thought Maggie’s parents would think they were dating for real. Then there was the craft services moment when Maggie, standing behind Alex, had leaned over her shoulder to reach for some hummus and Alex jumped like she’d been burned. That move certainly didn’t help Maggie quell her misgivings about Alex.

By the time Friday rolls around, Maggie has her own personal collection of uncomfortable situations with Alex Danvers. But it’s Friday, and she made it through the first week of filming. That deserves a celebration.

Anthony might think it does, too, because a few minutes after midday she gets a message from him, informing her that he’s throwing the cast and crew a party in his New York apartment. Maggie didn't know he had a New York apartment.

Either way, she’s invited, and so is the rest of the cast—including Alex. Maggie’s been wary of going to producers’ homes in the past, but this is certainly the first time it’s because she’s wondering what she’ll be asked to do with a woman. Anthony seems to love his plan, and Maggie wonders if he’ll just ask them to pose for the camera so he can leak the pictures to the press himself.

Maggie rolls her eyes as she grabs the few pieces of clothing she left over her trailer during the week, so she can take them home later that day.

It’s been a while since she’s gotten this self-pitying about herself.

 

.

.

.

 

Her last scene of the day with James drags along.

She doesn’t really know the guy, and the fact they haven’t really talked since she joined the show means the time in between shooting is immensely awkward. For being the child of a former model and a film director, Alex wasn’t much of a social butterfly. She’d always found it hard to relate to people her own age, and while she might have blamed it on the nature of her father’s work when she was younger, she thinks even if he’d been something as inane as a teacher or a doctor, it would have been the same for her.

Alex has never clicked with people, has never been able to make friends as easily as her sister.

She thought that had started to change, with Maggie. After a somewhat awkward beginning, she’d really begun to feel like they were...on the same wavelength. She can’t remember the last time someone who wasn’t Kara teased her like she did, or the last time she laughed as genuinely as when Maggie challenged her to a race out of nowhere. She thinks the answer might be never. That’s never happened before, or at least not since High School.

Her scenes with Maggie always go by quickly. It’s just easy acting with her. It’s comfortable—for now that is, they haven’t shot any...intimate scenes yet. But Alex will cross that bridge when she gets to it.

Her point is, it’s been years since she's had a good friend. And she’d thought Maggie might be it, for a fleeting moment. But ever since they agreed on the contract things are slightly weird between them. Maggie isn’t as friendly as before, and Alex...she can’t sit still near Maggie, and she doesn’t quite understand why.

James walks back to his first mark, as they get ready to shoot the scene again. He gives Alex a polite smile before getting in character, and she returns what she hopes is a pleasant smile as well. She makes a mental note to talk to him, at some point. He seems kind.

They start the scene.

Claire asks Captain Ellis if Blake is the right choice to train her, given that she seems to hate Claire so much, and gets rebuffed. They argue for a few moments, before Claire sucks it up, thanks her superior officer, and stomps out of the room. She’s supposed to call out for Blake outside of the camera, but of course, Maggie isn’t here. Alex can’t help but think if she were, it would have been easier to film.

The director yells the final cut and her week is over.

 

.

.

.

 

By the time Maggie arrives, the party is in full swing.

Cary, one of their lighting guys, is playing the white baby grand piano in the corner, and at least two people have turned Anthony’s massive living room into a dance floor, as they sway to the music. Of course, Anthony, who can’t play anything besides other people, has an ostentatious piano in his apartment. Maggie inwardly rolls her eyes, or maybe not, given the amused look James gives her from across the room.

“Maggie,” James greets her with a bear hug—he is the only person besides Gabriella she allows it from, and she thinks he knows it. “Fashionably late, that’s unusual for you.” He pulls away and grabs a drink from the passing waiter and hands it to Maggie.

“Thanks.” She takes a sip. At least she can always count on great champagne. “Traffic held me up,” she explains. “I got stuck between two semi trucks for a good stretch which also didn’t help.”

“Well, your lovely leading lady,” Maggie scoffs at his exaggeration of the word lovely, “has been here for 20 minutes and the only conversation she’s partook in is with that ficus plant.”

She raises an eyebrow. “What am I, the Alex Danvers’ whisperer?”

James mirrors her face. “You spend the most time with her and seem to be the only person she’ll interact with. We had a scene together today, and I tried striking up conversation in between takes. I got one syllable responses in return.” He brings up his index finger to emphasize his point.

She bats away his finger.

“She’s not the best at small talk. I’m sure she’ll come around. She doesn’t have any problem with you that I know of.” She does seem to have one with me though, Maggie thinks as she takes a sip of her champagne.

“Yeah well -“ James doesn’t get to finish his sentence as Cary starts up a chant for James to sing and play them something on the piano.

“Sorry, Maggie, the fans want me.” He shrugs unapologetically.

She chuckles. “I’m ready to be wowed James.”

She looks over at Alex now that her attention is free. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying the party, or the people. Her mouth tightens as she hears Alex snap at the poor waiter who almost spilled his drink tray in her lap.

“Will you look where you’re going? Jesus Christ!”

Maggie can still vividly remember back when she was working catering gigs—in between modeling and pursuing acting seriously—having to put up with shitty guests who cussed her out for accidentally dropping a plate. People who didn’t even care to think that she might have been on her feet for hours by that point and was fucking tired, dead on her feet.  

She was thinking of striking up conversation with Alex, but she doesn't feel like it anymore.

She goes to find something to eat.

 

.

.

.

 

 

The last notes of "Piano Man" peter out from the piano, and Alex claps along with the rest of the guests.

A tried and true song, maybe a little cliche, but James did a good job of it.

And considering he’s her co-worker and she hasn’t really made any effort to get to know him, Alex thinks there’s no better time the present, and she better let him know.

“You were really good,” she says, as he gets up from the piano. “I’m- I’m Alex. I know we’ve been introduced before it’s just... We haven’t really...talked.”

James smiles, amused. At least someone’s having fun.

“James Olsen, at your service,” he says, taking her hand and shaking it. “How are you liking the party?”

“It’s great!” She answers, her tone of voice climbing a few decibels. “It’s really good.” She looks past him into the distance, as James nods and then stares at the floor. Honesty can’t possibly be worse than this, Alex decides. “I don’t know anyone, it’s weird,” she tells him, getting off her chest.

James laughs. Alex joins him.

“Come on,” he invites her. “Let me introduce you to some of the crew.”

He precedes to lead her around the room, providing a running commentary on the different people he introduces her too. When King said everyone was invited, it was true, and his large apartment is filled with at least 50 people, everyone who was on set on Friday and managed to come. She gets officially introduced to the women that did her makeup and hair for an hour each day since she started, and she’s mortified she didn’t properly introduce herself back then. Everybody is nice to her, though, really nice. It’s a good atmosphere.

James is midway through another introduction when he’s called away by someone else. He leaves Alex after a quick hug—which she was not expecting— but it’s not bad. She thinks maybe Maggie won’t be the only friend she hopefully makes on this show.

She turns around to look for the drinks and bumps into someone.

“Sorry, I was just going to -”

The man cuts her off. “No need to apologize! You were just the person I was looking to talk to, actually.” He offers her what Alex assumes he thinks is a charming smile, it is not.

“Name is Michael Obeng,” he says, grabbing Alex’s hand and bringing it up to his lips to kiss. “I’m a friend of Anthony’s,” he explains. “We’re collaborating on King Production’s latest film. And you’re Alex Danvers.”

He certainly doesn’t let her get a word in. He towers over her, and doesn’t seem to know the definition of personal space. Alex suddenly wishes she’d worn a looser, longer dress. She feels exposed in this. His hands are clammy, she notes, and she wants nothing more than to rip hers out of his. And then maybe walk over to the open bar to grab a drink just so she can splash it in his face, but J’onn wouldn’t like that.

He’s been subtly emphasizing over the past few weeks Alex needs to be nicer—his exact words were more diplomatic, but she knows what he meant.

She plasters a fake smile on her face. “Pleasure to meet you.”

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie likes a good scotch.

Even now, where she’s supposed to enjoy sweet fruity drinks because the occasion calls for it, or some more of Anthony’s expensive champagne, she waits at the bar for the two fingers of scotch she’s asked for. If she’s here she might as well sample Anthony’s personal collection.

She’s taking a sip of the earthy, strong drink when she hears a loud bark of laughter from the corner of the bar. She turns to see who it is and her gaze lands on a guy who looks like he walked out of a bad 80s romcom -and Alex.

Alex is with him. And she’s talking, maybe laughing. She can’t see her face from here, but she can see their bodies are angled toward each other with little room in between.

The sight makes Maggie inexplicably annoyed. She doesn’t care, not really, Alex can talk with whoever she likes. But they are going to be each other’s ball and chain soon; and Maggie refuses to be the only one putting in any effort to sell the relationship.

She tries to ignore them and enjoy her drink, but she can’t not-notice the downright cackles the man, who Maggie doesn’t recognize, is letting out. It must be one of Anthony’s friends, she guesses. She’s already met all three of the new writers they’re bringing in for this season. The man laughs yet again—is Alex a comedian now?

Maggie doesn’t want to, but she decides she needs to walk over there.

“Hi,” she says, as she cuts in, and it takes a moment for the guy to turn around and acknowledge her. “I’m Maggie, I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Of course, Michael Obeng,” he says roughly, and shakes her hand, once.

“Michael,” she smiles pleasantly. “Do you mind if I get my leading lady for a couple of minutes?” She asks, overly sweet, and he gives her a distasteful look even as he nods, and tells Alex he’ll be at the piano.

“Thank you,” Alex says. “He was-”

“You signed a contract,” Maggie is quick to say. “And I know it hasn't gone into effect yet, but we have two months before our public romantic lives aren't ours.”

“You think - you think that was romantic?!”

“I’m just reminding you,” Maggie tells her. She hates the way it feels so satisfying to tell her off, to let her know for once that she can’t just do whatever she wants with no consequences. Maggie isn’t a busboy she can reprimand, and she’s certainly not someone who’s going to be impressed by her last name.

“We have a deal, and we can’t have you compromising it.”

.

.

.

 

Alex splutters.

“I wasn't...I want compromising anything.” Maggie looks mad at her for some reason, and Alex thinks no matter what she does, even if she explains that she wasn't flirting or some shit ‘til she is blue in the face, Maggie won't believe her.

So she reverts to what she knows best.

“You're the one with a reputation,” she tells Maggie. “I think I should be the one worried.” Maggie looks taken aback, and Alex keeps plowing on. “You should focus on keeping up your own end of the bargain."

“That’s-”

“You know you can’t sleep with anyone else while we’re ‘together’ either right? It’d be too risky. I’ve read all the articles about you. The press catches one girl walking out of your apartment and this whole thing is done,” Maggie actually takes a step back, and Alex looks around, to see if anyone’s noticed.

“Thanks for the concern,” Maggie’s voice drips with sarcasm whens she speaks. “But I think I can handle it.”

“Well, I don't know. After all, I don't know you, do I, Sawyer?”

Maggie’s stricken face is the last thing she sees before the woman turns around and walks away.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie climbs the elevator up to her loft, a faint headache starting to pound between her eyes.

Gabriella is waiting for her back at her apartment, and her aunt shoots her a look as soon as she comes in, heels dangling from her fingers. She’d taken them off in the car, too tired to deal with aching feet on top of everything else.

“Wow,” Gabriella says. “What happened to you?”

A grunt is her only answer. She drops her shoes somewhere at the bottom of the stairs, and drags herself into the large open kitchen to poor herself a glass of water. She drinks it slowly, hoping it will cleanse her from the champagne that’s already souring in her stomach.

She comes up for air when she’s done.

“What are you thinking?” Gabriella asks.

Maggie sighs.

“That this is going to be the longest year of my life.”

Chapter Text

Culpa est mea : the fault is mine

 

.

.

.

tvlineblurb

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie drives to work in silence that morning.

Her mind buzzes too much to add more noise to it. She wants the stillness, the peace. She doesn’t want to keep running over her argument with Alex last week—something that seems to happen every time she has even a minute of free time. She certainly doesn’t want to dwell on the hollow feeling she gets in her chest whenever she thinks of the words Alex threw at her.

The words—and the intent behind them—are hardly new. Although most people aren’t brave enough to say them to her face so bluntly.

But she’s read variations of what Alex had said plenty of times online. M’gann eventually trained her out of doing that, googling her name, but the temptation still strikes her every now and then. She has Winn for that now though, and she’s noticed on days she’s feeling down—so down others can see it—he’ll text her nice comments people have made about her recently. Tweets, a line from an article, meaningless things in the whole of the picture, but they still make Maggie smile. And then she feels stupid for relying on the public for a pick me up. She knows the general public is fickle, and as such should never be the source of a person’s happiness. She’s seen what happens to people who tie their happiness to what the press thinks of them, and it never turns out well.

She could still really use a pick me up right now though.

Maggie sighs.

The sun is just beginning to rise when she arrives on set. She turns her car off and sits in silence for a few moments, trying to clear her mind and enjoy the first rays of sunshine slipping through the clouds.

Today is a new day.

It’s the first day since Alex joined the show that Maggie is shooting alone—well, without her Claire at least. Today will mostly be solo Blake scenes and a few scenes with James and Stefan, another detective on the show. It’ll be a welcome change from the tension between her and Alex this past week. (She sighs again at that. It’s not what she wanted to feel about her Claire.)

Maggie takes a deep breath and exits her Jeep—the crisp morning air is energizing as she walks to hair and makeup. She loves New York City, the people, the cuisine, the electric feel of the city that never sleeps. She loves that she can go to a sandwich shop at 3 AM and stop by for ice cream after that. And God, she loves the weather. It’s definitely a nice change from the lulling, constant heat of LA.

It never snows in LA, and she’s missed the snow. She can’t wait for winter to come.

She walks into hair and makeup in a considerably better mood than she was a just a few moments ago. Mary and Louise greet her with double cheek kisses and hugs. They’ve been working with her since Crush, and she struck up a good camaraderie with them over many early mornings just like this one. She was the youngest actor on set, and the two of them took her under their wing. She never forgot that, and when she’d been cast as Blake, she mentioned them to Anthony as potential people to hire on set.

Seeing them first thing in the morning on her first day on set had been beyond comforting.

“Maggie, honey, it’s really not fair you look this beautiful this early in the morning without a lick of makeup on your face,” Mary titters as she leads Maggie to the makeup chair.

Maggie laughs her off, “My eye bags beg to differ.”

She relaxes to the hum of their chatter while they work on her, transforming her from Maggie Sawyer, small town girl with a big dream (or so the papers kept writing), to Blake Davenport, professional badass (or so Maggie thought of her).

The conversation lulls for a beat before Louise speaks up.

“So. Alex Danvers...”

“Mhm?” She isn’t sure whether Louise’s words are a question or a statement.

She goes over Maggie’s face with a brush, setting in the foundation with powder. They keep telling her she doesn’t need it, but the makeup needs to last.

“How do you like her?” She asks. “We heard from the girls who do her hair and makeup she’s barely spoken to them since she got here.”

Mary shakes her head disapprovingly. “I’ve been in the business for a longtime, and I know the way an actress treats the little people on set says a lot about their character.”

“She’s not a bad person from what I can tell,” Maggie shrugs, wondering why her need to defend Alex Danvers is automatic. It’s not like she’s feeling particularly charitable to her at the moment, but she’s not...She doesn’t hate her or anything. And she knows how quickly gossip can spread on this set, Alex doesn’t need that kind of rumor spreading around so early into her time on the show.

Louise tilts her chin up towards the light to get a better angle of her face. “Well, honey, if you say so.”

“But if you ever have any problems with her,” Mary jumps in, “just let us know okay. We’re always here to vent.”

Maggie stifles a smiles at that. Mary and Louise are loyal and genuinely nice, which can be hard to find in this job.

“I hope I’ll never have to take you up on that offer,” she says. “But thanks.”

She knows it wouldn't be wise to let that kind of information out on set anyways. Gabriella will be the only set of ears privy to her complaints if there are any more.  

 

 

 

Her first scene of the day is an action filled one, her favorite kind.

She can’t keep the smile off her face in between takes, and her happiness seems to be infectious. The whole cast and crew laugh between scenes. It’s fun. She’s missed this feeling, and it’s only later on that day she realizes she hasn’t felt this way on set since before her and Alex fought.

It’s been tense on set the past week, and she hates it. She knows she should be the bigger person, let it slide and reach out to Alex, but it feels like she’s been the only one making an effort out of the two of them. She invited Alex to La Nuvola Bianca to talk twice, she tried to coax her out of her shell and make her feel welcomed and comfortable. Alex has been the passive one in their relationship, and Maggie, a bit childishly, she knows, wants Alex to be the one to initiate the next move. The ball is in her court.

Thankfully their tension hasn’t encroached on their acting together. If it reaches that point, Maggie knows she’ll have to put aside her pride and fix it. She won’t do anything to jeopardize the show. She’s made it a point to know and talk with the entire crew. She knows Jeff the cameraman and has seen the worn out pictures he carries of his kids—one who passed away four months ago. She attended the funeral. She talks regularly with Gabriel, one of the assisting light technicians, who likes to practice his English with her.

Nightingale employs hundreds of people, from everyone on set down to the prop makers. This is their source of income. And she’s the leading lady, at the end of the day the responsibility to carry the show forward rests on her. There’s the writers, producers, and her fellow actors, of course, but it’s her face on the billboards out there, and it’s her getting most of the screen time. She always wanted a show, and she has it now. She can’t afford to let anyone down.

The day passes quickly, and before she knows it the sun has dipped below the horizon.

“Hey,” James’ voice at her side shakes her out of her thoughts. Theirs are the last scenes of the day, and they stand by the craft service truck while waiting for the set to be ready for them.

“I’m sorry I haven’t gotten a chance to ask you about this yet—we’ve been so busy—but that party at King’s place..” He trails off and looks at her kindly.

Maggie freezes. She’s pretty sure she knows where this is going, but she remains nonchalant even as her stomach sours.

“What about it?”

“At the end, I saw you and Alex...,” Maggie can tell he’s clearly trying to phrase it in a diplomatic way. He’s nice like that. “I saw you leave early, and Alex left soon after you.” He finishes with a sympathetic grimace.

“Oh. You saw that?” Fuck, does that mean other people saw it too? Stupid, stupid, stupid. They were in a public place, she should’ve known better. She should’ve-

“Everyone was pretty drunk by that time, I think I’m the only one who noticed.” He reassures her quickly. “And I didn’t hear anything, I just saw you looked upset as you left and wanted to check up on you. So here I am, checking up on you.” He smiles.

Maggie returns the smile in full and gives him a quick, impulsive side hug. “I’m good James, thanks for caring.”

She steps away, wondering how she’s going to tell him about the PR contract, and when. She hasn’t really mentioned it to anyone on set, and she thinks about him, about Mary and Louise, about Gabriel, all her friends who’ll find out she’s okay with being a liar, unless she lets them think she’s in a relationship with Alex. Neither option is optimal.

She bids James goodbye at the end of their scene, and walks quickly back to the parking lot. The day flew by, but her body still felt it. She just wants to get home and-

“Yo! Boss lady.”

Maggie looks up.

Winn. A day early, and standing by her car wrapped in a ridiculously puffy jacket, certainly too hot for the current mild weather.

“Can you let me in?” He jerks his head towards her car. “It’s kinda chilly out here.” Maggie shakes her head. How he’s going to survive winter if he’s dying in late summer is a mystery to her.

“It’s like 60 degrees, Winn,” she says, opening the doors of the jeep.

“It was 89 degrees in LA." Winn raises his hands as if they're a weight balance. "89 degrees," he lifts his right hand. "60 degrees." He lets his left hand fall. "That’s a lot of degrees of difference for a simple California kid.”

Maggie chuckles. But she turns down the air conditioning a bit in deference to him.

“You weren’t supposed to arrive until tomorrow.” She mentions as she starts the car.

“I caught an early flight in to surprise you on set and drive you back, but...“

“You’re not driving my car Winn,” she scoffs.

He shrugs his shoulders, “It was worth a try. So,” he turns towards her as she starts up the car and pulls out of the parking lot, “a lot has happened since you got here.”

She sighs, the contract. She had M’gann relay the information to him, and he’ll be signing his non disclosure agreement tomorrow. Which would all be great, if Winn didn’t feel the need to talk about things.

“Yes, there was a big thing that happened recently which I know you’re aware of,” she says, leaving the studio behind.

“I loved one of her dad’s films you know,” he mentions. “I didn’t, however, know much about her before you made it necessary for me to dig into her.”

Winn,” she pleads. “Please tell me you didn’t do anything...illegal while digging?”

He gasps in mock outrage. “Me? Never! Perish the thought!”

Maggie rolls her eyes, and stifles a chuckle. He can be such a dramatic Broadway nerd.

“But she has had some...” He winces. “Questionable moments. Plural. She’s had numerous ones actually.”

She cuts him off before he can continue. “I’m not going to judge her for what happened in the past.”

She doesn’t know where the fiery desire to defend the woman comes from, especially after everything she said at Anthony’s party, but here she is.

“I don’t need to know any of that stuff okay? I did some of my own research too, and I purposely avoided those articles.”

“Yeah! Sure! Of course!” Winn says. “I’m not trying to play judge, jury, and executioner here either, but this is the woman you’ll be in a fake relationship with for a year. I just wanted to make sure she wasn’t a-” He gestures wildly for a second. “Serial killer.”

Maggie can’t help the smile that creeps up her face. “I don’t think actress is the best profession for a murderous psychopath. Too much exposure.”

“Or it could be the perfect front!” He argues.

Maggie snorts. “You’re being ridiculous. You know that, right?”

Winn smiles sheepishly. “I know, but-” He shoots her finger guns and a wink. “Made you smile.”

That elicits a gentle smile out of her. She reaches across the gear shift to lightly touch his arm.

“I’m glad you made it early, Winn.”

He spends the rest of the ride back to her apartment reading aloud tweets reacting to her first week back on set.

 

.

.

.

 

Incessant ringing wakes her up.

Alex rolls around in bed and grabs her cell phone from her bedside table, where it’s plugged into the charger. She checks who’s calling, and through thick eyes and the thicker haze of sleep she sees the smiling face of her sister.

“Kara?”

“Hi! Why do you sound like that? Were you dozing on set?”

“I'm not filming today,” she says, dragging a hand down her face. She sits up, and brushes her hair away from her face. If there’s one thing she likes about her newly short hair, it’s how easy it is to maintain. She no longer wakes up with a tangle of waves every morning.

“Oops.” Kara giggles. Alex loves her sister, but sometimes she really hates her. “Well, now that you’re awake I just wanted to tell you that Mon-El and I are at the airport, our flight leaves at 9 so we should be flying into LA right before noon. We’re going up to mom’s.”

“That’s great, Kara.”

Alex doesn't understand what she has to do with Kara’s relationship milestones, but she’s glad at least one of them is having them, she guesses.

“I’ll make sure to mention the contract.”

Alex wakes up at once.

Of course. Fuck.

Through the layers of slumber she managed to forget about the contract that’s going to be ruling over her life for the next year.

“Okay.”

When Anthony’s lawyer had asked about her mother’s and sister’s non disclosure agreements, Alex had only been able to provide Kara’s, but she’d been given time, since the contract hadn’t gone into effect yet.

Alex almost wants to wait until the day before it’s due to get her mother to sign.

“Right. Thank you.”

“So…”

“So what, Kara?”

“Can you come?”

Alex falls back into bed.

“I’m bus-“

“You just said you're not working today! And we’ll have all weekend. Please, it’ll be a family affair. And you can get to know Mon-El better.”

If Kara thinks that’s going to sweeten the deal, she can't be more mistaken.

Alex sighs.

“Okay, how about this. You fly in tomorrow morning. I talk to her today. I’ll help her dust the house or something, she’ll be ready for you on Saturday.”

“She has someone for that,” Alex points out.

“Alex,” Kara whines. “I haven't seen you in ages. I got a single day with you a week ago, and before that it was a single brunch. Please. I need my sister back. And I know mom misses you too. She asks about you, but it's not like we talk as much as we used to.”

Because back then they used to live under the same roof, and their father was alive, and Alex wasn't the picture you'd see in the dictionary under ‘hot mess’.

But Kara’s guilt tripping works, even if Alex knows that’s exactly what it is.

She sighs again.

“Fine. I’ll fly in tomorrow morning.”

Kara squeals on the other side of the line.

“Our plane is boarding, I have to go. Love you! Bye!”

“Love you."

Alex closes the call, and rubs the space between her eyes, wondering what she just got herself into.

 

 

 

She doesn't sleep easy that night. She actually spends it all tossing and turning, and she finally wakes at 4 and decides to pack her bag all over again just to give herself something to do, before she calls a cab to take her to JFK.

She takes her time going through the gates, a beanie and dark glasses on just in case anybody is a Body of Medicine fan, but nobody approaches her. She boards early, thank god for first class, and she’s asleep before the plane takes off.

Alex missed the feel of LA.

It’s not just the weather, though she welcomes the significantly warmer, fresher air as soon as she walks out of the airport, but the difference in everything else. It’s sunny, for a change, and she can actually feel the sun since she’s not being swallowed by skyscrapers in every direction.

She hired a car service to take her up to Malibu a second after they landed, and she doesn’t even mind when it’s 10 minutes late. She’s missed home.

It’s just an hour to her mother’s, so she couldn't sleep in the car even if she wanted to, but either way, the anxious feeling climbing its way up her throat wouldn't have let her.

The traffic in LA is...the traffic in LA. There are cars crawling along every expanse of the interstate until they leave the city, and then the ride to Malibu is easy as they cruise down the winding roads of her childhood. She texts Kara to tell her she’s on her way, but her sister doesn’t read the message right away. She’s probably busy with her boyfriend.

People with surfboards become more common the closer they get to the beach, and Alex hopes her board is still in the basement of the house. It’s been a while. Maybe she could go out tomorrow and try to catch some waves. It’s the middle of summer, so the beach will probably be more crowded than usual, but she’d like it.

Before she knows it, the car is pulling into the gated community she gave for an address, and she has to pull out her ID to get them access inside.

She has the car drop her off a house before her own, just in case, and then she shoulders her duffle bag as she walks the few steps to the entrance of their property. She presses the intercom.

“Mom? It’s Alex.”

Not a second later the door swings open, and it’s not her mother but her sister, as energetic as always.

“Alex!” She throws her arms around her, and Alex stumbles back with the force of her embrace. Alex closes her eyes. Maybe she should start coming home more often. After all, no one in the world thinks better of her than Kara does.

“Alex!” A second voice says, and Alex frowns. Kara takes a step back and then Alex is engulfed in different, considerably larger arms. Mon-El steps away before Alex has a chance to protest.

“Is that okay?” he asks. “I mean, I’m part of the family now, right?”

Alex tries not to grimace.

She’s saved from answering when her mom walks out, her steps as measured as they always seem to be, a gentle smile on her face.

“Oh, Alex,” she steps forward to hug her, and Alex returns the embrace. Her mom leans down to her ear, and whispers under her breath. “We’ll talk later about what Kara told me, okay?”

She nods.

Her mom steps back and touches her fingers to Alex’s short hair.

Alex braces for her comment.

“I like it,” she says. “It suits you."

Alex breathes out. “Thank you.”

Her mom smiles.

“Okay, kids, let’s go back inside.” She closes the threshold into the front garden. There are a few more rose bushes than Alex remembers, but the house looks the same from this distance. “Mon-El! Will you be a darling and help Alex with her bag?”

“Of course!” he says, and grabs the bag from her arm before making his way back inside the property. Only Kara remains by her side.

“We’re gonna have an amazing weekend,” Kara tells her, before intertwining her arm with Alex’s and dragging her inside.

They had just finished lunch when she arrived, so Alex makes herself a salad and settles down at the breakfast island to eat it while her mom tidies up the dining room. She looks around the home she grew up in, and it surprises her how little has changed. The same board games they played when she was little are still stacked up on the built in shelf to her right, the same light fixtures hang from the beams in the ceiling, and if she looks up, the same sky looks down at her from the skylight. There’s only one thing missing.

Her mom suggests she take a nap if she’s tired from her flight, and though she slept for the entirety she’s quick to agree. It puts off the conversation she’s dreading to have.

She climbs the large, white wooden staircase onto the second floor of the house, running her hand over the banister as she walks to the back of the top floor. She enters the door on the left and drops her duffel bag by the door—and then falls face-first onto her bed.

She rolls around and stares up at the slanted white ceiling.

She had glow in the dark stars up there until she was 10, and she’d only switched them because her dad had promised he’d get her something even better. One afternoon, a couple of days after she’d removed the plastic stars and planets, she had arrived home to find a couple of her dad’s friends, buckets of paint coming in and out of her room.

She’d been anxious to see the finished job, but when her dad finally allowed her inside, there was absolutely nothing on the ceiling. It was as white as usual, and her parents had enjoyed her confusion only for a few minutes before they turned off the light, and then the space completely transformed. A galaxy spreading out beyond mountains and pines covered the entirety of her ceiling, a swirling supernova of shooting stars and her own, private version of the northern lights. It’s still there, she knows. Her mom would never paint over it.

She’s pretty sure everything else is still in its place, even inside the large built-in wardrobe that covers the wall in front of her bed. There’s a small spot in the middle where her flat screen tv rests, and her old DVDs and records are still on the shelves above. God, she’d missed her room. There were far too many good memories stored here, and none of the bad ones. She’d even, pragmatically decided, to lose her virginity somewhere else in case it didn’t go well and it was a memory she didn’t want associated with the space. She’d made the right call there.

She still remembers when they’d first brought Kara home, and how the little girl hadn’t been able to spend the entire night in her room without getting spooked. Their house was larger than the apartment she’d lived in in France, and she wasn’t used to how silent it could get at night, apart from the rolling of the waves and the howling of the wind.

Kara’s bedroom looked out onto the hills, and the girl had used the excuse that she liked to see the ocean as she fell asleep to spend more time in the armchair in Alex’s room. She’d fallen asleep there more than once. Finally, Alex had asked them to bring a twin bed into her bedroom, so she could share it with Kara. She’d been 14, and not very keen to share her space, but she’d felt bad for her. The proud smile Alex’s parents gave her for her idea had made it all worth it. The arrangement had lasted for almost a year, until her sister settled in, learned the new language, and developed a sense of privacy, but Alex still remembers what it was like to fall asleep talking to someone else, even if that someone had a thick accent and wanted to talk about nothing but Hannah Montana.

Those were simpler days, she thinks, and marvels at how she could consider it simple that her parents had decided to adopt an orphan on the spot. In hindsight, it had been the best decision they could’ve made. They gave Alex a sister.

She didn't think she was tired, but she falls asleep soon after, her shoes still on and her mind wandering through her childhood memories.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie’s Saturday morning starts with rapid fire knocking on her bedroom door.

She already knows who it is without hearing his voice. Only one person knocks with that much energy on a weekend morning.

“Oh, sleeping beauty .” Winn’s sing song voice comes through the door. “I come bearing the liquid of the gods!”

She groans as she slides out of bed. A quick glance at the clock tells her it’s a quarter till 9. She opens the door and is greeted by Winn’s beatific smile and the smell of a chai vanilla earl grey tea. She grabs the drink from him before walking out and motioning for him to follow her.

“Damn, this place looks even nicer in the morning.” He spins around while trailing after Maggie. “And man, the decor is amazing, props to whoever picked it out. My room looked like a hotel. A fancy hotel. Kinda minimalist but I dig it.”

“I’ll be sure to give the landlord your compliments,” she says dryly. It is a great place though, and Maggie takes it in as she walks down the stairs to the first floor, where the kitchen and living room lay, in opposing corners of the the immense open space. She loves the view of the city she gets from the half a dozen floor-to-roof windows spanning the wall in front of her, directly in front of the door. It’s the first thing you see when you enter, and she’s sure whoever built this had it in mind.

“That’s a hell of a view,” Winn says.

Maggie hums in agreement. She sinks into the leather couch and kicks her feet up on the glass coffee table. “So, what’s on the agenda today, Robin?”

He rolls his eyes. “How can I be your Robin when you don’t even have a batmobile.”

“Hey, that can easily be bought.” She smirks.

“Okay, if that ever happens you need to let me drive it, please. It’s what I deserve after being bullied throughout high school for being a comic geek.” Winn sets down his own drink and pulls open the laptop already set out on her coffee table. “So in terms of actual things to do today, you’re free. But next week, you’ve got a Z100 interview to promote the show on Wednesday at eleven AM and then a puppy charity with the rest of the cast on Sunday which starts at eight AM.”

Maggie perks up at the mention of puppies, before remembering the rest of the cast will be going as well, which now includes Alex Danvers. She doesn’t feel as excited anymore, faced with more of the tense words and uncomfortable silences. You're the one with a reputation. Maggie rubs the space between her eyes, as Alex’s words begin to circle her mind again. I’ve read all the articles about you. The press catches one girl walking out of your apartment and this whole thing is done.

“What’s the charity called?” She asks Winn, hoping for a distraction. “And what exactly does it entail, do we know?”

Winn scrolls for a few seconds before finding the email containing the event information.

“‘Woof for Joy’ is a non-profit charity sponsored by Purina,” Winn reads out loud. “Started three years ago with its homebase in New York City, it provides money to local dog shelters in the area and works with them to relocate abandoned dogs to new homes,” he rattles off from the email. He looks up at Maggie. “In the past they’ve had their guests play games like trivia, spin the wheel, charades—stuff like that—so I’m guessing you’ll do the same.”

Maggie nods. She begins to yawn, a side effect of the early wake up call, but Winn’s voice snaps her out of it.

“Also!” He claps his hands together enthusiastically and wiggles his eyebrows. “I put together a little something in preparation for the coming year.”

That wakes Maggie up fully.

She glances at him warily. “You didn’t do anything stupid or over the top, did you?”

“Well, if you call spending the morning making a list of potential fake date ideas for you and Alex then...yes.” He winces apologetically.

She doesn't even want to think about that now given the state of her relationship, or rather lack of, with Alex. It’s looming closer and closer though, and she can feel the walls slowly closing in on her. An entire year. Fuck. She drops her head on the back of her couch and groans.

“So...I take it you’re not in the mood to hear them and also I should probably leave?”

Maggie looks at him. He’s bouncing his right leg, and his face has that nervous but hopeful expression that means he probably did spend the whole morning putting this together and he’d actually like her to see it.

Maggie musters up a smile. “Hit me with them.” She really is too soft of a boss.

“That’s the spirit!” He claps her on the back and proceeds to open a a color coded excel document which she can see is titled “Potential Dates for HMFIC & AD.” Winn is about to begin speaking before she cuts him off.

“HMFIC? What does that mean?” She can guess what AD stands for, but she’s curious what exactly he’s calling her.

“Head motherfucker in charge,” he nods toward her, “you.”

Maggie only laughs and shakes her head.

“Okay, so the list. We’ve got rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders—we could rent out the whole place for that if needed. You could also go to Chelsea Piers for laser tag and/or bowling, lunch at ABC Kitchen, dinner at Balthazar, Central Park picnic, Empire State…”

He rattles on in this manner for a good 15 minutes, and Maggie is only mildly surprised at how many dates he’s thought up. Winn is nothing if not thorough in his work.

He looks at her expectantly as he lists his final idea. “Thoughts, critiques, suggestions?”

“First thought,” she raises her index finger, “you’re a damn good assistant Winn Schott. Second thought, laser tag is a must . Third thought, I’m hungry. What’s the best place for brunch close by?”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex wakes up to the sounds of laughter coming from downstairs.

She rubs her neck as she sits up, tight from falling asleep without a pillow, and looks at the time. She slept for nearly two hours. They seem to be having a great time downstairs, so she decides to take a shower and wash the flight off of her. She feels this layer of grime every time she steps out of a plane, of the recycled air and the uncomfortable pressure, that she can’t quite explain.

She shudders, and enters the door to the right of her bed.

Her bathroom is larger than the one in her apartment in LA, but she’s currently not a fan of the mirrors that cover all four walls inside the space. The thought of a shower changes into a bath when she lays eyes on the bathtub, and she wonders if her stuff is still here, and still usable. She opens one of the cabinets beneath the sink and looks through the few makeup items she’s left behind here through the years. She closes it and opens the one next to it, but it holds only towels. She’s surprised her mom keeps her bathroom stocked when she hardly ever visits anymore.

She opens one of the drawers and finally finds a bottle of bath oil. Lavender. She reads the bottle as she takes off her shoes. Highly Therapeutic bath made with sake, Japanese rice wine, and pure medicinal lavender essential oil. Nice. She has no memory of buying it but she doesn’t think it can go bad, and it definitely sounds like something she needs.

She takes her clothes off as she walks around her bathroom, and it’s definitely a change. Her bathroom back in LA is large enough for its purpose, but her bathroom here is an actual place to relax in. She takes a quick, hot shower beforehand, to wash off people’s coughs and everything her skin touched while on the plain, and then she runs the bath while she pours in a good amount of the bath oils. She sits back and relaxes while the tub fills. She only wishes she had a good glass of wine to go with it.

Two knocks on the door distract her.

“Alex?” her mom’s voice calls out. “Are you awake, sweetie?”

“Yes! I’m in the bathroom!”

“Oh. Okay.”

“I’m just taking a bath, washing off the flight.”

“Of course. Kara was wondering if you might join us downstairs. When you’re done. We’re playing cards.”

Alex sighs.

“Yeah, sure.”

“Okay. Have a nice bath! I bought you some bath oils from this little shop in Vancouver. I got us all a few things while Kara was working. Did you find them?”

“Yes, mom. Thanks.”

“Okay.”

She hears the door close behind her.

 

 

 

She walks down the stairs an hour later, feeling marginally more relaxed.

Her mom already knows about the contract, and the whole PR relationship, and she’s not acting any differently that Alex can tell so maybe it’ll be alright. Maybe she won’t be disappointed in her, or ashamed that she’s marring her dad’s memory. Alex doubts it but she can hope.

She ends up joining in on the last round of UNO, and she gets the sneaking suspicion Kara kept the game going for as long as she did only to give Alex time to join. Her mom and Mon-El, of course, probably just went along with whatever she wanted. Kara has that effect on people.

Afterward, her mom insists on cooking, and when she declines their help, Kara decides to give Mon-El a tour of the house. Left alone, Alex disappears out the back door.

The warm breeze greets her as she steps into their backyard.

Half of it is the tiled deck she ran around when she was little, and not allowed to go to the beach by herself, and the other half is home to the pool where she learned to swim. The oval pool is covered now, and Alex takes the path beside it, following the stones until the end of the backyard, where they give out into the beach.

The sun is starting to descend in the sky, and the clouds are set alight in hues of orange, yellow, and red.

Alex has missed home. She has the beach in LA, and she might even have a view like this, if she looks for it, but it's not the same, not really. She’d almost forgotten how peaceful the beach can be after hours. In LA, there’s always someone around, but here...Alex almost feels like she’s the last person on earth, standing in front of the neverending ocean. She doesn't want to forget the image. She suddenly takes out her cellphone and snaps a photograph. She doesn't have any of their old photo albums with her in LA, she doesn't have any pictures with her actually, save for a few framed pictures that now reside in her New York City apartment.

In a spur of the moment decision, she decides to post it on Instagram-J’onn told her she needs to post more often again, and this is as good as anything. Soon enough she’ll be posting about Maggie.

She posts it and puts her cellphone away.

The sound of steps behind her distracts her from the view, and she turns around to see her mom walking towards her. Alex swallows. She couldn't have put off the conversation forever.

“Do you remember how we used to sit out here and watch the stars come out after dinner?”

She wasn’t expecting her mom to start off with that and she’s wary as she responds, “Yes, I remember. we did it before Kara came. Dad would quiz me on the different constellations.”

“We used to be close back then, didn’t we?” she asks, melancholy in her voice. But Alex hears deeper than that.  “What happened?” Her mom asks. She lets out a deep sigh and turns to face Alex, eyes gleaming with a familiar look of disappointment.

“These days you’re signing life altering contracts that include both your sister and me without even asking us, without even asking for my advice on whether you should do it at all.”

And there it is, the reaction from her mother she’s been dreading.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call, but I made the decision so quickly...It was a shock to me, and my head was all -“

“Didn’t call? We should’ve been there, Alexandra!” Her mom takes a deep breath, the way she did when Alex was a kid and she didn’t want to yell because Kara would overhear. She sits down on one of the plastic lounge chairs to their right. “Sit,” she orders. Alex takes a shaky breath and sits down on the chair beside her.

“Fine. Let’s say you’re an adult, you don’t need my advice. But not letting me know? Alex, my name is on that contract, I have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and I didn’t know until after it was done!”

Alex winces, and keeps her eyes trained on the sand.

“Your sister had to tell me because she says you were too busy. You didn’t even think to call? Or ask me to come? We could've talked about this. We could've sat down with J’onn and, I don't know. Figured it out.” Alex finally looks up at her, and it’s a terrible decision. She doesn’t think she can take the weight of the disappointment in her mother’s gaze. “This was a huge decision and you made it by yourself.”

“I know.” Her voice grows thinner by the second. “And mom, I’m sorry.”

“I guess I should’ve expected this,” she says. “You stopped listening to me after Stanford. And look at everything that’s happened since! And now this, with this girl... ”

“Is that why you’re mad?” She asks, shaking inside with the question. “Are you embarrassed? Because everyone’s going to think that I -“

“Am I embarrassed people will think you’re gay? No. Of course not, Alex. I don’t care about that. What I am...upset, about, is that you did this without us.” She huffs out a breath. “And resorting to a PR relationship? That’s not how we do things in this family.”

She can feel her eyes burn, and she prays to whatever deity out there that she doesn’t start crying like a child.

Of course it’s not what they do, Alex thinks. Her dad was born to farmers in Kansas and he became the fourth youngest person ever to win an Oscar for Best Director at age 34. Alex was 9, and she still remembers the night he and her mom came back home with the award, after skipping several parties so they could celebrate with her. Her little sister is 22, and she’s starred in more projects than Alex has, and is in the middle of the audition process to play a goddamned superhero. Her mom was a successful model, and she quit only to literally save people’s lives with her research as a doctor.

And what has Alex accomplished?

“But it’s done now.” Her mom sighs. “This Maggie girl, I want to meet her. I actually saw her new movie in Vancouver with Kara, you know? It was great. She’s a real rising star.”

Alex hears an unspoken part to her mom’s sentence: “And you’re not.” Even if her mom didn’t mean it that, way, it’s what she hears. That Alex is a white dwarf, suffocating in her own black hole. She’s clinging onto Maggie’s coattails in the hopes she'll save her. She’s pathetic.

She refocuses on the first part of her mother’s sentence. She wants to meet Maggie.

She doesn’t know why the thought makes her feel jittery.

“Okay,” she says. “I’ll see to that.”

“And I want a copy of the contract,” her mom demands. “No producer is going to take advantage of a child of mine.”

She nods, swallowing thickly.

It should feel like protection, but what it feels like is her mother thinking she’s too fucking stupid to be trusted with signing a contract by herself. She knows what she signed, and she knows all the ways it can go wrong. But like her mom said, it’s done now.

“Oh, Alexandra.” Her mom sighs, and then stands up. “Look, dinner's almost ready. Can you come in and help your sister and her boyfriend set the table?”

She nods, her eyes steady on the waves as she tries to stave off tears.

“We can still have a good weekend,” her mom says, and then heads back to the house without a glance back. Alex watches her go and then turns back to the ocean.

Alex stays rooted in her position. The sea is choppy tonight, and it matches the feelings swirling in her chest. She closes her eyes. A stray tear slips out of her eye and makes its slow progression down her face. The salt when it hits her lips reminds her of the ocean, of evenings spent surfing with her parents.

She wishes she could go back to those days.

 

.

.

.

 

0Alex-insta-post1

.

.

.

 

The apartment is quiet except for the sound of a pen and the click of a keyboard.

Maggie has never much liked this part of being an adult, doing her taxes and signing off on checks—hell, paying rent. It was easier when she was younger and she could just hand Gabriella whatever money she made from a shoot and let her aunt handle the lease and the landlord and everything else. Now, well, Winn helps her a lot, and she has significantly more assets than she did as a 15-year-old, but it’s not any less boring.

She rents her apartment in LA because she’d really thought she’d be moving more often when she first moved in, but it’s been almost three years now, and she wonders whether she should just bite the bullet and buy it. Even if she does end up moving out, it would be a good investment, right?

She hums as she signs off on her next three months of rent. It’s an amazing feeling, that much is true.

Gabriella keeps typing away at her laptop, no doubt setting up interviews for the people she’s going to be hiring to work at La Nuvola Bianca NYC, and Maggie moves onto the next bill in her to-do stack.

The pleasant, satisfied feeling leaves her chest as she reads the top of the invoice.

A blue, stylized smiley face beams up at her in the logo next to the name of the clinic: Nebraska Smiles. She sighs.

“Everything okay there?” Gabriella asks suddenly, and Maggie looks up. “You didn’t go broke, did ya? ‘Cause I’m willing to lend you some cash, but I charge a pretty steep interest rate.”

Maggie shakes her head. For once, she’s not in the mood for Gabriella’s jokes.

“Maggie...are you okay?”

“Yeah. Yes, it’s just…” She nods towards the piece of paper in her hand. “Braces payment. Comes every month and yet I’m always caught off guard.”

Gabriella gives her a look, a familiar one since the call almost 3 years ago.

“She should be getting them removed soon, right? Or is she going to need more treatment?”

Maggie shrugs. “Not like we talk. Not like he tells me.”

She grabs her checkbook and rips out a page, quickly filling out the information and then signing the piece of paper. She encloses it in the envelope and makes a mental note to ask Winn to drop it off at the post office before he returns to LA, if he has time.

“Maggie...”

She doesn’t need to look in a mirror to know a sour expression has taken over her face. She’s just so frustrated.

“This is how it is, Gabriella,” she tells her aunt, before she starts arguing in favor of things that cannot happen. “I’ve made my peace with it.”

“It’s not how it has to be,” she says. “Look, one day Frank-”

“I don’t want to argue with you,” she says, cutting her off. She really has no right interfering with their lives.

Gabriella purses her lips.

“Fine.” Gabriella pushes her laptop away, and looks up at Maggie. “It seems like we’ve hardly talked this week though, arguing or otherwise.”

Maggie shrugs.

“You’ve been busy with the restaurant,” she says quietly, hearing it for what it is. An excuse.

“And you’ve been busy ignoring Alex and closing yourself off like a little clam,” Gabriella says.

Maggie smiles faintly.

It’s not like her aunt to let her get away with her bullshit, be it her current problems or sneaking cigarettes when she was 14.

“You have been pretty busy, though,” Maggie insists. “I’m not making that up.”

Gabriella points a finger at her. “Touché.”

Maggie’s cell phone buzzes, saving her from a conversation about why exactly she’s been avoiding conversations. She grabs it from the table and sees a notification that Alex Danvers has posted a new picture on Instagram.

She followed the woman on social media as soon as she was confirmed to be Claire, like she’d done with all her castmates before her, but now Maggie sort of wishes she hadn’t. She’s still upset, against her better judgment, and she doesn’t want reminders right now.

But curiosity gets the better of her and she opens the app.

It’s a simple picture of the ocean, the sun setting and reflecting on the waves. The caption is short. Home.

“Who is it?” Gabriella asks, but Maggie becomes absorbed in the comments of the picture that’s just been posted. She recognizes one. User Karazdanvers, who by the looks of it is the official account of Alex’s sister. She doesn’t think a fan would reply with ‘missed hanging out with you, so good to be home’. Maggie clicks on her profile.

“Maggie?”

It’s pure curiosity that spurs her action, she thinks, as she looks at Alex’s sister’s pictures. There’s a recent multiple picture post and the first photo features Alex, a big smile on her face as she squeezes close to her sister.

Maggie frowns. It seems unfair, somehow, that Alex seems to not have a care in the world, that she can go through life telling people whatever she wants, and yelling at busboys that make simple mistakes, with no repercussions. Then again, that’s how privileged people act. And from the look of what seems to be their childhood home, Alex—and her sister, and her whole family—are as privileged as they come.  

She swipes to see the rest of the pictures, and in the other Kara is with an older blonde woman—her mother, Maggie assumes—in front of what seems to be a kitchen, imposing brick exhaust hood and all.

She swipes again, and finds Kara with a man who she assumes to be the boyfriend. She knows Alex doesn’t have a brother. They stand behind a dining room table, what seems to be the living room behind them. Maggie thinks she can see the ocean outside the window on the far left.

“Wow.” Gabriella whistles. “Now, that's a house.”

Maggie scoffs. It certainly is, and it’s not fair.

A large brick fireplace dominates the living room wall, a painting above the mantle no doubt filled with Alex’s multiple achievements. She’s pretty sure Alex mentioned she did Ballet as a little kid, and Maggie thinks of course she did, she probably did gymnastics as well, and little league, and everything else parents can afford to enroll you in when they’re brimming with money.

It’s definitely the ocean outside the window, she can see it clearly now. And she’s not jealous, not now, but maybe her childhood self is, just a little. Nebraska was a triple landlocked state.

She couldn’t have dreamed of a house as amazing as this as a kid.

“Earth to Maggie?”

She looks up at her aunt. “Huh?”

“You blanked out on me for a bit there.”

“Sorry.” She shakes her head. “I’m just- I’m mad.”

Gabriella hums. “Is it still about what she said to you at the party, or did she do something else?”

“Still about that,” she says quietly.

She can’t help it, the way she keeps thinking about it, just like she couldn't help the way the initial words wormed their way into her chest until it felt like her heart was hurting. It should be nothing, it should have slid right off her, but she didn’t expect it from Alex. And she’s not a fan of the slut shaming either.

Gabriella sits down by her side, and Maggie meets her eyes.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

Maggie nods.

“Do you...do you think I have a bad reputation?” M’gann had told her she was currently a media darling, that the critics had loved her last film, and she’d seen it herself. That 94% score on Rotten Tomatoes had felt like a win against all the men yelling about how terrible her movie would be (for being centered on a woman, and a gay woman at that) and how they didn’t want a liberal agenda shoved down their throats. But the general public loved it. And Maggie knows she shouldn’t base her sense of worth on something as inane as that, and she doesn’t, but it's comforting all the same.

Still, she knows she has somewhat of a reputation. After Emily, the cheating rumors, and her relationships afterward...she’d never thought much about it, but Alex has made her.

Gabriella starts shaking her head, but Maggie insists.

“Or that it’s true that I’ve, I don’t know, been with too many women or-”

“Maggie,” her aunt calls her attention. “You deserve for an amazing girl to love you. And nobody can fault you for looking for that. Fake girlfriend or not.”

 

.

.

.

 

INSTA-GIF

.

.

.

 

Alex watches as the puppies are prepped for the next part of the event, decked out in bandanas and cute collars.

Alex smiles faintly. She’d always wanted a dog. Her mom hadn’t been so supportive, even though they had plenty of space, because she swore it would be too much work for Alex, too much responsibility. And the following year she’d given her a sister to watch over 24/7, because that certainly wasn’t.

She should get a dog. There must be a breed that doesn’t require too much attention, and that can stay behind while she’s working. Small, too, so she can take it in planes. And that doesn’t make much noise. Fuck, what she wants is a plant. Or a rock.

Still, it might be nice to have someone excited for her to come home each day.

Especially since no one seems too happy to see her these days.

Maggie stands at the other side of the room, talking animatedly to James and one of the woman in charge of the charity. She can’t hear their conversation, but Maggie must have said something funny judging by the peals of laughter she hears from James and the woman. Maggie smiles, that brilliant smile with the dimples that Alex hasn’t been privy to in a long while.

They already posed for a few pictures, and James stood between them in each one. When the photographer asked for a picture of the both of them, Maggie stuck a puppy between them, which they held up together.

The atmosphere is just as tense as it was last week, the only difference is that J’onn wasn’t there then. He’s here now, and Alex can feel his eyes on her.

“Spit it out,” she says, not taking her eyes away from the people walking around the small studio. A puppy pees and a young woman is quick to scoop him up while another cleans up the mess. She grimaces at the smell of urine.

“What’s going on between you and Maggie?” J’onn asks, without looking at her, and the way he stares straight ahead, a pleasant smile on his face, is almost laughable. Alex wishes this was a laughing matter.

“She’s mad at me,” she says.

“I can tell. I think we all can. But why?”

Could they all tell? Maggie is being...colder than usual, she supposes, but not glaringly so. Alex realizes suddenly they haven’t really talked at all and Maggie talks to everyone. Maybe they can tell.

“We, uh...we had a fight?”

“Is that a question or are you telling me?”

“I don't know.” She turns toward him, finally. “Look, she came over to me at King’s party and started accusing me of flirting with some guy and putting our contract in jeopardy.”

“But you weren’t. Right?”

“Of course not!” she says, suddenly feeling embarrassed by the vehemence she says it with.

“Okay. We can’t have people finding out the whole thing is faked. The negative press would bury us alive.”

“I know.”

“So, she got mad because she thought you were putting the contract in jeopardy. Okay, so set her straight.”

“I don’t think that’s why she’s mad.”

J’onn turns toward her, eyeing her carefully.

“I might have said some things….I was mad, okay, and I didn’t-”

“What did you say to her?” he asks, and Alex feels as though she’s getting scolded for not playing nice.

“I just told her I’d read some things in the press, and that maybe I should be the one worried. Just that.”

J’onn’s eyes widen. “Just that.” He blows out a breath. “Alex...it’s been two weeks on the job. A job you got an audition for mostly because Maggie suggested your name to the producers. You can’t be burning bridges with her-“

“I'm not! I want to fix this!”

A lighting guy looks over at her outburst, and she slinks back until her back hits the wall.

J’onn gives her a look.

“Then do it.”

He steps away to join the others, and Alex feels almost jealous when Maggie smiles at him and lets him easily join the conversation. She’s almost mad at J’onn, too, for seemingly jumping ship to her side. Almost. Because she knows she’s at fault, too.

She hasn’t had time to think about feeling guilty, what with filming and then going back home, but the familiar emotion begins to creep up in her chest, greeting her like an old friend. She read those things about Maggie late at night, the day before she was due on set, and she’d really tried to keep them out of mind.

Maybe Maggie spends her weekends slutting it up or maybe she doesn’t. It’s none of Alex’s business either way. She shouldn’t have brought it up.

Then again, Maggie shouldn’t have accused her of flirting with that man.

Either way, she’s tired of the polite glances and tense silences. She wants to fix it. ‘Do it,’ J’onn had said.

How was she supposed to go about that?

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie loves dogs.

She’s always loved dogs.

Her family had them while she was growing up, and she remembers faintly the last dog they had. She’d never really thought about it, but she thinks the cost of feeding a dog was replaced with the cost of notebooks and crayons, so they never replaced the last dog they had, a big loving mutt that died of old age when she was 7 years old. Chester, was his name. And Maggie had never been his favorite, but she’d loved to pet him and the poor old thing put up with it.

She keeps holding one of the puppies long after the mandatory photoshoot is over, enjoying the way the little thing licks her fingers and enthusiastically wags his tail.

God, she should get a dog.

A big dog she can invite to sleep at her feet during winter and that she’d enjoy brushing down each afternoon. She wouldn’t have to try very hard to convince Winn to take care of him when she’s busy, but Maggie knows it’s not possible, at least not right now.

If she’s not filming she’s travelling to promote what she’s filmed, and she has that vacation with Alex next year, and a couple of festivals to attend in Europe thanks to The Informant . She doesn’t have room in her life right now for an overeager puppy.

The squirming little thing held against her chest has made her think about it at least six times since he was put in her arms, though.

She talks to James and Brenda, one of the directors of Woof for Joy, while they get the set ready for the games and trivia. Maggie has heard the other director is bringing her baby son to participate as well, along with the puppies, and she’s not sure how she feels about that.

Soon enough they call them to set, and she, James, and Alex are locked inside a pen with half a dozen hyperactive puppies and a chubby 8 month old.

It’s more fun than she thought it would be.

She forces herself to forget her reservations towards Alex in front of the camera, and after trying to answer a few of the trivia questions while the puppies distract her, it almost doesn’t feel like she’s faking it. The baby apparently picks Alex as his favorite, and she has a real, honest belly laugh when Alex tries to pick him up only for him to wiggle and fall out of her hands.

He lands on his diaper clad butt over her thighs, giggling, but Alex’s eyes are downright comical they’re so wide and terrified. The baby’s mother chuckles.

“They’re hardier than they look,” she promises, and everyone laughs. Alex joins in, her cheeks red.

Maggie picks the baby boy up from under his armpits and hoists him up to her side. She rubs his back in a practiced circular motion with one hand while he comfortably sits on her other arm, against her chest, and Maggie feels like it’s a personal win when he lets his head fall against her shoulder.

His mom steps in to take him, and then they have only puppies around them as they stand up to spin the roulette behind them. The hour is up before she knows it, and they answer just a few questions live on periscope before it’s over. She makes sure to say only nice things about Alex, knowing that soon enough she’ll be her girlfriend to the world, and then they’re free to go.

Or so she thinks.

Her phone rings as they’re saying goodbye to the crew and the Woof for Joy directors, and it’s a name she knows better than to make wait.

Anthony.

“Hello?”

“Maggie, hi. Are you done with the dog thing?”

“Huh, yes. We were just walking out.”

“Great! There’s a car waiting for you and Alex outside, you’re having breakfast together. My treat. Enjoy!” He closes the call without as much as saying goodbye.

Maggie sighs.

The contract doesn’t start for another month but Anthony is starting with his promotion now. And Maggie knows he’s like this, but she wishes he wasn't just for this morning. She finishes saying her goodbyes, and then walks outside into the blinding midday sun.

Alex comes out after her, and Maggie stops her with a wave.

“Danvers. We have-”

“King just called,” she says, and gets into the black car ahead of them.

Maggie hopes at least the food is good.

 

.

.

.

 

Breakfast sucks.

Alex has never heard of a ‘burrata’ before, and she’s glad, because she’s not a fan of the cheesy monstrosity. Not only that, but it’s tense, and it’s not conducive for the strange italian food to make its way down her throat.

It’s as tense and uncomfortable as it was on set, but they had a lot to do there. It was easy to ignore Maggie before, but now it’s not. It’s actually painfully obvious how quiet they are, both wishing they were anywhere else, she’s sure.

She knows that’s partly a result of her words at the party, so she takes a deep breath and goes for it.

“I…”

Maggie looks up, and raises an eyebrow as if to ask if Alex really is talking, but Alex ignores it and the trepidation it causes in her. She can at least say her piece.

“I’m sorry about what I said at the party,” she says simply.

“Are you?” Maggie asks.

Alex gives her a look. “I am. But you were in the wrong too,” she’s quick to add. Maggie rolls her eyes. “I wasn’t flirting with that guy. I can barely remember his name.”

That hasn’t stopped her from doing more than flirting in the past, but Alex doesn't dwell on it now.

“I was just talking, I was trying to be nice. Everyone just keeps telling me to be nice, and the one time I am you come over and treat me like I was giving him a lapdance.” She shudders at the thought. “I wasn’t flirting,” she repeats. “He was a bit of an asshole, actually, with no concept of personal space.”

Maggie’s expression softens.

“You...you weren’t encouraging him?”

“No,” Alex says firmly. “I was fucking annoyed, but I had to be nice, and that’s why I got so mad when you came over and gave me the fifth degree over it. That’s why I said…” She doesn't think it'd be wise to mention it again. “The things I said. I’m sorry about them. I don’t really think that of you. I was just…” She shrugs, and hopes her apology doesn’t sound as half assed to Maggie as it does to her own ears.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie nods.

She feels...ashamed? Or embarrassed?

She begins to see the night of the party in a new light, and she feels suddenly guilty for automatically thinking the worst of Alex. She was already annoyed at her for what she’d seen before, it’d been a step from there for her to assume she was already doing something to put their contract in jeopardy.

She looks at the scene with different eyes, and she feels even guiltier because she’s been there, not quite knowing how to deflect insistent men, and not quite sure if she could be aggressive considering who they were. She’s still hurt over Alex’s words, but she realizes she pulled the trigger first.

Maybe she was too harsh on Alex….maybe.

“I hear you,” she tells her. “And I’m...Im sorry, for assuming. You didn’t deserve what I said.”

Alex nods, lapping up the apology like one of the overeager puppies they spent the morning with.

“You too. I’m sorry- I’m really sorry.”

Maggie nods. “There’s just one thing,” she mentions, because while Alex might be capable of apologizing to her, that tells nothing to Maggie about what she’s like with other people. And she’s seen how that is firsthand already. It’s part of the reason she was so hard on her. “One of the busboys, at Anthony’s party. He almost spilled something on you and you were…”

Maggie makes a motion with her hands. She doesn’t want to say ‘an asshole’.

She sees when realization dawns over Alex, and she’s at least glad to see she looks ashamed.

“I...I was nervous;” she stutters. “Really nervous. And I'm not the nicest person to strangers, I know I should work on that.” Alex sighs. She seems as honest as she did at the beginning, before the contract, back when they’d raced to their apartment building. “I can apologize, if you can give me his number.”

Surprise pleasantly courses through her.

“You’d do that?” she asks.

“Of course,” Alex says. “I always do what I say will.”

And there’s the serious, determined woman she’d met at the best chemistry read Maggie’s ever had. She stifles a small smile. Could it really be as easy as a misunderstanding fixed over great Burrata and spelt bread?

Alex gives her a small, cautious smile, and Maggie thinks maybe she didn’t do a good enough job of hiding hers.

She takes a bite of her food, enjoy the creaminess spreading through her tongue, and gives further thought to Alex’s initial words.

“You don't have to, by the way,” she says, swallowing and dabbing her lips with a napkin. “Go along with some guy because you think you have to be polite,” she clarifies. “If he’s being a dick he’s a dick, no matter who he is. And in a place like that...I know Anthony, and I know how to handle his friends. You can look for me. I’ll get you out of it.”

“No yelling this time?”

Maggie gives her a small smile.

“No yelling this time.”

Alex goes back to her plate of food, and Maggie asks for two Bloody Mary’s for the both of them. If they’re here, they might as well make the most of Anthony’s money and sample the drinks. Alex brightens up when the tall glasses get to the table, and Maggie chuckles. It almost feels like she’s having breakfast with a friend.

They’re over what happened at the party, but that doesn’t mean the way Alex tenses up whenever she stands too close will be over, or the way she seems to be so uncomfortable at times with anything regarding, well. Maggie being gay? Her character being gay? Gayness? She’s not sure.

And they’ve still agreed to pretend to date each other for a year, and that’s not even close to being over.

One battle at a time.

 

.

.

.

 

They leave the restaurant half an hour later, Maggie finally taking pity on Alex and using what little Italian she knows to order her something good, greasy, and bacon loaded from the menu. (She doesn’t understand elegant restaurant’s need to have the menu in a language most tourists who walk in can’t speak, but she supposes that adds to the appeal. Visit Italy without visiting Italy.)

They get in the car, and she’s thankful it’s just a short ride to their apartment building.

She gets a text from Anthony halfway there.

 

AKtext

 

Maggie sighs with the dawning realization that she’s signed up for a year of this. She hopes M’gann is right and it’s worth it.

She takes a picture with their cheeks pressed together, and uploads it to her Instagram Stories.

They’re a block away from their street when Maggie realizes that Alex is still staring at her cellphone.

“Everything okay?” She asks.

Alex looks up.

“Huh? Yeah. yes. It’s just...How is it so easy for you?”

“What?”

“To pretend. To...lie to people. And about something like this. ”

Because she’s done it before, Maggie’s mind supplies, and she hates it. It’s not true that it’s because of that, or at least she doesn’t want to think it is. Emily...those were different circumstances, and Maggie isn’t proud of them. This thing with Alex is different, because she and Alex have nothing together, and they never will.

She and Emily were in love.

She doesn’t like the suggestion that this is easy for her.

“That’s pretty rich coming from someone whose job it is to pretend for the cameras, Danvers.”

Alex adamantly shakes her head.

“Acting is different,” she says. “This isn’t acting.”

She isn't combative but looks genuinely lost, and Maggie softens against her better judgement. She doesn’t know how to feel about the woman at her side faking her entire sexuality for the cameras, but it’s not like Maggie hasn’t done her fair share of questionable things. She decides just not to think about it. There’s too much at stake, and she and Alex are at the center of it all. The show, the PR contract. They’re better working together than being divided.

“It is acting,” she argues. “It’s part of the job.”

Their car stops in front of their apartment building, and Maggie touches Alex’s arm before she gets out.

“Look, I'm sorry you have to act like you like women—like you like me, but it’ll be over before you know it.”

 

.

.

.

 

 

enewswebpage-(2)

.

.

.

 

The rest of August goes by in a blur, along with half of September, and before Alex knows it it’s been a month and a half since she first arrived on set.

The date jumps out at her, she’s not quite sure why, and it circles her mind during the one scene she has that morning, playing opposite an extra. It's an interrogation scene, where she's supposed to play the good cop, understanding and stern—but not mean—even in the face of the Pg-13 insults the perp throws at her. Alex wouldn't be like that in real life, she knows. Not for the first time she's just a tad jealous of Maggie, and how her character is tougher and smarter than her own. What's the point of treating criminals nicely? The scene is easy, and soon enough she's done. Alex quickly makes plans to take a nap in her trailer until later that afternoon, when she’s supposed to film outside, with James, and her march back to Alex Danvers' headquarters is only halted by a few of the wardrobes girls, one who carries a cupcake with a candle on it.

Alex suddenly, wildly, thinks it’s for her, as if anyone celebrates a month-and-a-half anniversaries. But then she sees them go into the trailer beside her own—Maggie’s trailer—and Alex is suddenly hit with it. September 14th. It’s Maggie’s birthday.

It’s the first thing she read about the woman on her Wikipedia page—for someone who prides herself on her good memory, who used to say she had a photographic memory when she was younger—she’s embarrassed she didn't know. She’s even more embarrassed she saw her this morning and only waved from afar before going into hair and makeup, because that probably means Maggie knows she didn't know. And shouldn’t she have?

Alex and Maggie are friendlier now—they talk in between takes again and Maggie smiles at her more, the dimples almost always present. The rest of the cast and crew, perhaps taking a cue from their leading lady Alex thinks, have welcomed her more too and she’s made an effort to return their kindness. She engages in small talk with her hair and makeup women, and she actually tries to make conversation and be friendly with everyone she comes across. She introduces herself to the different directors that pass through, learning their names and swapping set stories. It’s not her, and sometimes it’s hard, but she’s trying, which is what J’onn would tell her is all that matters.

She’s slowly integrating herself into the Nightingale family, but she didn’t know it was the ‘big, special day’ as Kara would say, of the most important person on set. She feels a twinge of guilt, and that feeling only grows as she hears loud singing and shouts of ‘happy birthday’ coming from Maggie’s trailer.

She pulls out her phone as she walks toward her own trailer. She can fix this minor misstep. 

She convinces, after some very choice words and an assurance of a very large tip, an Uber driver to get her a book from Barnes and Noble, anything positive sounding, while she uses her lunch break to quickly buy a birthday card.

There’s a little gift shop a short ways from set she walks to. She immediately makes her way to the back of the store, keeping her head down and hoping no one notices her, and grabs the first generic birthday card she sees. It’s a cream white card with a simple red balloon on the front and a “Happy Birthday” inside. She thinks it’ll do, but then her eye catches another card next to it, one with a group of puppies on it. She smiles as she remembers how much Maggie seemed to like those puppies at the charity event last Sunday.

She grabs the puppy card and checks out.

 

 

 

The director has just yelled cut on the final scene of the day when Alex sees what appears to be the whole crew wheeling a massive two tier cake towards them and singing happy birthday. The cake is covered in fondant created to look like the midnight blue Nightingale title cover and there’s a fondant gun and badge on top. Maggie lets out a delighted laugh and rushes towards the group of people.

Everyone breaks out into applause when the song is over, and Maggie blows out the candle, a big purple, sparkling 24.

“Thank you, you guys. You shouldn’t have.” Maggie hugs a few of the crew, the dimples seemingly permanently etched into her cheeks. “You really shouldn’t have. But listen up! You gave me cake, I have booze. Birthday party at my apartment tonight! I’ll have my assistant send you the address. Bring a friend!”

Everyone claps again, and Alex thinks that no matter how much she tries, she'll never be on Maggie's level.

Her arms itch when thinking about everything her sister could move in her apartment when she visits, she would never have so many people over, and certainly not people she doesn't know that well. 

Alex hangs back, letting Maggie and the crew talk for a few moments. She's all smiles and has a distinct glow about her that Alex thinks makes her look different, younger, even as she's aging another year today. 

When Maggie's left alone for a second, Alex sees her opening, and comes up to her.

“Happy birthday,” she tells her, and Maggie surprises her by stepping forward and wrapping her in a hug. Alex returns it, dazzled, and realizes with a start how Maggie is so...small. Her waist is tiny as Alex wraps her arms around her, squeezing gently, and even in her heels Alex is taller. Maggie smells like something sweet, but dark, and Alex can't quite put her finger on it. Cherries and spice? Currant?

“Thanks, Danvers.”

"No problem." She breathes out.

She steps away, and Alex dumbly hands her the card and the book—which she stuck a small ribbon on. 

“That for me?” Maggie smiles. Alex hopes she appreciates the book; it's a dumb, cheesy hardcover with glossy pages full of loving messages for every day of the year. Maggie looks up at her.

“Thank you. You shouldn't have.”

Alex waves it away.

“It’s no problem,” she repeats.

“Are you going to come to the birthday party tonight?” Maggie asks, and Alex stutters.

“I...I cant. I’m sorry, my sister is visiting and-”

“Of course.” Maggie gives her a smile. “It’s your sister.”

Guilt flares up in Alex, and she hopes there’s no way Maggie can find out that Kara is not actually visiting her. If only her sister can refrain from being seen out and about with her boyfriend on the other side of the country, that’d be fantastic.  

“I hope you have fun,” she adds, sincere.

“Will do. I’ll even drink some scotch in your honor.” Maggie lifts the book and card. “Thanks.”

Alex nods. Crisis averted.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie can barely hear herself over the noise of the party.

Her apartment is filled to the brim with people, and plastic cutlery litters every available surface space. Half of the food is gone already—Gabriella must be pleased her food was such a hit—and the drinks are flowing. She briefly hopes no one throws up in her bathroom, or worse yet, doesn’t make it to her bathroom in time.

But with all her reservations—it’s a damn good party.

James calls people to play beer pong on her dining room table, and enlists Maggie to be on his team. Winn, surprisingly volunteers to go against them first, and—with the help of Gabriel—wins the first round.

Maggie steps out after her fourth red-solo cup’s worth of beer, just in time to open the door for her manager.

“M’gann!” She throws her arms around the woman, aided by the alcohol, and M’gann hugs her back. “I thought you were in L.A. this whole week!”

“Had to see my favorite actress on her birthday. I’m not staying long, I actually had a couple of things to oversee here.” She eyes Maggie’s hand. “Take it easy okay?” She whispers. “Or don't. Just don't let it get to social media. Not the image we’re trying to sell.”

“Gotcha,” Maggie says. “So I should take down the photo of me doing body shots off the stripper that came by earlier?”

M’gann pats her arm. “Never change, Maggie.”

M’gann stays for half an hour, but it’s enough for Maggie to get her to play beer pong with them. She’s on her team, and when they go up against James she beats him easily. Somehow—though Maggie suspects it has something to do with how much she’s drunk—she can’t beat James’ partner.

She drinks, and performs even worse next round, in which M’gann also fails.

When she loses, Maggie stops the teasing that follows when M’gann says she doesn't drink. She knows her story, as well as she knows her own, and M’gann has been clean for far too many years to break her streak over an idiotic game of beer pong. Not that Maggie thought she would have.

She knows M’gann’s will is made of steel.

 

 

It’s past 3 when everyone leaves.

Gabriella is putting away leftovers, never one to let food go to waste, while Maggie walks around the large apartment with a trash bag in her hands, picking up plastic cup after plastic cup. It’s slightly cold, and she closes one of the floor-to-roof windows that someone must have opened to have a smoke. Moonlight streams through them all, the orb brilliantly white high in the sky.

It’s so nice and quiet and calm she almost forgets it’s been 10 years.

She’d been ignoring the anniversary, since she has so many of them. The anniversary of the last Christmas she spent at home with her parents, the last time she saw her friends, the anniversary of the day they left her at the airport with a one way ticket to LA and to Gabriella, her dad not even looking backwards. Or today, the anniversary of the last birthday she celebrated with them. she'd turned 14 years old on a Sunday, and she still remembers every gift she got. A page ripped out of a coloring book, a Toblerone bar of chocolate that lasted her a week, a necklace. Roy, her best friend at the time, had saved from his allowance and gone all the way to Omaha to get the thing. Her dad had given her the necklace, simple and silver, and Maggie never asked, but she knew how much effort it must have taken him, how many extra shifts.

He'd ripped it off her neck not 2 months later.

Maggie swallows, but it does nothing to dispel the way her throat has grown tight.

Gabriella steps up behind her.

"You noticed how long it's been?" Her aunt asks gently. Maggie nods. "Oh, piccola-"

She shakes off Gabriella's hand. "I'm okay," she's quick to say. "It's whatever."

"It's a decade," Gabriella says.

Maggie shrugs. "I'm fine. I'm- I'm going to get some sleep, okay? I'm beat. do you need more help-"

"I got it," Gabriella says, grabbing the trash bag from her hand. "Get some sleep."

Maggie nods, and climbs the stairs two at a time up to her room. She hates that Gabriella sees her go, because Maggie doesn't want her to think she hasn't done an amazing job the past 10 years. She raised her, in all the ways that count, and it feels unfair that she feels so much pain simply because it's been 10 years since the last birthday she spent with her family. Before everything changed.

She was lost afterward, and broken. And now...she has a job she loves, and friends, and an apartment that’s 5 times the size of the house she grew up in.

It doesn't make sense that it hurts so much.

And yet Maggie still cries into her pillow that night, newly 24 years old but still feeling like a little girl, hoping for her parents to love her.

 

.

.

.

 

When she gets home that afternoon, Alex decides that since she already lied to Maggie she might as well make it worth something. She decides to call her sister.

She and Kara used to talk, a lot, back when she first left for college, and then on that first year on Body of Medicine. Her sister had been one of the few people to support her decision to leave college and pursue acting again seriously, and Alex hadn’t forgotten. She’d just gotten too distracted by her own shit to be a good sister.

She texts Kara about it, and then boots up her laptop and opens the seldom used Skype app. Her sister’s face appears only a few moments later, her hair messy and a face mask painting her cheeks and forehead white.

“Hi!” Kara exclaims.

“Hey. Someone looks happy,” she mentions.

“I am! Hang on- Mon-El! Can you get me a hair tie?” Kara yells off screen. “It’s Alex,” she answers to a question she doesn’t hear. “Thanks.” Kara beams, once more on screen, and then Mon-El steps in behind her.

“I got it, babe,” he says, before grabbing Kara’s hair and pinning it up, finally tying it into a lopsided ponytail. Her sister doesn't seem to mind as she turns to give him a peck on the lips, a big smile on her face. Alex looks at the exchange with a frown. She’s happy for her sister, Kara certainly looks happy for herself at least. But she doesn't understand it. She’s never felt that comfortable with someone. And she'd definitely never let anyone touch her hair like that.

"So..." she says, once Mon-El is finally out of sight. "What were you so happy about?"

Kara almost looks like she's vibrating.

"I got it! I got the audition!"

Something sinks in Alex's stomach, but she pushes through it and smiles.

"Captain Marvel?" she asks.

"Yes!" Kara squeals, and it distorts the laptop microphone with the force of it. her eyes crinkle with her happiness, and Alex feels like the worst person on the planet because although she's happy, part of her really is, the bigger part feels yet again like Kara is overshadowing her. Like it doesn't even matter what she's trying to do with Nightingale. Kara has already one upped her without trying. What's the point of finally getting to play a cop when her sister is going to be a goddamn superhero.

"I'm really happy for you," she tells her. "You deserve it."

And that's the worst part, the part that makes Alex such a fucking asshole. Kara does deserve it. She's worked hard for every role, and she's a genuinely good, kind person, and she deserves everything good coming her way. Alex just wishes that maybe, she did too.

"Wait- have you told mom?" Her mom hadn't called her with the news, and Alex thinks it something she could have done, especially after the mess that was their talk last month.  

"Of course not, silly! I wanted you to know first." 

Alex smiles, tears thick in her throat. 

"I have to go," she tells her sister suddenly. "But I'm so, so happy for you. We'll talk soon okay."

"Okay!" 

Mon-El suddenly steps into the frame, his arms around Kara's waist as he blows a raspberry onto her cheek.

"No, ew!" she complains, but he does it again. Alex doesn't think Kara notices when she ends the call.

 

 

 

The Uber gets there faster than she expects, and soon enough she's outside the closest bar to her apartment building she could find.

Nobody knows her here, and J'onn certainly hasn't bribed this particular bartender to cut her off early, so she keeps the shots coming until the overwhelming feeling of not being enough fades along with the ability to taste what's she's drinking.

Five drinks in, and it starts to feel like she can be just like Kara and touch the stars.

 

Chapter Text

Fama nihil est celerius : nothing is swifter than rumor

 

.

.

.

 

tribecatvfestival

.

.

.

 

Maggie’s dining room table is pristine except for the clean, white stack of paper stapled together resting in the center.

The contract.

Maggie knows it’s just paper, but it’s almost foreboding to even look at. She can feel October 11th creeping up on her, like the long shadows that seemingly stalk her when she comes home after a long day. It’s almost ridiculous to Maggie, that’s she’s so nervous about this. She should be fine, things like this are common in the business. She’d even reassured Alex that it was just another part of the job.

But...it’s a whole year.

A whole year under Anthony’s thumb, carrying out his orders like a lap dog. She’s been under his command to an extent until now, what with being the lead of his ‘baby’ as he called Nightingale . But this, him encroaching on her personal life and dictating where exactly she should be seen having dinner with Alex, when she should post photos with her, where she should kiss her so the paps can get pictures...it’s another level. And she’d be lying if she said she was comfortable with it. She’s glad. She thinks if she was it would be a sign she’s become the kind of person she doesn't want to be.

The other extreme isn’t ideal, either. She knows Alex was initially very reticent about the contract, but then her later blasé acceptance of it at the newest branch of La Nuvola Bianca didn’t sit right with Maggie either. She suspects it was a front, no person could make such a jarring 180 degree turn, and she’s afraid she’ll be left to carry the weight of the arrangement when Alex inevitably spooks and pulls away. She and Alex are friendlier now, but she can tell the woman is still uneasy around her.

The click of a door opening disrupts Maggie’s stare off with the contract.

“Sorry about that,” M’gann slips her phone back into her pocket. “Producers are always unnecessarily long winded.”

Maggie casts her eyes up to her. “Bea?”

M’gann nods.

“She wanted to go over some of the finer scheduling details.” She smiles good naturedly. “You know how thorough she is. She says hello too, by the way.”

Bea Bastow. The producer of Maggie’s next project come June. She’s excited for it. It was down to her and another actress for the lead role, and after a long process she finally got the call. The proper celebrating had gotten lost between her starting the chemistry reads for Claire and the whirlwind that followed—Gabriella and her had only celebrated with Korean BBQ delivered to her apartment and reruns of Law and Order—but Maggie’s still delighted about the new movie.

The film is a comedy, it’s going to be a nice change from her recent action projects. Not that she doesn’t love those too, but she wants to do every genre—action, drama, comedy, romantic, coming of age, thriller, fantasy…She wants it all. Maybe that desire is silly, akin to a child wanting to play with all the toys in the box, but she can’t help it. And she’s not sorry for it either. She’s ambitious, and that’s not a bad thing—though society still deems it is when it comes from a woman. Maggie knows that well enough.

She looks at the contract again. This could -no, this will  help her. M’gann believes it, and Maggie trusts her. Nowadays she’s starting to believe it too. If there’s any hope for it to work, she has to have faith it’ll help her. Faith. She mentally scoffs.

If only her mother could see her heathen of a daughter now, resting her career on faith.

She shrugs M’gann’s words off. “Mildred and I were having a grand old time together.”

“I know I’m going to regret this, but who is Mildred?” M’gann settles into the seat on her left and opens her laptop.

Maggie nods towards the stack of paper. “I’ve decided to name her Mildred. I read once on the inside of a bottle cap that the way to overcome trepidation is to name it. Hence,” she waves towards the center of the table with a flourish, “Mildred.”

“Well.” She raises an eyebrow. “We’ve got about three weeks until Mildred goes into effect.”

“I remember, as if Anthony could let me forget.” Maggie rolls her eyes. “He’s been demanding we increase our social media interactions and sent me a text earlier of suggested body language toward Alex. I’m assuming Alex received the same text.”

The text was, quite frankly, ridiculous, even by his standards. He’d used the sunglasses smiley face emoji as bullet points in his excessively detailed list. ‘Touch her arm when you talk to her, smile at everything she says, crank those heart eyes up to one hundred.’ He’s acting like Maggie doesn’t know how to be a human being in a relationship or flirt with someone. She sighs inwardly thinking about putting up with his micromanaging not only on the show but now also in her personal life.

M’gann clears her throat. “Like I said, in this area, the man’s an expert.”

Maggie cuts her off by shoving her phone in her face, the text message visible for M’gann to see. She quickly scans over it and winces.

“Okay, so he’s over the top, but we knew that from your first audition for Blake. It is best to build up the relationship slowly to make it look as natural as possible though.” She takes a sip of her coffee and reaches for the contract to open it, flipping through the pages. “And social media and body language is a big part of that. It’ll be the perfect made-for-TV friends to lovers trope everyone loves.”

“The perfect made-for-TV story right down to the fact that it’s all fake,” sarcasm is etched into Maggie’s entire body.

“It’s not fake,” M’gann smirks teasingly. “It’s a form of performance art, didn’t you read the title?”

Maggie outright snorts at that, “That is by far the classiest way I’ve seen someone label a PR relationship.”

M’gann shrugs. “You can’t dock his lawyer on style points,” she says. “On the subject of style, you’ve looked up the restaurant he wants as your first date right?”

“Of course. Well, Winn did.” He sent her a detailed report of it complete with yelp reviews and suggested dishes to order. “But I know of it. It’s a fancy place. A known romantic restaurant in the city too.” La Grenouille is its name. It's actually a great choice for the first date, classy and with a facade of privacy, but still in front of the eyes of lots of people, with smartphones ready to whip out.

“Yes, and we need to go over what you’ll wear. You and Alex can coordinate colors or Winn can schedule a stylist to work with.” M’gann looks up briefly from whatever she’s doing on her laptop—Maggie still marvels at the woman’s ability to multitask, she really  is one of the best in the business. Maggie is lucky M’gann is with her.

“Seriously? I don’t remember giving up my right to dress myself for an entire year too.” She grabs the contract from M’gann’s side and flips through it, just to check.

M’gann stops her moving hand. “You didn’t, but this is the first date, and I want to make sure it’s picture perfect.”

“It’d be nice if the other party cared as much as you do.” Maggie checks her phone again. Alex and J’onn are 17 minutes late. Alex lives in the same apartment building as her—all of the Nightingale cast does—and she’s late.

M’gann confirmed to her she’d set up this meeting for 10 AM in her apartment, and she’d texted Alex at 10:10 asking if she was on her way. She’s still waiting for a response.

“It certainly would be, but we have to work with what we have.” M’gann is already dialing her phone. “I’ll ask J’onn his ETA.”

“I might as well just take the damn elevator down to her floor and see if she’s there myself,” Maggie grumbles.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex greedily extends her hand somewhere towards her right, where she can smell the glorious bitter twang of coffee.

Her eyes are still closed after an unfortunate incident moments before involving the sun and opening her eyes. J’onn is saying something, but he sounds like one of the adults in those Charlie Brown cartoons that Kara insisted she watch with her every Sunday as kids. It’s just a drone of unintelligible sound, until she can feel the heat off the coffee on her skin. Her fumbling hands find the mug, and she drags it toward her. Finally, the first drop of hot, strong coffee hits her tongue, and Alex closes her eyes. She relishes the burn of the liquid going down her throat, waking her up. It helps clear some of the fog in her head, although it’s still throbbing. She doesn’t know what to do about that apart from calling up the Guinness World Record to tell them she has the fucking worst recorded headache in human history thus far.

She’s finishing the last dredges of her coffee when J’onn’s voice finally breaks through into her consciousness.

“Alex! Have you been listening to anything I’ve said in the past ten minutes?” His tone is exasperated, and he eyes her as though considering whether it’s worth repeating himself or not. Alex blearily wonders if this will finally be his breaking point—the moment he realizes she’s not worth the trouble and leaves. This latest incident hardly registers as one of her worst, but she was supposed to be over this. She’s got a great new role on a hit show. She hasn’t been photographed drunk or at a club since May. She’s been doing well, but she slipped up last night. Everything with Kara...if there was ever a topic that would drive her back to her old habits, that would be it.

She finally drags her eyelids open to look at J’onn, covering her eyes from the sun. It takes a few moments for her eyes to adjust, but when they do she realizes the room is dark. J’onn must have closed the blinds.

J’onn’s gaze is solemn, and disappointed.

A familiar pang of guilt lances through her, greeting her like an old friend.

“You were lucky no one saw you. Alex. I thought...” he sighs and shakes his head, breaking eye contact with her. “I thought this would change.”

“It will. It is.” She sits up from her slumped position at the table. Her head is still aching—and she feels slightly nauseous, but she ignores her discomfort and focuses on J’onn. “I’m sorry.” She imbues as much sincerity as she can in those two words.

J’onn looks back at her. His face softens. “It’s okay Alex.” He reaches across the table to place a comforting, warm hand on her forearm. “People slip up. I’m sorry if I was too harsh, but I was worried. You weren’t answering your phone, and my mind went to the worst case scenario. But I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge. You’ve been doing well these past months, remarkably well. I’m really proud of you, Alex.”

Her tongue is so dry it’s painful. Her head is still a fuzzy, aching mess. And her limbs feel slightly deadened, but none of that can stop the smile from spreading across her face or the blaze of warmth taking residence in her chest. It’s validating to have her...progress confirmed by someone else, someone she trusts and values too.

“Thank you, for everything.” Her hungover brain can’t think of words sufficient enough to show her appreciation of J’onn and his constant support of her so she’ll settle with a simple statement until her neurons fall back in line.

He smiles again. “How about you clean up and then we’ll head over to Maggie’s?"

Maggie’s? What -Oh. She forgot. Fuck, she forgot. She has a meeting with Maggie and her manager this morning to go over the contract. J’onn had emailed her. She scrambles up from her seat and rushes to the bathroom, tripping and cursing as she does. “I’ll be ready in ten,” she calls out, accidentally slamming the bathroom door behind her in her rush.

She takes a quick shower, flinching when it’s too fast for the water to get warm, and then dresses even faster. J’onn is waiting for as she hurries out of the bathroom.

“M’gann just called, we’re a bit late.”

“How late?” She winces.

“Around twenty minutes late.” He grabs his jacket from her couch and starts walking to the door. “You ready to go?”

“Yeah, just gimme a second.” She rushes to the kitchen to grab a glass of water and fumbles with the lid of an aspirin bottle, finally popping it off to so she can swallow two of the pills. She knocks back the entire glass of water just for good measure, and then they’re hurrying out the door to the elevator.

Alex tries to get her bearings in the elevator ride up to the top floor, but her head still hurts, and now she’s slightly dizzy too.

She really should’ve stopped drinking by drink number 7. She shouldn’t have even went out last night, but what’s done is done. She squares her shoulders and inhales deeply.

The loud ding of the elevator doors opening makes Alex grimace, but she strides forward confidently. And then stops in the middle of the hallway. She realizes she doesn’t know which apartment is Maggie’s. J’onn chuckles as he comes behind her and leads the way to the door at the end of the hallway.

J’onn only knocks twice before the door swings open and Maggie’s face greets her—her silhouette outlined by the blinding sun coming through the floor to ceiling windows she can see behind Maggie. Alex takes an involuntary step back.

“Hey,” Maggie steps closer to her with a concerned expression. “Are you okay?”

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie stares at Alex, the pained look on her face making her stop everything for a second.

She steps closer towards her to get a better look at her face. Her eyes are bloodshot, and she can smell a faint whiff of alcohol off of her. The strong stuff, too. Her movements are sluggish as she brings her forearm up to cover her eyes.

“Could you pull the blinds closed on your windows? The light…” she trails off with a vague wave of her arm. Maggie frowns.

She’s clearly hungover. Hungover and 20 minutes late. Maggie resists the urge to roll her eyes as she turns to draw the blinds, motioning for Alex and J’onn to follow her into the apartment. And to think for a moment she’d been worried about Alex’s well being. The woman clearly had that under control.

“Sorry we’re late.” J’onn nods at her and M’gann, and Maggie nods before turning around and making a beeline for the table. The sooner she’s done with this meeting, the better.

M’gann smiles, her lips pressed together and thin in obvious discomfort.

“It’s fine, let’s just not make a habit of it?”

“Of course not,” he reassures and takes a seat opposite her.

Alex slowly trails after J’onn and sits next to him.

It’s hardly an ideal start to the meeting, and Maggie hopes Alex’s behavior won’t be common during the contract. Unbidden, flashes of article headlines she’d glanced at during her initial ‘Alex Danvers’ search spring to mind. She knows she’s had a past with partying and drinking, but she assumed she was over it—or at least had it under control. It wasn’t her business, and so long as it didn’t interfere with the show, she didn’t care. That was her initial thought when she’d learned of Alex’s past, but that was before the contract. Now it does matter. Drunk people have loose lips, and loose lips sink ships. She’s not sure her career could survive the blow back of an exposed PR relationship, and she doesn’t want to find out.

Maggie snaps herself out of it. She’s been shooting with Alex for two months now, and the woman has always showed up to set on time, ready to work hard. She’s been nothing but professional (albeit awkward) even during that brief period after the party. She’s overthinking this—and being a tad judgmental. God. The contract already has her paranoid and jumping to the worst thoughts. She runs a hand down her face before turning to face the others.

“Anybody want something to drink before we start? Water? Coffee…”

“Uh -I’ll have some water please,” Alex says, her tone sheepish and eyes apologetic. Is she remorseful? Apologizing subtlety for being late and not sober? Maggie’s not sure, but she breathes in and exhales slowly.

“Sure thing, Danvers.”

Today’s priority is preparing for October, it's the entire purpose of this meeting, and being that she’s half of the people involved, she can’t afford to get mad at the other party. There isn’t any room for shaky assumptions and irritable behavior.

As soon as she slides back into the seat next to M’gann—handing a glass of water do a very grateful Alex—M’gann stands up and begins speaking, taking control of the room as she’s wont to do.

“King wants your first public appearance as a couple the night after the season two premiere. He’s already set up a reservation at nice, upscale restaurant, La Grenouille, in the area.” She looks at everyone in the room to receive affirmation of her words. “Good. We’re all on the same page. I was just mentioning to Maggie earlier about your wardrobe for the night, Alex.”

Alex straightens up, “Oh, I was just gonna pull something out of my closest, a nice dress.”

Maggie adds her voice to the discussion. “M’gann wants us color coordinated, and Anthony probably does too.”

“So we have to be dressed by other people too?” Alex’s eyebrows rise.

“I’m assuming it’s just for the first date,” J’onn glances at M’gann. “Right?”

She nods. “But, of course, it’ll always be a more pleasing image if your date outfits compliment each other. I’d suggest you two consult wardrobe before each public appearance.”

J’onn picks up where she left off. “Now onto the actual details of the date. You’ve both done a good enough job setting the scene so to speak, with social media.”

“So the dinner should be easy work,” M’gann pipes in. “The seed is already there.”

“That’s true,” J’onn says, agreeing with M’gann, and Maggie eyes them carefully. It’s not often M'gann so readily agrees with anyone, especially those not in “her” corner. “You’ll be photographed during dinner, but you're both used to that.” He turns towards Alex, “And don’t worry, they’re not going to get close to you, Alex. I know how much you hate that.”

“Just lean close to each other, hold hands. Laugh and smile a lot. That type of thing. I don't need to coach you on dating do I?”

“No, ma’am,” Maggie tells her.

M’gann smiles at that. “You don’t have to worry about getting photographed kissing or anything like that yet. That’s not our game -or Anthony’s.”

Yet. It’s too early for a kiss, but Maggie knows Anthony, and she knows it’ll happen soon enough. She’s not sure how to feel about that, kissing Alex Danvers.

She hadn’t thought much about it beyond a general thing that would happen in the far, far future. But now that future isn’t far at all. Maggie suddenly hopes Alex isn’t a bad kisser. That would suck—and not in a good way. Then again, their kisses shouldn’t need to go beyond pecks, so she should be fine regardless. She can’t help but wonder if Alex will be fine with it, though. She still tenses up, slightly, whenever Maggie gets too close to her when they’re not on camera as Blake and Claire, and Maggie doesn’t now if Alex is that remarkably good of an actress or she’s just uncomfortable around her for reasons she doesn’t want to think about.  

The woman in question currently stares wide eyed between J’onn and M’gann.

It looks like Alex is having her very own ‘fuck, this is really happening and soon too’ moment she had earlier, and Maggie is glad. At least she’s not alone on that part. Alex suddenly reminds her of the wild rabbits that had made their home in her backyard when she was a child. She’d had a favorite one, with a brown tail and a ring around its eye, and she’d called it Floppy without ever getting to pet the thing.

One time, when she came home from school, she’d found him munching on one of her mom’s favorite flower bushes, and she hadn’t shooed him away like she was supposed to because she’d been enthralled with his fast, repetitive movements, and how cute the small creature had been. When the rabbit had turned around, he’d shot her a single look from his brown eyes and then he was gone.

Alex reminds her of that rabbit now, with the way her leg bounces up and down, constantly. It shakes the table. Maggie wonders if Alex, too, will take one look at her and bolt now.

J’onn’s words, thankfully, distract her from that thought. “Yes. We had a nice long talk the other week and we’re looking out for you girls, okay? Alex?”

“Got it.” She nods hard. “Good. Yes.”

And if Maggie had thought before that Alex was a little too on board with such an outlandish plan, it goes out the window as she notes the woman is truly nervous. Whether those nerves are because people will think she’s gay, or just the pressure before the first act starts, Maggie isn't sure, but it's there, she can see it clear as day.

“Okay,” she tells Jonn.

“Yeah, it'll be great,” Alex says.

Maggie has a sneaking suspicion Alex doesn’t believe that, but her future self can deal with that.

 

.

.

 . 

 

nightingalereview1

nightingalereview2

 

.

.

.

 

Nervous. Shaky. Unprepared. That’s what Alex sees staring back at her in the mirror.

She lets out a shuddering breath and closes her eyes, breathing in through her nose. Her stomach is churning, and her entire body is practically vibrating with unease. She’s not ready for this. Fuck.

Her date -her dinner with Maggie has been eating away at her for the past two weeks. Alex had tried to ignore it, but that proved difficult when she spent almost every day with Maggie filming. And in between takes. And then that one time when they saw each other downstairs as they picked up their mail.

Anthony’s increased hovering over them (metaphorically and sometimes physically, too) had also been a glaring reminder. He’d taken to sending them excited tweets and emails, and even J’onn and M’gann, Maggie’s manager, had been their best business selves at their last meeting. The only who seemingly couldn’t step in line as easily as everyone else to make this work was...Alex.

She’d lost too many nights of sleep consumed by panic over what should be a simple dinner. Except that it isn't. This is the start of their...relationship, their lie. After this, there’s no going back. And, people will start thinking that...she is gay. Or whatever else. That she likes women. They’ll think she likes this woman, in particular. Those thoughts make her heart beat even faster, and she has to clench her first to stop the slight tremble of her hand. Her skin prickles, and she feels her stomach churn.

She dresses quickly and returns to the bathroom to touch up her makeup. Anthony had offered her a makeup artist to help her prepare for the dinner, but she’d quickly shot him down. She grew up in the business, she could at least apply her own makeup for something simple like this.

She spends the car ride to the restaurant going over potential conversation topics for the dinner. Dogs, the weather, how the food is, holiday plans, the news. She supposes they don't really have to talk. It’s not an actual date, after all, and it’s only pictures they'll be taking, the paparazzi won't care what they talk about. And she hardly thinks the people around them will listen in. But it feels like a disservice to the friendship that she’s trying to build with Maggie to just sit there for two hours and do nothing. And it could possibly be a disservice to this fake relationship she’s also trying to build if it doesn't look as real as possible.

Alex's stomach flutters with nerves, and suddenly she's 7 years old standing behind the curtain at her dance recital, realizing she forgot all her choreography. 

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie watches Alex as she stiffly sits in her chair, picking at her napkin.

Maggie wasn’t much better, the limited topics of conversation drying up not 10 minutes since they sat down, but at least she was acting like she was having a good time. Alex on the other hand, looked like she didn't want to be there in the least.

“Danvers?” she asks softly, and Alex looks up, her big brown eyes zoning in on Maggie. “Loosen up.” She whispers. Alex splutters, flustered, and Maggie thinks it's really too easy to get a reaction like that out of her.

She puts her right arm on top of the table.

“Look,” she says, extending it to touch Alex. “This is…” Maggie drags a finger over the other woman’s palm, watching as it breaks out in goosebumps. She then covers her hand with her own. Maggie can feel the camera on them almost like a 6th sense. “... just another form of acting.” Alex gulps.

Maggie glances at her face, and Alex returns her gaze. She looks like a deer in the headlights, if not more frightened than dazzled, and Maggie suddenly feels guilty for teasing her like this. She can’t go all in, not without Alex’s consent. She pulls her hand away.

“You can even think of it as super method acting for the show if it’ll make this easier,” she suggests.

“Noted,” Alex says darkly, somehow looking less nervous now that Maggie is not holding her hand.

When they order, Alex asks for wine, which they promptly serve them and which Alex promptly drinks. She takes a big gulp of the heady red wine while the waiter is filling Maggie’s glass, and then asks the waiter to refill hers right away.

Maggie is impressed, because Alex can certainly hold her alcohol, but she still feels bad that it’s needed at all. Plus, Maggie Sawyer simply isn't a lousy date.

“Hey,” she catches Alex’s attention. “Are you okay, Danvers?”

Alex rolls her eyes, but Maggie touches her hand—genuine now—to let her know she’s serious.

“I know this is...different for you, but you’re not alone in this,” she reminds her. Alex’s eyes catch her own, and Maggie knows she commands her full attention. “We’re in this together, remember?” She smiles reassuringly and gently squeezes the hand placed on Alex’s.

Alex doesn't move away.

In fact, she takes a deep breath and nods, and then she’s all in too, laughing brightly at her few jokes, and discreetly fixing her hair so it will look good in the pictures. They look like the picture perfect image of an incredible first date, and Maggie knows then that Anthony was right.

People will love this, they’ll love them.

The tension bleeds out from Alex’s shoulders, and then it's even easier to pretend like this is real, like they're just two co-stars on a date after a successful first episode back. Maggie hasn't actually gotten to see the newest episode, which she likes to do every week, but she has high hopes. Either way, she already knows they kept with the ratings, barely losing any viewers from the season one finale. It’s a feat that she’s proud of, and it makes it all feel worth it.

And as for Alex...part of those hopes rest solely on her.

She’d read a review or two, and people were intrigued by Claire Lawson, and fascinated with Alex’s performance; Maggie can’t wait to see if that wonder transforms into genuine love for Claire. If Alex’s character is well received, Maggie gets the feeling the show will start climbing to new heights.

“I’d like to propose a toast,” she says, and Alex meets her eyes, perhaps gauging whether she’s serious or it’s just a show for the cameras. “I mean it,” she clarifies in a quieter voice. Alex nods, her lips smiling around her fork as she eats a bit of dessert.

Maggie grabs her glass of wine.

“To the first episode of Nightingale season two,” she says, lifting her glass, and Alex joins her.

“Cheers,” she says, taking a sip of her wine, and Maggie mimics her. Out of the corner of her eyes, she can no longer notice the paparazzi Anthony called, they're probably satisfied with the pictures they got by now.

“Well...that wasn't so bad.”

.

.

.

 

sanversarticle1

.

.

.

 

Alex has developed something of a gut reaction to the site TMZ.

Even the logo itself makes her stomach churn a little, but she doesn't blame herself for her vicious response. They're monsters, and Alex hates them. Dumber people will say they’re just doing their job, but being dedicated to intrude in people lives and keep bored assholes aware of their every move and every mistake…She hates it.

She frowns as she reads the article about the date with Maggie. Her eyes rove over every sentence, but after she finishes reading it once, twice, she can't find anything glaringly wrong. She hates the unintended—or knowing them, perfectly intended pun—about her clothes, but everything else seems innocent enough.

Not like the other headlines she read before clicking on the one Anthony sent. Googling herself was a hard to break habit, and Alex’s hands trembled as she read line after line of “Will Alex Danvers be the next actress to come out of the closet?” and “The Sawyer effect: yet another actress falls into Maggie’s trap.”  Most of them mention her father in the fucking title. The TMZ one doesn’t, and Alex is thankful.

Her cellphone rings on her bedside table, and Alex grabs onto her laptop with one hand while she reaches over to answer it. It’s J’onn.

“Good morning, Alex,” he greets her. “Did you read it?”

“More sober than usual,” she grumbles, and J’onn chuckles. Alex isn't offended, if only because she knows J’onn isn't laughing at her. “Funny,” she says dryly. “It’s not even a good pun! Maggie’s outfit was more suited for a funeral than mine anyways.”

“Last night was a success,” J’onn tells her, and Alex recognizes yet again the way he has to direct her pointless self deprecation into a useful conversation. “I’m proud of you.”

“For pretending to date someone?” she asks. She’s never one to turn down praise, but it feels undeserved this time.

“Not exactly,“ J’onn answers. “For everything you’ve accomplished the last couple of months. I didn't get a chance to call you two days ago, but I watched the episode live, and you were amazing.”

“I had like two lines,” she says, even as she feels her cheeks heat up. It always matters more when he says it, or when her mother does, or when Kara tells her she admires her—which doesn't happen that often anymore. She could win an Oscar one day, and it wouldn’t come close to the feeling she gets when her mom tells her she’s proud of her, that she’s her supergirl.

She can’t remember the last time that happened.

“You were amazing,” J’onn repeats, and Alex starts to believe it.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie walks to the makeup trailer in high spirits that day.

The pictures had the effect they expected, or so M’gann had said, and even though Maggie didn’t fully agree with the nature of a PR relationship, she always appreciated a job well done. She’s slightly worried, however, about what the reaction will be on set, even though she had Winn call a few people he’s friendly with on set and let them know the truth, so they could spread it around without Maggie having to do it herself. Her assistant is gold.

She’s about to turn the corner to the makeup trailer when she hears Mary and Louise speaking in hushed tones, and after a lifetime of hearing her family speak about money in that tone, she hangs back and listens in.

“She’s such a pretty girl...I don’t know why she needs to do that.” Mary’s voice sounds conflicted, and Maggie doesn't need to guess as to the nature of their conversation.

“Well, you know how stars are. Maybe she thinks they can be the gay Brad and Angelina,” Louise answers. Maggie bristles at her comment about stars.

“I love Maggie, but she’s no Angelina Jolie. There’s no need for this. It’s so...dishonest,” Mary says.

“Hear, hear.”

Maggie swallows her disappointment.

Just because she’s friendly with some people on set doesn't mean they're her friends, and this is proof. She made a choice a long time ago to trust Gabriella and to an extent M’gann, and that was the right choice. She can’t forget that.

“Morning!” she says, louder than usual when she turns the corner.

Mary and Louise look chagrined, and Maggie is at least thankful that they’re not perfect actresses or she’d start doubting every conversation they’ve ever had.

“Hello, sweetie,” Louise greets here. “Ready to put on some makeup on that face of yours? Not that you need it.”

Maggie nods, and sits down on the chair.

 

 

Maggie navigates twitter, replying to a couple of fans and liking tweets from many others. M’gann put a cap on the amount of fans she could retweet and reply to so she wouldn't clog her twitter feed, and it's hard sometimes not to answer to everyone asking for a happy birthday or a country shout out. 

“Maggie!” she looks up to meet Natalie’s eyes, one of the new boom mic girls they hired for the new season. She's nice.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“They have beer at the craft service truck," she tells her. "Just so you know.”

Maggie nods, “Thanks.”

When she looks up, Alex is staring at her.

Maggie chuckles, "They sure know how to have fun."

“I bet,” Alex says.

“Reminds me of college,” Maggie says.

“You went to college?”

Maggie tries not to take her disbelieving tone to heart.

“Yeah, Danvers. I did finish through online classes when filming picked up, but I lived in the dorms, showered in the gross communal showers, ate shitty cafeteria food. Had quiet sex under a blanket—the whole nine yards, including three kegs of beer. Hence…” she waves to the path where Natalie has disappeared through.

“What was your major?” Alex asks.  

Maggie smiles.

“I was a double major. Plant Biology and Psychology.”

Alex snorts. “Really?”

“What?” She asks with a raised eyebrow.

“You wanted to be a plant shrink, Sawyer?”

The joke is just funny enough for Maggie not to take offense, and she feels laughter bubbling up in her, and moments later Alex joins in. Her education is important to her, mostly because she was able to get it while working 12 hour days on Rosewood Street. Her mother never went to college, and her grandmother didn't finish school. Maggie is proud of her college degree.

“Is that what all the bonsai are about?” Alex smirks.

“Huh?”

“The bonsai all over your apartment. I think you had like four when I was there.”

Maggie smiles again, more softly now. Her aunt had come home one day with a bonsai, a gift from a coworker. And Maggie had taken it upon herself to care for it. She loved the art of it, and that even in LA she could have a beautiful piece of nature in her home. They were nothing like the big, looming trees in Nebraska that she would picnic under during hazy, hot summer days, but they evoked the same feeling in her. Peace and quiet. An overflowing sense of contentment. 

She shrugs noncommittally, “Yeah, I like them.”

Alex looks mischievous. “Because they’re small like you? Or because since they’re small they make you feel bigger.”

Maggie gasps. She elbows Alex gently, and the other woman laughs.

Maggie smiles looking at her. She looks...happier, freer somehow. The lines in her forehead she’s become used to have all but disappeared, and she looks far more like Claire Lawson than the Alex Danvers she’s come to know, at least since the contract started.

“Someone is in a good mood,” she points out, hoping she's not overstepping any boundaries.

Alex looks up at her. She shrugs.

“I don't know, I mean. We did a good job last night,” she says.

Maggie meets her eyes.

“That we did.”

“Talent!” someone yells on set, and then Maggie and Alex are getting called to film.

The show must go on.

 

  

 

Maggie watches idly as the cool autumn wind swirls up the multicolored leaves blanketing the ground.

Fall has always been her favorite season, there's something poetic about the transition from the vibrant colors and noises of summer to the cold, white stillness of winter. Fall is the in between, and Maggie herself has often felt stuck in that place—warring between the tug of her past and the pull of the future. Floating between that scared 14 year old girl and the person she wants to be today.

She sighs as another soft wind blows and the lighting guys assemble another light.

This is what happens when she's stuck waiting in between sets. Her thoughts veer dangerously close towards introspection and most times she doesn't like what she finds.

She pulls her phone out of her back pocket to distract herself with Twitter. Some more pictures of Alex and her looking cozy on set had been released, and she might as well measure the reaction. She sees a lot of all caps gibberish screaming, which is good. (Her aunt had seen one of those types of tweets one day, looking over her shoulder, and she was forced to explain the way people her age communicated online now. Gabriella was befuddled to say the least.) Her eyes are skimming quickly through the excited tweets, and she feels a smile involuntarily spread across her face—some of her fans are so ridiculous.

She's mere seconds away from closing the app when another tweet catches her eye, the first negative one she's seen, and her smile wanes.

 

tweet14

 

Her first reaction is annoyance, but then, she pauses, the fan's words taking root in her brain. It's in that moment that Alex walks up, her booted footsteps heavy on the concrete.

"What's up?" She moves to lean over Maggie's shoulder to see what she's looking at, but Maggie quickly turns to face her—hiding the tweet in the process. She's not sure she wants Alex to see it. She doesn't know what her reaction will be. It's just a stupid tweet, anyways. Honestly any opinion from a person who puts an emoji heart in their twitter name can't be trusted.

"Nothing. Nothing is up, or down." She laughs weakly.

Alex simply raises her eyebrows as she sips her coffee, and Maggie cringes inwardly at the sudden role reversal: Alex calm and collected while Maggie is the one acting jumpy and awkward. It's not like her.

"It's nothing. Just..." she shows her the tweet in a split second decision, and Alex's eyes take a second to scan over it before she frowns.

Alex gently lowers Maggie's arm holding the phone, her gaze solemn. "Just like God doesn’t claim all his children, I don’t claim all of my fans.”

Maggie can't stop the smile overtaking her face.

She tilts her head, "Okay, weirdo."

It is an odd comment, but she's touched all the same. Her late night shoot today doesn't seem that bad anymore either. After all—she looks over at Alex, sipping her coffee and half hardheartedly kicking up some leaves on the ground—she won't be alone.

 

.

.

 

The dim light in the trailer makes Alex want to close her eyes and sleep even more, but she knows spending the night in her trailer is not an option.

Her couch looks awfully comfy though...She shakes her head, trying to stay awake, and makes a mental note to ask someone to put better lighting in here.

Maggie has great lighting in her trailer. It’s probably why the woman always looks flawless. She doesn’t even know why she’s suddenly thinking of Maggie, but it’s happening more and more lately. It might just be because of all the time they’re spending together now, only natural, but it still unsettles her.

Alex moves to gather her belongings and head home when she hears a knock on her trailer door. She frowns, trying to remember if she accidentally stole a set prop again. She doesn’t want people thinking she’s a kleptomaniac.

Maggie’s voice comes through the door before she can check her jacket pockets, “Danvers, you still in there?”

She quickly opens the door and leans against the doorway, aiming for casual, “Yeah, what’s up? Or down?”

“Humph,” she smirks and then looks down, hands stuffed in her jacket pockets. She looks almost bashful, which is a first. “I was just wondering, about that tweet…”

Maggie frowns, then sighs. Alex isn’t used to seeing her like this.

“What’s wrong?” she asks softly.

Maggie looks up at her.

“I’m not...I haven’t made you uncomfortable, have I Al- Danvers?”

Alex is taken aback by the question. If anything, she's the one who’s done most of the being rude between the two of them. But she was under the impression that things were good between them now, great even. What could Maggie have possibly done to make her uncomfortable?

"You mentioned that tweet...is it that asshole tweet from earlier? Cause Maggie, I really am sorry one of my supposed fans would-”

“No, it’s not that," Maggie interrupts her. "I just wanted to make sure...I know we’re supposed to act one way on screen and off screen and I’d hate it if I crossed any lines and made you feel-”

Alex cuts her off, as realization dawns on her. “You’ve never made me uncomfortable.”

It's about the contract, of course it is. And she's telling the truth.

(She ignores how just being close to Maggie makes her feel unsettled, because that’s not Maggie’s fault, Alex hasn't pinned down exactly what or who to blame, but like in most things, she's landing on herself. She's just a fucking weirdo.)

“Are you sure?” Maggie asks, tilting her head to the side, her eyes the softest Alex has ever seen them. (She didn't know eyes could be soft, but they can.)

“I promise. Really.” Alex smiles, the exhaustion from the day falling away as she seeks to convince Maggie.

Maggie returns her smile and looks back to her usual self. “Okay, Danvers." She nods and takes a step back. “See you tomorrow.”

Alex nods. “Tomorrow.” And a hundred tomorrows afterwards.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, that stopped being such a daunting thought. 

Chapter Text

Parva scintilla saepe magnam flamam excitat : the small sparkle often initiates a large flame

 

.

.

.

tweet30

tweet31

tweet33

tweet32

tweet34

.

.

.

 

Alex shivers even in her thick sweater and walks to turn her electric fireplace up. Winter is coming.

The phrase makes her smile. Maggie’s been saying it since the year rolled around to November, and Alex knows from Kara that it’s another Game of Thrones reference. Maggie and her are cut from the same nerd cloth.

She can’t believe how quickly October passed. After that first dinner, time seemed to be set on fast forward—the days blurred by in a whirlwind of sets, bright lights, and Maggie. Always Maggie. They’ve been spending more and more time together now that the contract has started, and Alex finds she doesn’t mind. Initially she’d worried that they’d tire of one other after spending so much time together on set and off, but their contract assignments haven’t been that long, not since the dinner at La Grenouille and the Halloween party.

Alex has never been much of a fan of celebrating Halloween—she can’t remember dressing up unironically past the age of 10—but with the contract, she hadn’t had a choice. Anthony had chosen their Halloween costumes, insisting it was his right as this counted as one of their required public events, and he chose the cliche cop and prisoner couples costume. Everyone had assumed Alex would be the prisoner (which she was a tad disgruntled by) and she’d reluctantly acquiesced, trying to keep her dislike of the idea off her face. She must not have done it well enough though because seconds later Maggie had suggested Alex dress up as the cop and she’d be the prisoner. Maggie had winked at her afterward, and told her she wouldn’t mind a bit of a role reversal from playing Blake Davenport.

Maggie had turned out to be a perfect costume partner, and the night had surpassed Alex’s expectations.

On October 31st, Maggie had come down to Alex’s apartment in a loud, orange jumpsuit, and they’d waited together, mirror glasses of scotch in their hands, until their arranged transport arrived. At the party, she took pictures with Maggie’s arm around her waist, and they even played out the usual arrest scene for the cameras, to go with their costumes. Alex isn't quite sure how, but the fear of being so close to Maggie—that she still won’t think about—had paled in comparison to what she felt standing in front of so many cameras. It wasn't their first official first event as a “couple”, but King wanted to ramp up speculation, so they were instructed to be friendly, but not so friendly that it would be obvious there was “something” between them. For Alex, whose closest friend was her fucking sister—she had trouble with all of it. Maggie, however, always looked like she knew what she was doing, so Alex followed her lead.

The event had been crowded and loud—as to be expected when its host was Heidi Klum—and she’d barely had a chance to talk to Maggie much less hear herself speaking. (And they actually did that these days—talk on set, most would say ‘hang out’, between scenes. Their initial tentative friendship feels back on track.) So not talking to Maggie for an entire evening left her slightly unsettled, but simply her presence kept Alex...in check, so to speak. The party scene was her scene, and Alex couldn’t remember the last time she attended one without ending up drunk off her ass. The people vying for her attention and the endless, free flowing free drinks were too much of a temptation for old Alex, who just wanted to feel...something . But she’s trying not to be her anymore.

She’d eventually relaxed. The party was chock full of people, more important people than her, and the slight twinge of jealousy when Maggie said hi to all of them was only assuaged by the fact that she introduced her as well. A few of them mentioned her dad and working with him before he passed. Maggie had pressed her palm to her back then, in a silent show of support. Alex had stepped forward a moment later, the feel of Maggie’s thumb rubbing up and down on her skin making her shudder. She’d..appreciated it, though. And she appreciated even more the fact that Maggie had never mentioned him, apart from when they first met. And she’d never asked. That gave her another good mark in Alex’s book.

After a while at the party, and the single glass of champagne she’d allowed herself, she’d even danced a little. It had been..fun.

They’d had a bite to eat after the party had ended, at La Nuvola Bianca NYC (Maggie kept insisting there was one in LA so she needed to say the name in full), and Maggie’s aunt had made cannoli (not cannolis as Alex had mistakenly called them, only to be quickly corrected by Maggie and her aunt that cannoli was the plural while the singular was cannolo) for them.

Besides that night, it’s just been quick walks in the park with Maggie, making sure to be seen together when they’re shooting on location. And coffee together in the morning at Starbucks.

Alex grimaces. That one wasn’t fun.

She walks to her kitchen, her footsteps noiseless due to the fuzzy socks—a gift from Kara—adorning her feet. She’d checked the web later that day, after the Starbucks pictures, to see the reaction—and every article just had to mention that one time she showed up to Starbucks drunk. The incident wasn’t even that bad, and she’s hasn’t pulled a stunt like that for months, but still…people don't forget easily. J’onn said the PR contract would help fix that problem, and she’s seen some evidence of that, but she wishes things would speed up.

Idiotic people aside, her actual time with Maggie at Starbucks was nice. She almost wishes it had lasted longer, but the paparazzi only needed a few minutes to get the perfect shots of them; it wasn’t necessary to drag it out. It’s just, Maggie is starting to feel like a friend, maybe she is her friend, and Alex hasn’t had one of those that wasn’t related to her in years.

As Alex reaches for the tea kettle to start boiling water, she realizes she hasn’t really talked to Maggie lately—without long lenses stalking them—beyond the customary morning greetings.

She wouldn’t mind changing that. She looks down at the small box of mint ginger lemon tea now in her hand. Maggie is a big tea drinker, and she’d given her the box the other day. Privately, Alex thought it sounded pretty disgusting—she likes mint, but she’s not a fan of ginger, and the combination of the two along with lemon doesn’t seem appealing. But Maggie had smiled when she gave it to her, ‘I know you’re a big coffee drinker, but tea is healthier, and I saw this at Whole Foods and thought you might like it.’ She’s learned over the past few months that Maggie is a very healthy person, the type Alex assumed only existed in ridiculous Hallmark channel movies about overworked female CEOs discovering their true calling is marrying some guy and having 3 kids. Not even her sister can resist an order of potstickers every once in a while.

But Maggie...she’s the type of person to voluntarily go to yoga—and even meditate— which sounds like the worst thing Alex could do to herself. They had special vegan ice cream for her at the craft truck the other night, so she assumes she’s a vegan to boot. And the time she caught her drinking coffee—her guilty pleasure, she’d said—she’d been sweetening it with fucking agave nectar, not even real sugar. An all around health nut if she ever saw one.

She turns the tea box over in her hands. Alex should probably take some tips from her to be honest, she’s lived exclusively on take out for years. Maybe now is the time to learn to cook more than two dishes. (Her repertoire is limited to pasta and quesadillas.)

She reads the ingredients on the box while the water boils. She can pronounce all of them. She’s pretty sure that means it’s healthy. Alex hums. It was a nice gesture on Maggie’s part. Maybe she should buy her a gift in return—just go to the nearest organic store and pick out the most expensive, healthy looking thing she can find.

The whistling of the kettle stops her musings, and she moves the kettle off the stove, placing a tea bag from the box in it.

She drums her fingers on the counter as she waits for the tea to steep. She lets her eyes wander through her apartment—a few red leaves have stuck to one of her windows, no doubt carried over from the trees lining the street below. Most of their leaves have fallen in a shower of red and orange as they walk deeper into autumn.

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and Alex finds, surprisingly, that she’s not dreading it as much as usual.

That might have something do with the fact that Kara and her mom are on the other side of the world right now—New Zealand. Kara had a 3 episode story arc in Humans , and their mom had chosen to join her during her second week of shooting and stay until Kara was done. It was weird, being so much farther away from her sister—Canada seemed tame in comparison to New Zealand, but the distance and space from her, and especially from their mother, has kept Alex focused on her own work and not on overthinking their annual Thanksgiving dinner.

She’s skyped with Kara a few times since she’s been gone, and her mom when she arrived, and her sister has sent her a million pictures of the gorgeous scenery of the country. Kara should wrap before Thanksgiving though; and Alex—so different than years before—can’t wait for her to, and to be on a filming break herself. It’ll be nice to see them in person.

Her cellphone shatters the silence of her apartment. She goes to grab it from its place on her bed, and she sees it’s her mom. As though her thoughts summoned her, Alex thinks wryly.

She picks it up and swipes to answer. “Hey, mom.”

“Alex! I’m glad I caught you. I know you’ve been busy lately so I wasn’t sure whether I’d get voicemail.”

There used to be a time where she’d let her mom go to voicemail even when she wasn’t busy, when she was just too tired or hungover to handle her, but not anymore. She’s trying to get her life together, and part of that entails talking more to her mother. It still feels like she’s walking on eggshells around her—waiting for that deep sigh tinged with disappointment and ‘Alexandra’—but so far, it’s been okay. Not great, but they can get there eventually, and she hopes they do. Things...didn’t used to be like this.

Alex wavers as she tries to pinpoint the exact moment things between them went downhill.

Was it when her dad died? She remembers the long days that followed, and how she felt like a year would go by in a single day. Her mom withdrew, dealing with her grief, and left Alex to care for Kara, who was even more distraught than Alex. Alex had resented her for it, back then, because Kara hadn’t known her dad for as long as she had, but as the days passed she realized it wasn’t the first time Kara had gone through something like that. Alex’s grief wasn’t the tear filled sorrow of her little sister—hers was all red hot anger, and punishing guilt, and screaming into her pillow while locked inside the guest bedroom’s bathroom, so neither her mom or her sister would hear.

Maybe that’s when her relationship with her mom started to go to shit. Or maybe it was after, the period when her mother emerged, red eyed but resolute, and seemed to put all her energy into making sure she and Kara were happy and fulfilled. For her mom, accomplishing the latter with Alex had meant Stanford. It wasn’t hard for her mother to convince her to go, her younger self had wanted something different and stabilizing. She felt terrible enough about herself without casting directors looking her up and down, finding flaws and reasons for her not to get the part, or on the other hand, hiring her for her last name and out of pity because of her father. She’d hated acting then—not the job itself, but everything that came with it. And so college was the answer. Stanford.

Then she dropped out. Maybe that was the moment their relationship turned sour. She remembers the long, fraught arguments over the phone with her mom over her choice. Her mom had been vehemently against her dropping out, halfway through her degree, but Alex had been insistent. School wasn’t the change she needed. So she turned back to acting, to what she knew and had grown up with. And it was good, until it wasn’t, and her mom had to get a call about her daughter driving drunk. She’s glad she didn’t quit after, because this—Nightingale—feels like exactly what she needed.

She knows it was the right choice for her, and she wants her mom to see that too—maybe she will now, with her success on the show.

Her mother’s voice draws her out of her trip down memory lane.

“Alex? Alex are you still there?”

“Yeah, sorry, I just woke up,” she hadn’t, but the excuse slides easily off her tongue, “my head’s still kind of fuzzy.”

“That’s fine, honey. You must be tired with all those…extra shoots.”

Her mother’s inflection left no question as to what type of shoots she was referring to, and Alex cringes inwardly imagining her mother seeing those pictures of her and Maggie dressed up in ridiculous costumes.

“I am,” she says, then swiftly changes the subject. “It’ll be nice when we break for Thanksgiving though. When are you and Kara arriving in LA again?”

There’s a moment of silence on the phone before she hears her mother’s voice again.

“That’s actually what I’m calling about,” she sounds apologetic, and Alex’s stomach falls. “Production is running a bit behind here, and it looks like we won’t make it back to the states in time for Thanksgiving. I’m sorry sweetie, but we when we’re back we can have a late celebration okay?”

Alex swallows the lump of disappointment rising in her throat. “That’s fine. I’ll just stay in LA instead of Malibu and do my own thing.”

“Are you sure you don't want to go home?” Her mom asks. “You still have your key, right?”

Yes, but being alone in that house sounds like her definition of hell on earth. The memories would kill her before she managed to kill herself while trying to cook a Thanksgiving meal for one.

“Yeah, but there’s not a lot to do. I’d rather stay in the city, maybe I could call some friends, host a dinner...or something.”

“Well, that sounds like a great idea,” her mom says, clearly too busy to wonder exactly which friends she’s going to call, because she certainly didn’t approve of the last few crowds that Alex ran with. “We’ll have a real celebration when Kara and I get back.”

Alex hums in agreement.

She hates herself for feeling disappointed. If it was any other year, spending Thanksgiving alone with a bottle of wine and Netflix account would have sounded like an unattainable dream. So why does she feel the loss of their family dinner now?

She quickly switches gears. “So, you and Kara are good?”

“Yes, we’re doing well.” Her mom sighs. “It’s just beautiful here, we should all visit together sometime.”

“Sure, we could -“

“Oh.” She hears an increase of noises in the background, ”Kara’s done for the day. Sorry, Alex, I have to run, we’re eating dinner with the cast after this. We’ll talk soon, love you.”

“Right. Love you too, mom. Talk to you later-” The line goes dead. “Bye.”

Alex stares at the screen of her phone for a moment before putting it down. There goes her excitement for Thanksgiving.

Typical, the one time she’s looking forward to it the universe screws her over. She drags her fingers through her hair. It’s fine, there are plenty of places in LA that do takeout on holidays.

Alex sighs as she turns to walk towards her couch, in the mood for Netflix and nothing, when she remember Maggie’s tea gift. It’s definitely steeped now. She grabs it on her way to the television and takes a slow sip once she sits down.

Her face contorts into a grimace as the odd mixture of flavors slips down her throat.

She’ll stick to coffee.

 

 

 

 

Alex has a spring in her step as she walks to her trailer that morning, greeting some crew members along the way. Her gift for Maggie is heavy and prickly in her pocket, and she can already see Maggie’s smile in her head when she hands it to her. Initially, she’d thought, it was about evening out the scales, and maybe it’s a little about that, but she just -she wants to make her smile. That’s what friends do, isn’t it?

She lucks out when she finds Maggie outside her trailer, fighting with her things as she struggles to open the door. Alex gets it for her.

“Morning, Danvers,” she exclaims, climbing into her trailer while Alex holds the door open.

"Morning." She watches her move through her trailer, dumping her stuff along the way. She's not sure whether she should follow after her—Maggie didn't invite her in and she doesn't want to intrude, but then again continuing to stand here staring at Maggie probably isn't polite either. 

"Uh, so you know last week how you -"

"Sorry?" Alex can hear Maggie's voice from somewhere in her trailer, but it slowly grows closer as she jumps out of her trailer holding a water bottle and her phone. "What was that, Danvers?" 

The sun shines over Maggie's hair, making it look almost auburn, and she smiles up at her with the dimples in full force. She doesn’t understand how Maggie can be so cheerful in the morning. Alex suddenly finds that she's lost the ability to speak—she’s just never been good at giving gifts.

“Nothing,” she tells her. “It’s- it can wait. Yeah.”

"Mhm, okay." She looks amused now, and she's doing that head tilt thing again—which Alex privately thinks reminds her of the puppies she's seen at the dog shelters Kara visits sometimes, and which she’s dragged her to once or twice.

Maggie stares at her for another beat and then shakes her head with her smirk. "Well I gotta go, see you later." 

"That...you will." Alex drags her hand down her face as she makes her way to her own trailer, right beside Maggie’s.

 

 

 

Her first scene of the day is with James in the precinct.

She’s had a few more scenes with characters besides Blake than she expected. She figured she’d be the cardboard prop to Maggie, only allowed a scene with someone else every 6 or so episodes, but that thankfully hasn’t been the case. Of course the show is still Maggie’s show with Blake at the helm, but Claire is a better role than she initially thought. And ironically, the PR contract has erased any misgivings she might have had about playing a les- a woman who likes women. It seems insignificant now that she’s acting that way in real life.

Alex greets James with a small smile as she enters the precinct set. It’s not just Maggie who she’s been talking to more and hanging out with on set. She’s actually starting to feel like a part of the Nightingale family these days.

“Hey James, nice weekend?”

He returns her smile, his deep voice booming in the space. “Amazing. I got this thing called sleep where you lay in bed for ten hours and wake up actually refreshed the next day.”

“You know I’ve heard of that, but I always thought it was a myth.”

“You’re looking at a myth buster then,” he says, winking at her.

“I used to love that show!” she exclaims, thinking about all the afternoons she spent with Discovery Channel on as a kid.

“Me too,” James said, and then the production assistant is calling them over to begin the camera rehearsal.

Only two hours later their scene is over and Alex is relegated to what she’s deemed the waiting chair. She’s checking Kara’s Instagram to pass the time while she waits to be called for her next scene when there’s a sudden whoosh of air to her left. Maggie's plopped down into the chair at her side.

“Danvers.”

Alex raises an eyebrow. “Sawyer?”

“Did you try the tea?”

“I did! It was, uh,” she can feel the white lie on the tip of her tongue, but Maggie would probably appreciate her honesty more. “The flavor combination wasn’t my favorite, but thank you, again, for it.”

Maggie’s lips quirk up, “No problem. I’ll find a tea you like one day, Danvers. If you’d rather stick with coffee though,” she nods toward the coffee in Alex’s hand, “I heard Kopi Luwak is a great, very unique brand.” Her mouth twists into a smirk and Alex has a feeling she’s being set up for something. “You ever hear of it?”

She shakes her head as she takes a sip of her latte. “What’s so unique about it?”

“It’s cat shit.”

Alex breaks out into coughs, her coffee going down the wrong way. “Excuse me?” She asks, her tone incredulous.

Maggie only smiles broadly, her tongue poking out between her teeth. “It’s made from the cat feces of the Indonesian Civet cat. It’s supposedly the most expensive coffee in the world, but I’d be up for getting it for you—only from ethical producers of course.”

“You want me to drink,” she pauses for effect, “cat feces liquid? Really, Sawyer? What did I ever do to you?”

Immediately after the words come out of her mouth, she winces inwardly, she can think of quite a few instances early in their relationship wherein she subjected Maggie to her less than friendly or horribly awkward moments, but she knows Maggie wouldn’t bring those up now.

“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, it apparently has a multitude of health benefits like,” she pulls out her phone, and pulls up the information way too fast to not have planned this. “It can prevent cancer, protect your teeth, and since it’s less acidic than normal coffee it’s good for people who suffer from digestion problems.”

Alex’s eyebrows climb ever higher, but she can feel herself smiling. “So you’re just looking out for my health, is that it.”

Maggie turns her full gaze towards Alex and shrugs with a grin. “As any good coworker would.”

Alex is about to respond when she’s interrupted by a PA calling Maggie’s name, and Maggie shoots her an apologetic look as she stands and starts moving towards the entrance of the tent.

“Sorry, Danvers, duty calls, but-” she chuckles, her eyes glittering. “I’ll pick up some of that coffee for you later.”

The tent is quiet once Maggie leaves, the only sound the muffled noises of the crew.

Alex has never considered herself a social person, someone who revels in the company of others or likes to be the center of attention of a large crowd. She did it in high school because she didn’t have a choice, what with her family and everything, but Alex has never...had too many friends. She’s stuck close to a select few people in her life, and only one of them isn’t related to her (though J’onn is practically family at this point). Her lack of personal relationships has never bothered her, but as she glances over at the now vacant chair to her left—Maggie’s laughter still ringing in her ears—her life feels vaguely empty.

Like some vital element is missing.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie lets out a deep exhale as the director yells the final cut.

It’s been nothing but long, tiring weeks for weeks now, and since she’s the lead of the show she’s been working the longest hours. She can feel her exhaustion all the way down to her bone marrow, but the show’s been consistently pulling in great numbers comparable to the first season, which eases some of the pressure of her shoulders. She’s all too aware of the so called sophomore slump, how a show can be critically lauded and watched by everyone in its first season and then tumble down into the abyss of bad television in its next season. Nightingale has avoided that move by retaining its core writing staff and focus. The only real change this season has been the addition of Alex, and if anything it’s made the show better. It’s expanded their fanbase by opening the gates for the passionate shipper group to join in to root for ‘Dawson.’

She stretches and yawns as she makes the trek back to her trailer, willing her burning eyes to remain open.

Thanksgiving break couldn’t have come at a better time. She just has to make it back to LA and then she can sleep for four days. No work, no obligations, and no Anthony helicopter parenting the PR contract. He’d reluctantly allowed them to take a break due to the holiday, though he did tell them to include each other as one of the things they were thankful for in their turkey day posts. Spending time with Alex for the contract is hardly a chore though, and it’s certainly not what has Maggie sluggishly climbing up her trailer steps. Hanging out with Alex is almost like a respite from her busy days. Their conversations flow more easily now, and the frequency of painfully awkward moments has decreased—which Maggie is eternally grateful for. Alex is more comfortable around her, and it makes selling their relationship a hell of a lot easier. It also helps quiet the uneasiness in the back of her mind at a straight woman pretending to like girls for good press.

The moon is high in the sky by the time Maggie exits her trailer. It casts an eerie glow on the lot, only the skeleton crew are still around to shut down the set. Maggie plasters a smile on her face for the few people who wish her a happy thanksgiving as she leaves. As she approaches the parking lot, she sees a dark figure leaned against her car. She slows her steps, but then the figure steps into the street light and she sees it’s Alex.

“Danvers, hey! I thought you’d be on your flight back to LA by now.” The show had arranged a private jet to fly the cast back to California for the holiday, but as far as she knew Alex had opted out of it so she could catch an earlier flight back. She knows despite Alex’s apartment in New York, her life is still back in the golden state, much like Maggie’s. But unlike Maggie, Alex is here by herself.

It must be tough on her, uprooting her life for 9 months to live in a new city where she doesn’t know any of the people. Maggie knows smartphones and the internet can help bridge the geographic gap, but there’s a big difference between talking to someone on an electronic device and actually being with them. She doesn’t know how she would’ve handled it if Gabriella hadn’t moved out here with her. Sure, she told herself she could deal with it—as she does with any problem—but she’s honestly not sure. Her aunt is her one real confidante, the only person she can freely talk to about anything. Maggie doesn’t have to be the boss or the sweet, charming actress when she’s with Gabriella—all her meticulously constructed masks are removed and she can breathe freely. She’s not sure what she’d do if she had to brave moving to a new city and uprooting herself from her home—which for her, would always be her family.

Alex shrugs lightly.

“Nope. I decided to go back tomorrow with you and the rest of the cast. I don’t really have any reason to head home early now.” She takes a small step toward Maggie and pulls something out of her pocket: a wrapped small box. “But I wanted to give this to you before we left tomorrow. It’s just a small thank you for the tea.”

Maggie tilts her head, a small smile appearing. “You know the definition of a gift is something given without the expectation of receiving something in return, right? While I appreciate it, this,” she shakes the box and hears something rattle, “wasn’t necessary. Besides, you didn’t even like the tea.”

“It’s the thought that counts.” Alex shrugs, again. “And it’s not like it was necessary for you to buy me the tea to begin with. I’m just evening the score, so to speak.”

“I wasn’t aware we were in the midst a gift giving battle,” she shoots back drolly. “Fair warning, I’ve been told I’m too competitive for my own good.”

Alex smirks, and the space between them shrinks marginally as she takes another step forward. “Guess that makes two of us then.”

She wonders if Alex is even aware of her voluntary intrusion into Maggie’s personal space, usually she takes the opposite approach, maintaining as much space as she can between them—admittedly that hasn’t been much what with Anthony urging them to stand closer together in public. Maybe Alex is just used to her presence now after being exposed to it for some time.

“Mhm.” she moves back to stand directly under the streetlight as she opens her present. It’s nicely wrapped so she takes her time peeling the wrapping paper off to ensure it doesn’t rip. She looks up from her careful ministrations only to see Alex scoffing.

“Oh my god, you’re one of those people. Just rip it off,” she says, bouncing on the balls of her feet impatiently.

“You know for that comment I’m gonna open it extra slowly now.” She smiles smugly, the air about her sweet as syrup.

“Look the sooner you open it the sooner we can both get home,” Alex tell her, seemingly trying a new tactic. “You’ll just be throwing away the wrapping paper anyways so what’s the point?”

Maggie is quick to correct her, “I’ll be recycling the paper, but you have a point, Danvers. I didn’t want to ruin your beautiful wrapping though.”

“Please, I paid the cashier to do it for me,” she snorts.

“Well in that case,” she rapidly tears the paper off and looks inside the box: there lays a cylindrical tea container. Maggie takes a closer a look and she spots the “music box” tag at its side. A tea container music box. Her delighted laughter breaks the silence of the night, and she looks up at Alex whose face is positively beaming. “This is...perfect.” She makes the quick decision to envelop Alex in a short hug. “Thank you.”  

Alex returns the quick hug, and then pulls away, scuffing her heel on the pavement as she directs her gaze downwards.

“It was nothing,” she says, but Maggie swears she can see a faint blush rising up her face. It would be too easy to tease her for it, but she restrains herself, not sure if Alex would appreciate the action or not.

The silence between them stretches as Alex’s eyes remain glued to the ground and Maggie looks at the music box, turning it around in the dim light. The realization hits Maggie like a lightning bolt: she’s going to miss Alex, the few short days they have off.

“Well, um, I gotta go crash on my bed.” She puts the gift back in its box and places it in her bag. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Danvers.”

Alex finally looks back up at her, her skin back to its normal pale shade. She nods.

“Bright and early.”

 

 

 

“Ma’am. We’re at Teterboro Airport.”

The driver’s voice wakes Maggie up from her dozing. She looks out the window into the inky black early morning, and her breath fogs the car window as she tracks the slow progression of snow flurries drifting from the sky towards the ground. The weather forecast had predicted the rare event, snow on Thanksgiving, and Maggie almost doesn’t want to leave New York. 10 years removed from Nebraska and she’s still of the opinion winter holidays should be celebrated with snow. Los Angeles certainly won’t have any, maybe some rain if the state is lucky, but it will be nice to spend Thanksgiving not only with her aunt but also their old friends from the hotel.

Maggie slings her backpack over her shoulder and pushes the car door open, leaving the driver with a ‘thank you’ and a tip. She walks the short distance from the car to the jet plane sitting in the runway. The airplane door is already open. She must have really been tired if some of the others beat her here. She hopes she isn’t late—that wouldn’t look good—and checks her silver wrist watch for the time. It’s 4:48 AM. Winn told her the plane didn’t leave until 5:45 AM so she’s in the clear.

The plane is large and imposing in the runway, its white bulk standing out against the dark backdrop.

Sometimes Maggie can’t believe this is her life now. Riding private jets from one cosmopolitan city to the next. It’s a far cry from her very first airplane ride, where she was stuck at the back of the plane next to a coughing man and a crying baby across the aisle from her, unsure whether she’d be well received when she landed, or whether she’d be received at all. She’s not sure who was more scared back then: her or the baby.

“Sawyer!” James’ head pokes out of the airplane doorway. “I know you like the cold, but the plane is much more comfortable than just standing out there.”

She rolls her eyes, though James probably can’t see it, and traipses through the fluffs of snow coating the ground up to the stairs. “You native Californians don’t deserve the snow, I swear.”

James places his hand to his heart, affecting a touched air. “Why thank you Maggie, I wholeheartedly agree. We deserve the sun and blue ocean, not this wet dandruff.”

“Snow on thanksgiving, that’s a miracle,” she tells him. “You’re ungrateful.”

“Aren’t miracles supposed to be good?” he replies.

She rolls her eyes, refusing to entertain his pure nonsense. The plane is much warmer though.

It looks like she’s the last to arrive; everyone else has settled into their seats and most of them are already sleeping. In the front of the plane she can see a head of auburn red hair, currently resting on the owner's hand. Maggie makes her way to the front and deposits herself into the seat across from Alex, shoving her backpack underneath her chair.

Her arrival doesn’t appear to wake Alex, she looks pretty out of it actually—there’s even some drool at the corner of her mouth. She’s debating between waking the woman up or not, thinking her neck surely won’t appreciate being in that position for the entire 5 hour flight to California, when the pilot’s voice comes crackling over the speakers and does the job for her.

Alex wakes up with a cross between a snort and a groan issuing forth from her mouth, and she jumps slightly when she sees Maggie’s smiling face staring back at her. “Maggie!”

“Rip Van Winkle,” she greets, remembering the story her mom used to tell her as a warning against not sleeping in too long, and which used to give her nightmares as a child. She kicks her legs up onto the table between them only to realize a second later that her legs are too short to bridge the gap from her seat and the table.

Alex watches her legs fall to the floor and bursts out laughing, fully awake now.

Maggie grumbles, “Not a word, Danvers. You saw nothing.”

“If by nothing you mean your failed attempt at being cool then yes, I saw nothing.” Her lips twitch upwards, obviously trying to conceal a smile. Maggie isn’t sure how, but Alex Danvers makes tired, cold early morning flights look good. Her face is soft in the lights of the plane, and her hair is mussed from her nap.

“I have a witty rebuke on the tip of my tongue, but,” she yawns widely, “I’m too tired to engage in verbal war play right now.” Maggie leans back into her chair, pulling her left leg up underneath her other leg and curling into the corner of the chair. “The only thing I’m ready for is Thanksgiving and sleep. Lots of sleep. What about you?”

Alex shrugs nonchalantly “I’ll probably just sleep the entire break too. I’m not even celebrating this year because my mom and sister couldn’t make it home so...what’s the point?”

All Maggie hears is that she’ll be alone on Thanksgiving.

Maggie has some experience with that. It’d been her first Thanksgiving with Gabriella, and even though she’d told her aunt she was fine with her volunteering to work that day, it was not a great day for Maggie. She’d spent it watching TV and cleaning the living room for something to do. Her aunt brought her fancy turkey leftovers after her shift was over, but she would have preferred her company.

She feels bad at the thought of Alex going through that, and from there her brain travels to the next logical step. Her aunt certainly wouldn’t mind another person at their Thanksgiving...The more mouths she can feed the happier she is, although it’s not like many people are coming over, only a few of Gabriella’s old close friends from the hotel and Winn. And she has been bugging Maggie about wanting to get to know Alex better. She’s not sure Alex would want to come, but it can’t hurt to ask.

“My aunt is hosting a few people at my house for Thanksgiving,” she says quickly. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind another person coming.”

“Are you -you’re inviting me to spend Thanksgiving with you?” Alex's face is a picture of disbelief.

“And my aunt and her friends, yeah. And Winn -he’s my assistant. So, how about it, Danvers?”

Alex scrutinizes her, a frown on her face. “Do you expect cameras to be there?”

Maggie is mildly disgruntled Alex thinks the only reason she’d extend her invitation is because of their contract, but she smothers the feeling—an often used tactic of hers. “Not for PR, just -” she sighs. “Nobody should spend Thanksgiving alone.”

“I -,” she stops and looks out the window at the purple tinged blue sky. She’s fidgeting with her hands and bouncing her foot, and Maggie has no idea why she’s nervous. Maybe she’s trying to think up a nice way to say no.

“If you don’t want to come, that’s fine; I just wanted to let you know the offer is on the table.”

“Unlike your legs,” Alex blurts out, but she at least has the grace to look chagrined after it.

Maggie whistles and shakes her head disapprovingly. “Low blow, Danvers.”

“Just like your height. Sorry.” She winces apologetically. “That’s the last one I promise, the joke was right there, and I couldn't not take it.”

She glares at her before looking away to smile. At least Alex doesn’t look like she needs 6 fidget spinners now, even if it did come at the cost of her short stature. “So do you wanna come or not?”

“Yes,” Alex pauses, and her voice is surprisingly small as she continues speaking a few moments later. “Yes. I’d like that, thank you for inviting me, Maggie.”

This is the second time Alex has said her first name she notes—and she’s not sure why that’s the first thing to register in her mind from her answer. She’s never had a particular affinity for her name, definitely not for her full name, but hearing it come from Alex sparks an inexplicable warmth in her.

 

 

 

The loud clang of pots hitting the floor rouses Maggie from her slumber.

The time difference always trips her out, the fact that she left New York at 6:45 AM but arrived in LA at only 9 AM, and the one constant she had was how exhausted she was, regardless of the time. Upon arriving home, she’d greeted Gabriella in the kitchen—her aunt had flown in ahead of Maggie to get things ready— giving her a quick kiss on the cheek before making a beeline towards her giant king sized bed to crash. She hadn’t even bothered to wash the plane off of her—although there’s a different degree of dirtiness that comes from a commercial flight vs a private jet—and she’s now regretting the decision as her face is plastered to her pillow with sweat. She looks over to the bed stand, and the alarm clock shows 11 AM. An hour and a half nap, not bad.

Maggie slides out of bed and rummages around in her dresser for suitable clothes for the day. After a quick shower, she saunters into the kitchen feeling much more refreshed.

“Wonder Woman arises from her nap,” Winn is standing in her kitchen, munching on some crackers and cheese over the sink.

“Gabriella gave you the crumbs speech didn’t she?” She winces as she walks to the fridge for a drink. Gabriella can be a bit anal about these types of things, especially during the holidays. She can’t count how many times she’s eaten cookies or bread over the sink to avoid one of her lectures about how crumbs were an invitation for ants to infest your house.

“Yep. Hey, have I ever mentioned that your aunt can be scary?”

“Only a few...hundred times.” She leans against the counter next to him, “You know she likes to mess with you right?”

“Doesn’t make it any,” he shoves another cracker in his mouth, “less scary.”

“Where is my lovely aunt anyways?” She’d expected her to be in the kitchen fussing over the food, but only Winn is here. She can definitely smell that her aunt was here though. There’s a delicious air permeating the kitchen, if she had to take a guess she’d say its arancini.

“I hear someone speaking about me.” Her aunt’s voice floats down the hallway, and Maggie smiles. “Piccola, you’re awake.” Gabriella wraps her in a tight hug. “Good, you can help with the food. And Winn,” she smiles brightly, “you can wash dishes.”

Winn makes a face before he stands up straight and salutes her. “Chef, yes, chef!”

Maggie follows her aunt into the fridge, and Gabriella hands her some vegetables to wash before she chops them up. “How was your flight, jetsetter?”

Maggie shoots her a sardonic look. “It was fine.”

“So when did you tell Alex to arrive?” Gabriella asks. Maggie had taken advantage of the in-flight wi-fi to text her and let her know to expect someone else, and Gabriella had been excited to spend time with her.

“I told her to stop by at four.”

“Four?!” Gabriella throws a half of a brussel sprout at her head. Maggie ducks. “She’ll miss my appetizers! She won’t get to experience my full Thanksgiving extravaganza.”

“I don’t think she’s ready for that.” She rolls her eyes and flicks some water at her aunt as payback for the brussel sprout. “She seemed kinda hesitant to accept the invitation, and I didn’t wanna spook her by subjecting her to almost a full day of you so early on.”

“You make it sound like she’s a jittery horse, she can’t be that bad.” Gabriella pulls out a baking dish to throw the chopped vegetables on.

“She’s not...bad, she’s just more susceptible to nerves, around me at least.”

“Ah,” Gabriella looks over at her with a knowing smile on her face. “Another victim of your dimple craters.”

Maggie scoffs and pushes her shoulder lightly. “You’re the only one who believes that’s a thing.”

“I’m a visionary, what can I say. In ten years when the dimples effect is in the dictionary I’ll be lauded for my foresight.”

All Maggie can do is laugh, and she hears Winn chuckling quietly from his place at the sink. This is how Thanksgiving should be, warm conversation in the kitchen with the smells of food soaking into every corner of the house. It’s so warm and content she almost forgets the empty places she’ll always have at the table every holiday, but she never quite can.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie’s house in LA is definitely nice.

It’s smaller than Alex expected for someone who just starred in the hit summer film of the year, but then again, Maggie doesn’t seem to be one to flaunt her success like that. She walks up the white brick pathway, noticing all the impeccably trimmed foliage surrounding the house. Looks like Maggie’s taste for greenery goes beyond her degree, bonsai, and food, not surprising.

She stands in front of the large french door, just breathing quietly, preparing herself for what feels like a big step in their friendship. Maggie hadn’t phrased it that way, she probably only invited her out of pity, but Alex can’t remember ever spending Thanksgiving with someone who isn’t related to her.

It’s a holiday for family, and being here feels like a big deal.

She’s debating between knocking or ringing the doorbell when the door swings open, and a short man carrying a trash bag almost runs into her. It’s Maggie’s assistant, she thinks...Jim or something.

“Oh hey, Alex. Sorry, I mean Ms. Danvers.” He offers her hand, and Alex shakes it automatically. “Nice to see you again.”

“Right, nice to see you too.” She decides against telling him she hates when people call her ‘Ms. Danvers,’ she isn’t that old yet.

“Everyone else is in the living room or kitchen so,” he shrugs and steps out of the doorway, opening the path for her.

She steps into the warm, loud room. The house is filled with people and the smell of turkey, and some other food she can’t identify. Upon a closer inspection, she sees there’s not too many of them, she counts 8 people apart from Winn, and Maggie and her aunt are nowhere to be seen, but they’re laughing loudly amongst each other, and passing around plates of food—it seems like more people than there is. And Alex feels like a fish out of water.

The room pauses as they notice her arrival, and she gives a small wave. “I’m Maggie’s...co-worker,” she says, quietly.

“Claire Lawson!” One of the men exclaims, and walks over to her, greeting her with a kiss to both cheeks. “We love Maggie’s show! Very good actress, you are, yes.”

He has an accent Alex can’t place, but she smiles at the compliment.

“Thank you.”

“Fabio! Let her breathe!” Maggie’s voice exclaims, and then the woman herself steps into the living room. “Alex, I’m glad you made it.”

She greets her with a kiss to her cheek, and Alex is stunned for a moment. Her face burns at the spot Maggie’s lips touched, and she hopes Maggie can’t tell.

“Hi,” she tells her softly.

“You’re our guest of honor,” Maggie tells her. “Sit down.”

Alex can tell she’s the only newcomer here.

Everyone tries to include her in conversation, and they’re incredibly kind, but she can see a rapport between them that must have been built over years of friendships, and Alex can’t measure up to that. Her gaze drifts away, and she finds herself following Maggie as she moves through the room, refilling drinks and walking around with appetizers.

She is intrigued at this new side of Maggie she’s seeing.

She’s certainly never seen someone like her—a successful lead actress—serving food at a party, even if it’s hosted by her aunt. Most people would hire someone for that.

But Maggie just walks around the party, talking to everyone, popping out words in Portuguese and Spanish, with the guests that she obviously knows well. Winn makes conversation with her for a little while, but not even that can help with the feeling that she’s not a part of this group. She’s the outlier in the perfect modern Norman Rockwell painting.

When Maggie’s aunt finally comes out of the kitchen, holding a large dish of Lasagna, Alex takes the distraction as an opportunity to slip out the back door while everyone is occupied with the food. She won't be missed, anyways.

It’s warm outside, and she breathes in the perfect California air. It might be contaminated and full of smog—although New York’s air quality isn’t any better—but at least it's not fucking freezing.

“Sneaking out so soon, Danvers?”

She jumps at the sound of Maggie’s voice. She turns around, and the woman is staring at her, a slight frown on her brow.

“No- I mean. No. I'm just…” she shrugs.

“Everything okay?” Maggie looks concerned, and that’s not an expression Alex ever wants to evoke from her.

Alex sighs.

“I appreciate that you asked me over, but I-I don’t fit in there, I’m intruding.” She shrugs, again. “I think...maybe I should leave.”

Maggie nods, and Alex’s stomach falls when Maggie doesn’t outright deny it. She takes a few steps, until she’s beside Alex, staring off into the small garden in her backyard.

“You know...When I said ‘nobody should spend thanksgiving alone’ I was speaking from personal experience.”

Alex looks at Maggie, wondering in what world people wouldn’t want to spend the holidays with her.

“I’ve done it and it sucked,” Maggie says. “I cleaned the living room, and then I sat alone eating cereal and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.” She turns to look at Alex, “It was crappy. Come back inside, please?”

Alex nods. She follows Maggie back inside.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie isn’t a big wine drinker, but she serves Alex some red, a fruity, heady bottle that Gabriella has sworn up and down it’s delicious. The room has reached a lull, people lounging about talking quietly.

“So,” Alex breaks their silent companionship. “You moved here when you were fourteen,” she mentions, as she swirls her wine slowly.

“Yeah.”

“That must have taken guts. To leave your parents and everything,” she takes a big swallow of her wine and looks over at Maggie from underneath her lashes. “I could never be that brave, and certainly not at such a young age.”

Brave. That’s what Alex thinks she is. Maggie remembers her tears as her father bought her ticket at the airport. She can still feel the faint wisp of fear that crawled up her throat. It’s as if that moment is indelibly burned into her memory, she can remember every detail of it—the scent of the airport, the people glancing at them as they hurried to their destination, the voice of the flight attendant over the intercom. She wishes she didn’t. In college, one of her psychology professors had talked about how the brain can suppress traumatic events, but apparently she wasn’t lucky enough to experience that. Maybe lucky isn’t the right word, but it’s been ten years and the memory is as sharp as ever. Now isn’t the time for her self pity though. She shakes herself out of it and pours some more wine into Alex’s empty glass.

“It was hard. But it paid off,” she says. “Let me introduce you to a few people.”

Maggie walks Alex around the room, introducing her to Gabriella's old co-workers, the people who had seen her grow up as she walked in and out of a cramped, hot kitchen in an upscale hotel none of them could afford to eat in. After a while, she leaves Alex talking to Winn, while she goes to see if any help is needed in the kitchen.

She emerges half an hour later, after helping to make a dozen Strawberry Daiquiris.

Alex is playing pool with Winn, and laughing loudly...clearly a bit drunk. They both are. Winn can’t hold his booze, she's always known that, and Alex must have really liked the scotch Maggie had offered her after their glasses of wine had ran out, because she's stumbling slightly as she plays on the pool table Maggie pulled out of her basement just for tonight. She looks...freer than Maggie has seen her, unencumbered, but also just plain silly drunk. Maggie can't send her home like this.

She looks for Gabriella through the house, wanting her opinion on letting Alex crash at her place. Maggie has a single extra room with a bed—all the others turned into a private gym/yoga room, and a study—and it’s usually used by Gabriella. She actually finds her in it, in the middle of a phone call.

“It’s good, everyone’s really enjoying the food.” Gabriella laughs warmly, “Yeah, I'm sure you would.” Gabriella listens closely. Maggie wonders who’s on the other side of the line. “6 days, I’m going back two days later. Yeah, that’s enough.” Gabriella takes a step back, and nearly slams into Maggie. Her face is startled when she sees Maggie, and she quickly shuts off her phone.

“Who was that?” Maggie asks.

“Just...just work,” Gabriella tells her. Maggie frowns. Her aunt never lies to her, but her face looks almost...guilty. Maggie shakes her head. It's probably a misunderstanding. “Did you need something?” Gabriella asks.

“It’s just- Alex had a bit too much fun and, it doesn't feel right to me, to put her in a cab and send her home.”

“And you want her to crash here?” Gabriella finishes her thought and smiles. “Kid, I don’t know how you turned out so nice. It sure wasn’t from me.”

Maggie rolls her eyes and comes up to Gabriella, wrapping her arm around her and leaning on her shoulder. “You know you’re my role model right? You’re the person I always answer the ‘who’s your hero' question with.”

"Did you have a bit too much fun too? Because you're usually not this sweet, either."

"I'm not drunk!" She protests. She's slightly buzzed, if that.

“Well, in that case, you don’t need to butter me up to get me to agree to let her stay.” Gabriella leans into her and drops a small kiss on the top of her head. “This is kind of your house.”

“I know, but I just wanted to run it by you. It is kind of your room.”

Gabriella smiles.

“Yeah, it’s okay. I’ll just sleep in your bed with you. It’ll be like old times. Try not to kick me this time though.”

Maggie pulls away to look up at her aunt. “That thing again? I still maintain you kicked yourself. None of the people I’ve slept with have ever told me I kick during my sleep.”

“And that’s the end of this conversation.” Gabriella turns and starts walking out of the room. “I really didn’t need to know that, Maggie. Come on, let’s go be gracious hosts to our guest.”

 

.

.

.

 

Kara does great in her audition for Captain Marvel.

Their mom was with her, so Alex is the first person she calls with the news, and she pushes down on her selfish disappointment to sound as excited for her sister as she should be. It’s not Kara’s fault that Alex is a trainwreck, constantly having to catch up to her little sister’s success. Kara gets a callback, and she skypes her with the news. She does amazing in it, too, and Alex isn’t surprised when Kara tells her she’s sure she got it, and neither is she when she calls her two days later to tell her she did.

But a week later, when her casting is announced. That’s when it hits Alex.

Her sister is going to be the next big thing—the next Gal Gadot, the next Emma Stone. And Nightingale is doing well, really well, but even critic-lauded and fan-favorite TV is still...TV. She didn’t see herself as a small screen actress, when she was younger, and Kara had been the one to saying she wished she could get a regular role in some TV show, because she’d loved to stay in the same place and make friends for years...friends! That’s on the same level as how nice the bathrooms are for Alex, when it comes to picking a job.

But here they are, and she really wishes she could be happy for her sister instead of happy and jealous.

But she hasn’t evolved that much yet, which is how she finds herself thinking about it and mumbling under her breath as she picks out the best strawberries from the container in the craft and services truck.

Kara was perfect for the role when she thought about it, then again, she was also perfect for Supergirl, and Superwoman, and—Alex is sure there are a dozen superheroes calling for 5’8 women with blonde hair and blue eyes.

“....Just because she’s tall,” she mumbles under her breath, getting a dollop of Nutella out of the jar to go with the strawberries. She can say fuck it to her diet for a day or two. She doesn’t even like her private trainer in New York and going to the gym every weekend is a chore.

“I don’t know Danvers, I'm 5'3" and doing just fine.”

She jumps at Maggie’s voice, and turns around in the reduced space of the truck to find her looking at her, an amused look on her face.

“What are you going on about?” she asks. Alex shakes her head.

“It’s nothing,” she says, turning around and getting her little plate of fruit and chocolate spread.

Maggie hums, and she takes the jar of Nutella from Alex’s hands before she can close it again. She takes the spoon and pops it in her mouth, and Alex wonders yet again about what sort of diet she’ s on.

“I heard about your sister,” Maggie mentions around the spoon. She closes the jar, and she’s thankful Maggie hasn’t been double dipping. Nobody wants her saliva. Maggie takes the spoon out. “Captain Marvel? Nice. Congrats.”

“Not my role,” she says, and it comes out more biting than she intended. It just reminds her far too much of people congratulating her for her father’s successes, as if his Oscar win was just like genes and could be transferred from father to daughter.

Maggie frowns. “Tell her congrats from me, then,” she says. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” she says, picking up her miserable snack. She briefly wonders if another tablespoon of Nutella is out of the question.

“You sure?” Maggie asks, in her usual Maggie fashion. Alex thinks in some other life she could’ve been a detective. “What were you going on about earlier? About being tall?”

Alex blushes, embarrassed at being caught in one of her lowest, most petty moments. But she finds she doesn’t want to lie to Maggie. She never gets to just...let it out.

“It was about that, actually. The whole...Captain Marvel thing.”

“You’re not happy?” Maggie asks, surprised. Alex thinks that’s the appropriate response. She’s being kind of a shitty sister.

“It’s not that I'm not happy,” she tells her, lest Maggie thinks she’s a monster. And she is happy for Kara, after all. She’s just also...jealous. Mad, at being overshadowed yet again, and just when she was getting her act together again. “It’s just...there’s the PR thing and Claire and yet-” she struggles to explain it. She shrugs, finally. “My sister managed to outdo me once more.” Alex sighs. “You don't have a sister, you wouldn't understand”

“Right.” Maggie says, her voice quieter than Alex has ever heard it, and Alex wonders what is it she’s said.

“It just annoys me, that’s all,” she’s quick to fix. “I wouldn’t have been able to audition for that role. I’m not...beautiful.”

Maggie looks up at her, and she studies Alex in a way that makes her want to blush. She looks at her like she’s something...worth looking at.

“Yeah, you are, Danvers,” Maggie says softly, and Alex feels it in the pit of her stomach. She looks away.

"I’m not...classically beautiful," she corrects. She’s not the blonde, blue eyed bombshell that gets cast as Bond’s love interest. She’s not her sister, getting cast to play a superhero.

“I’m not 'classically' beautiful, either,” Maggie tells her, shrugging. “Hell, I don't even look 'classically' white. What’s your point, Danvers?”

Alex shrugs, embarrassed. She’d never thought about it. How, if her dark eyes were enough to be passed for a role, Maggie might have it worse with her looks and well -she was tiny, to boot. And yet she was the lead of the show. Maybe Alex should stop finding excuses to feel sorry for herself.

“You should call your sister and tell her you’re proud of her, even if you’re not feeling it right now,” Maggie suggests, grabbing a banana and stepping out of the truck. “It’ll matter to her at the end of the day, and to you.”

If she had a sister, Alex reckons Maggie might be a better one than she is.

 

.

.

.

 

Karacasting

.

.

.

 

She gets an email from J’onn a split second before King’s drops into her inbox.

They both basically say the same thing, in wildly different words.

King thinks the PR relationship is going amazingly, and it’s time for them to move forward with it, to finally confirm all the media’s suspicions and let people know they are, in fact, “together”.

She has to kiss Maggie.

King has planned it all, and they’re supposed to go ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza, and then kiss as they walk out, just in time to be captured by the paparazzi. Alex’s mouth dries. She’s calling J’onn the following minute, his number long memorized as its the first one she dials when she’s in trouble. This has been agreed upon and signed, but it still feels like one of those occasions.

“I take it you read your emails, for a change,” J’onn jokes, but Alex isn’t in the mood.

“It’s too soon,” she blurts out. “It’s too soon, isn’t it?”

“That’s not my call to make,” J’onn tells her, and Alex sinks further in her chair. She doesn’t want to kiss Maggie. She doesn’t want to because she doesn’t know what it will feel like, and she’s terrified it’ll force her to think about things she’s not ready to think about.

“Are you alright?” J’onn asks, and Alex is embarrassed all of a sudden. It shouldn't be a big deal. She’s 26 years old. She’s kissed plenty of people. This doesn’t...it doesn't have to be different. It’s acting. She’s kissed a lot of people for roles.

“Do you think you should talk to Maggie?” J’onn asks, and Alex shakes her head even though he can’t see.

“No. No, no. It’s just...it’s just a kiss. We don’t need to talk about it.” She’s never had a conversation like that with anyone, and she shudders even thinking about having it with Maggie.

“Are you sure?”

Alex pulls her laptop into her lap. The date is scheduled for Friday, a week from now, and that’s enough time for her to get over the ridiculous nerves swirling in her stomach -because that’s all they are. Nerves.

Stage fright, and nothing else.

“I’m sure,” Alex tells him. And she braces herself for the wait.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex refuses her help.

They walk into the Rockefeller ice skating rink, and though Alex is unstable on her feet, she sticks to grabbing onto the wall instead of Maggie’s offered hands.

Ice skating is what Maggie picked as their date this week, one of the two dates the contract allows one of them to choose, and Anthony had agreed when she’d run it by him. Maybe she should've asked Alex if it was okay too though. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying herself if her slow crawl along the wall and permanent grimace is any indication.

But Maggie enjoys the wind on her face, and the way the ice that’s just been smoothed is slick under her skates. She keeps a close eye on Alex as she does figure eights around the rink, and she winces as she sees her almost fall on the ice.

“Danvers, come on!” She slides up toward her and skids to a stop, her move kicking up ice flakes.

Alex shakes her head, letting go for only a second. She leans too far backwards and bats her arms to regain her balance before clinging to the wall again.

Maggie laughs despite herself.

She skates backwards in front of Alex, offering her hands.

“I won’t let you fall,” she promises. “Plus,“ she adds under her breath. “Think of how good it’ll look for the cameras. Come on, just take my hand.” She smiles reassuringly and adds as an afterthought in a sing song voice, “Take my whole life too.”

Alex gives her a look, “Cheeseball,” but the offer of great pictures seems to be the deciding factor.

“You better not let go, Sawyer,” Alex tells her.

“As Jack said to Rose, ‘never.’”

“Maggie, Jack let go and died in the movie what the fuck.”

Maggie laughs, “He totally could have fit on that board.” She receives both of Alex’s hands in her own and gently pulls her forward on the ice. Her hands are warm in hers, and she doesn’t even mind the death grip Alex has on them.

 

 

 

“You really like those death traps,” Alex mentions later, while they’re taking their skates off in the locker room.

Maggie shrugs. She really does, but after Alex fell twice outside—almost bringing her down once too—despite Maggie’s best efforts, it seems rude to rub it in her face.

“I’ve always liked it,” she tells her. From the time she was a little kid, there was always something magical about ice skating. She still remembers the first pair of skates she got, pink and white, and though the memory is sour now, as most from her childhood, she hasn’t forgotten the feeling of flying. She was a natural.

“Gabriella and I go ice skating every Christmas,” she tells Alex. “It’s our little tradition.”

“I don’t think I’ve tried it since I was a kid,” Alex mentions. “First time in years,” she says, pulling her foot out.

“Well, I’m honored to have popped your ice skating cherry,” she says without thinking. Alex seems to choke on air, coughing as she blushes, and Maggie looks down. She focuses on putting her boots back on.

“The last time I was in Rockefeller center though,” Alex mentions, changing the topic. “It was after hours and I...was so drunk I couldn't even walk straight.” Alex purses her lips, and Maggie frowns. It doesn’t look like it was fun, by Alex’s expression, and Maggie thinks maybe she’s misjudged Alex because of the public image of a wild, party girl that she had. Nobody gets blackout drunk for fun, Maggie knows that keenly.

“I bet they’re going to mention it when these picture comes out,” Alex says bitterly. “Seems like I can’t do anything right in their eyes.”

Maggie wants to...comfort her, and she’s surprised by how the tender feeling spreads through her chest. This woman...Maggie had resented her at first, for pretending, but she can’t...she doesn’t want to blame her, or judge her, not when she’s witnessing firsthand how torn she is over it all. Maybe, to her, this really was the only way. She’s no Elisa, no woman she’s ever encountered before. Alex Danvers is something else completely, and Maggie vows to herself to let her be her own person inside her head from now on. She deserves a clean slate, free from whatever judgements Maggie has made before. She thinks she’s just started to know the real Alex, and she’s not at all bad.

“Are you ready to go outside?” she asks, knowing exactly what it means, what picture they have to take.

Alex looks up, her eyes wide like a baby deer’s, and Maggie offers her hand. Alex nods, and seemingly steels herself before taking it and following her outside.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex walks two steps behind Maggie, her heart beating harder the closer they get to the spot. Everything, down to the place they’re supposed to be photographed in, has already been chosen, already been carefully manufactured down to the last detail. All she has to do is follow the script, but she still feels disoriented, out of control. Like she’s standing on a precipice, the freezing, angry waters waiting for her below, and the ground receding below her feet. Terrified, she squeezes Maggie’s hand tighter, trying to absorb some of her confidence.

Five steps later and they’re standing at bottom of the steps. This is it. She gulps, her head feels light and there’s way too much saliva in her mouth to be kissing someone. She tries breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth. In and out. Suddenly she feels a warm weight against her forehead, and she realizes she’s closed her eyes. It’s Maggie. She’s resting her forehead against Alex’s and looking into her eyes.

“Hey, it’s okay. I promise.” She takes both of Alex’s hands again, just like when they were skating.  

Her eyes are so warm they make Alex momentarily forget about everything, her nerves, where they are, what they’re about to do. She breathes heavily, this time actually getting some air through her lungs. Maggie is still staring straight into her eyes, it’s a bit disconcerting actually. Her eyes are so brown, and she can see flecks of honey in them this close up. Maggie smiles softly at her, and tilts her head questioningly, silently asking if she’s alright.

Alex isn’t sure.

But she still nods slightly and closes her eyes again. And then Maggie’s warm breath is ghosting near her mouth and she’s kissing her. Maggie Sawyer is kissing her—on the corner of her mouth. Her lips are silky soft as she presses them to her face, low on her cheek. Alex’s eyebrows shoot up, because it’s not what Anthony had planned, it’s not what they were supposed to do, but either way something inside her feels relieved. Some of the pressure on her chest eases as Maggie pulls away, and makes no move to kiss her again.  

Alex’s face tingles where Maggie’s lips just were, fluttering with a sort of electricity she’s never felt before.

“Let’s go, Danvers,” Maggie offers, nodding her head to where the car is waiting for them, and Alex nods gratefully, and follows after her.

Through the nerves and the overwhelming relief she thinks she discerns a feeling wildly different from the rest—disappointment.

Chapter Text

Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo : resolutely in action, gently in manner

.

.

.

 

rockefellerdate

.

.

.

 

Her ankles are sore from skating.

The doorman to her building is the only person Maggie encounters as she slowly makes her way up to her room, craving rest. Alex took the stairs as soon as they arrived, after jumping out of the car without so much as a goodbye, but Maggie let it go—she knows Alex has to be more sore, and in more places than her, not to mention still spooked after the past hour. Plus, she was too tired to do anything else.

She hasn’t had a chance to skate since last Christmas—she’s just been too busy to go any other time during the year with wrapping up season one, promoting her movie, and then beginning filming for season two. She knows she’ll feel sore come tomorrow morning. She’s already starting to.

Maggie gets in the elevator. As much as her ankles ache from the skating, her mind buzzes as she thinks about the previous hour. About the kiss—or what was supposed to have been a kiss. The stage was set, Anthony’s instructions were fresh in the back of her mind, and they’d both known what was happening that night. It would’ve been a big step in their public relationship. But they didn’t take it.

She arrives at her floor, and sluggishly opens her door. She deposits her keys and wallet on the kitchen counter and debates showering for a second before deciding she just doesn’t have the energy for it. The car ride hadn’t been long enough for her to sleep—it hadn’t even been comfortable.

The half hour trip back had descended into a fraught silence. Alex had slid into the seat farthest from Maggie, which wasn’t that far in the backseat of the black SUV. Though the physical distance between them hadn’t been large, she’d felt them drifting apart yet again, and after things had been going so well.

Alex had stared out the window the whole time—the passing night lights flashing across her face like some sort of moving projection clothed as an abstract art performance piece.

Maggie had always loved going to museums. In high school, she’d gone on a class trip to the MoCA, and it’d fascinated her, although she frankly hadn’t comprehend most of what her professor was saying at the front of the group. At the first chance she’d gotten, she’d broken off from the group to explore on her own. She wandered into some exhibit and had stood rooted in front of a painting that’d caught her eye. She can’t remember either of the names now, but she still remembers what had been going through her mind then. The image is fuzzy, but she knows the painting was a large scale portrait of a woman staring off in the distance, her body turned inward from the audience’s gaze. Her expression is what had intrigued Maggie; it was a mixture of contrasting emotions, one overpowering the other depending on what angle she was viewed at. Maggie could take a step back and see she was a heartbroken, or move closer and think she was happy, but nostalgic. She’d spent what felt like hours glued in front of the portrait trying to understand what the woman was thinking.

She’d felt the same way with Alex in the car.

She could confidently guess she’d been uncomfortable, but as to why...she had her ideas of course, but when she glanced over at Alex’s face again, she hadn’t been sure.

She’s always prided herself as someone who can read people easily, and that talent usually extended to Alex as well, but there were some moments she just couldn’t get a handle on her. It bothers her more than she likes to admit. Knowing who you’re dealing with is power in this business, and she despises feeling powerless.

So it eats away at her, Alex’s attitude regarding their scheduled kiss. Alex had been too nervous tonight, too flighty, looking too much at Maggie like she was a lion about to pounce and not her co-worker, her...friend.

It unsettled Maggie. There was no way in hell she could have kissed her.

She flexes her hand, and she can feel echoes of the memory of Alex gripping it progressively tighter as they made their way from the rink to the stairs. She had tried catching Alex’s gaze to gauge her mood and offer her some reassurance, but her eyes had been lost—unfocused—looking anywhere but at Maggie. And that, combined with way she’d been trailing after her had made her feel like a soldier leading a prisoner to the guillotine, except she wasn’t just the soldier—she was also the executioner, hand holding the rope attached to the suspended weighted blade.

When they’d reached the spot that would set them perfectly against the lights and offer the best possible angles for the paparazzi they knew were waiting—the spot might as well have been marked by a big x like on sets—Alex had looked paler than a ghost, and her hand squeezing Maggie’s had grown sweaty. She’d been breathing deeply too—well, attempting to, with little success. She hadn’t even paid attention to Maggie standing mere inches away, too caught up in her nerves and what looked like fear.

Maggie remembers feeling her forehead resting against Alex’s, holding her hands in her own. Alex was warm against her skin, and her short puffs of breath had lightly hit her face. She’d opened her eyes when she felt Maggie, finally looking at her. And Maggie had slowed her own breathing, her gaze steadfast, and smiled, trying to will Alex into a state of comfort. It had worked, marginally. Then Alex had closed her eyes again, bottom lip trembling slightly, and Maggie knew she wasn’t going to kiss her that night, screw what Anthony wanted. Alex had clearly been on edge.

Of course she had to do something, or one of the paparazzi would’ve been liable to come out there himself and smoosh their faces together (per Anthony’s orders most likely) so she’d guessed a cheek kiss was safe. And if her lips landed a little too close to Alex’s lips, well, so much the better for the contract.

Maggie’s kissed a considerable amount of people in her short 24 years of existence. She’s had the bad, decent, mind-blowingly amazing, sloppy, heated, choreographed—she’s fairly confident she’s experienced the entire spectrum of kisses. Her kiss with Alex hardly registered compared to those—it was only on the cheek. The kiss itself only lasted long enough for the long lense to catch it, and then she’d led them back to their car. Alex was still skittish as they’d walked through the parking lot, but Maggie wasn’t surprised at her behavior. They’d left her previous nerves behind a while ago, but PDA in front of the cameras was a whole other step. Of course she’d freaked out. Maggie doesn’t exactly...blame her for her nerves.

Apart from her words, when they first learned of the contract, and her general uncomfortableness around Maggie scattered throughout the first few weeks...she hasn't seen much evidence that Alex is a raging homophobe. She thinks she might just be one of those straight people, the kind to loudly support LGBT rights and say it's time for a lesbian Disney princess, but still look away when a same sex couple kisses. It’s not her fault, necessarily. She was raised in a heteronormative society—they all were—and she’s pretty sure she’s Alex’s first gay friend. Though she knows she can’t be the first gay person she’s been around. It is Hollywood after all, but she’s most likely the first one she’s spent an extended time with and in a more intimate manner.

She’s not trying to make excuses for her, and part of her still thinks that lying about her sexuality is inexcusable, but she understands her nervous behavior. It’s the other part she doesn’t quite get. In the car, Alex hadn’t look disgusted, as Maggie would have expected from a woman who couldn’t bring herself to kiss another woman. If she had, Maggie would have given her a piece of her mind, and she certainly wouldn’t be understanding of her actions—she had no right to be disgusted at the thought of kissing her when she’d agreed to this contract in the first place. But she hadn’t. She’d look...confused, almost, and somewhat scared, and that’s what threw Maggie for a loop. She doesn’t know what was going on in her head, but she’s made the executive decision not to hold it against her because whatever her reasons—after so many weeks on set with her, all the time they’ve spent together shooting and between takes, and everything they’ve done for the contract already—Alex getting freaked out over their first kiss for the cameras isn’t a hill she’s going to die on.

She just hopes Anthony won’t kill her for it.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie is late to set.

Alex knows this because she’s always there before Alex herself, and because she’s been standing outside her trailer door for 10 minutes—definitely not in a creepy way, she’s quick to reassure herself when she sees any passersby doing a double take upon seeing her—shivering in the freezing December air.

If she was a girl in a movie, she’d say she needed the cold air to think, but she’s not a fucking masochist, and she did all her thinking at home, late into the night.

Maggie had made the decision not to kiss her last night, surely spurred by Alex’s behavior—she’d been nervous and nearly frozen—and though Alex understands why she doesn’t understand…why.

She gets why Maggie wouldn’t go forward with what they’d been told to do—Alex was a mess, and that was on her, and Maggie surely wouldn’t want to work with her in those conditions, but she doesn’t understand why she’d go against King’s orders and risk breaching their contract. Did Maggie think she was so nervous she would’ve ruined it? Because it was just a kiss. Even if she didn’t want to go through with it in that moment, she would’ve been forced to suck it up, and she would’ve done it.

It’s not that Alex wanted to kiss her—she had to kiss her, and it throws Alex when things don’t go as planned, even more when she isn’t sure why. She isn’t sure how she’s going to ask her that just yet, but she knows she needs to. It’s just as she decides to sit down on her trailer steps that the inhabitant of the trailer walks up.

“Alex,” Maggie exclaims, surprised. “Hey.”

Alex jumps up to let Maggie unlock the door and quickly follows after her, shutting the door behind them. She needs to get this out before she loses her nerve, and it felt too private to ask over the phone. Maggie raises an eyebrow at her intrusion into her space, but she leans against her couch armrest, allowing Alex to speak.

“We were...we were supposed to kiss,” she states. “Why didn't we? Why didn't...you?”

Maggie gives her a look, but if she’s surprised by the question she doesn’t show it.

“I distinctly remember my lips touching your face, so I’d say I kissed you, Danvers,” Maggie tells her, but Alex recognizes the deflection in the joke. Maggie walks around her trailer, leaving her jacket draped over the back of the couch, and connecting her phone to a charger—why she doesn’t have it charged already is a mystery to Alex—but Alex doesn’t move from her spot. She’s not done.

“I’m serious.”

Maggie stops and crosses her arms, looking down. “You were nervous,” she tells Alex simply, meeting her eyes again. “Really nervous, and I couldn't kiss you like that, not even for a minute so they could take the damn pictures. It would have felt…” she winces slightly and casts her gaze at a point just past Alex’s face, “wrong, you know?”

It takes the wind out of Alex’s upset sails. She hadn’t seen it like that. Not even for a second had she stopped to consider maybe Maggie was stopping in deference to her, that she was trying not to make Alex uncomfortable.

A small part of her almost wants to blame Maggie for treating her with kid gloves, but it disappears as soon as it flares up.  It’s just -not even her junior prom date bailed on kissing her when she was too nervous, so why would Maggie?

“So you were looking out for me?” she asks. “Is that it?”

“And for me.” Maggie shrugs with a smile, and her eyes slide over to Alex’s. “I don’t do bad kisses, even when they're fake.”

Alex sputters, caught off guard by Maggie once more.

“See you on set, Danvers.” Maggie winks at her, winks —Alex didn’t think people seriously did that except on camera—and suddenly has her full swagger back. Her hips sway as she saunters over to the couch, which Alex only notices because no one’s hips move like that naturally, and she sits and props up her leg on the coffee table.

That’s probably her cue to leave.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie spends more time thinking about Alex’s incredulous expression than is healthy.

She’d thought it was obvious that she didn’t kiss Alex because she was looking out for her, and it would be fucking terrible if Maggie didn’t care about how the girl she was kissing felt, but Alex’s expression makes her think about what kind of assholes she’s dated in the past.

Maggie only read a little about that part of her life when they first cast her, and most of it about Maxwell Lord, boyband member turned actor and Alex’s former boyfriend, and she knows she has no place prying into her personal life, but -

Her cellphone rings.

Maggie blesses whoever is taking her out of her spiraling, before she notices the caller ID, and cringes.

“Hi?” she asks, more a question than a statement since she doesn’t know which Anthony she’s dealing with this morning.

“How did you wake up this morning?” He asks in turn, his voice is artificially bright. So it’s asshole Anthony. Maggie sighs. “Well?”

“Good,” she replies, wary. She hasn’t had to deal with asshole Anthony a lot, she’s always been the studio’s sweetheart, but the man has a temper at times, and she’s sure she’s about to be on the receiving end of it.

“Awesome!” he exclaims. “Wanna know how I woke up? I woke up sure I’d have a dozen reporters wanting a statement from me because your relationship with Alex had been confirmed!”

Maggie cringes.

He bulldozes on, building up steam, but his voice still sounds freakishly cheerful. She’d rather he yell honestly.

“But instead, I have an idiot paparazzi texting me, saying that from every angle possible it looked like you were kissing Danvers on the cheek, and asking me why I told him to get down there for a hen peck when I promised him a real scoop. So. What happened?”

“I-huh.” She’s seldom left without words, but she hadn’t planned on Anthony being genuinely upset. She hadn’t planned beyond trying to assuage Alex’s discomfort. “We got nervous,” she says finally, sharing the blame with Alex. It would be wrong to blame it on her when Maggie is the one who chose not to kiss her based on what she saw.

“You got nerv- You signed a contract! And you’re actresses, for God’s sake! This should be routine!” Maggie winces at his tone of voice. She hears him take a deep breath on the other side of the line, and when he speaks again, his voice is wildly different. “This messes up my entire timeline, you do realize that, right, Maggie?” He sounds...sweet. And it makes Maggie feel like a scolded child. “But you know what? That’s what I’m here for, to fix things. Good luck on set today, Maggie. Expect my email.”

She blinks. The call is closed on his end.

She’d heard about his mood changes, of course, but she’d never been on the other side of his anger. She’d gotten used to being the leading lady who could no wrong, and it’s a bucket of cold water that perhaps she needed.

She hates the way he just went about it, but he’s not...entirely off base.

They did sign a contract. She signed a legal, binding document, even when she didn’t fully agree with the enterprise in the first place. Being uncomfortable with the idea of dating someone for publicity is wildly different from being uncomfortable kissing a woman who doesn’t seem on board with it, though, and Maggie wonders just how much more the contract she signed will ask of her, and of her moral code.

After the year is up, will she be able to look in the mirror and like who she sees staring back?

And if she doesn’t, will this career she’s been building be worth that price? She never thought she’d end up here, but maybe it’s the inevitable price everyone in the industry ends up paying, at one point or another. She’s only now acknowledging it could be a reality for her.

For the first time, she can feel the full weight of what she agreed to do like an anchor around her neck, dragging her down. Anthony is going to control her and Alex’s every action for the following year, and she won’t be able to refuse again, not if she doesn’t want to breach the contract. This was strike one. But she knows in her heart that if given the choice to redo that moment, she wouldn’t do anything different.

She’ll be damned if she lets this business change who she is at her core.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex sighs as she opens the door to her apartment.

She’s too tired to even flick her light on, and she rubs her bleary eyes as she finds her way through the dark toward her bathroom. It’s 1 AM, and her Saturday has just ended. Weekend shoots are the worst. Thankfully they’re not shooting tomorrow—well, technically today since it is Sunday now.

She goes through the motions of getting ready for bed, and after she’s ready—makeup washed off and comfortable yoga pants on—she slowly drags her feet to the kitchen for a drink of water before she succumbs to sleep. Two steps away from the fridge, she hits her hip bone painfully against the corner of her counter, and as she grasps around to reposition herself her hand lands on a cold metal object, which definitely wasn’t there this morning when she left for work.

She frowns, and turns the lights on to get a better look at it.

It’s...a can. The shine of the overhead lamps reveal a small can of coffee. Amor Perfecto, the name reads. It’s a Colombian brand of coffee, she learns as she turns the can over. Her Spanish is a bit rusty, but she can parse out the basics of the coffee while scanning the ingredients. There’s a small sticky note stuck to the front of the can, ‘ No cat shit this time Danvers, enjoy.’

Alex can’t help the smile overtaking her face and the pleasant tingle traveling up her body. She pulls the sticky note off and reads the rest of Maggie’s compact—just like the woman—handwriting. ‘I stopped by during lunch to drop this off. Told the landlord I was your girlfriend to get in. Hope you don’t mind. (Btw, he likes the show.) Let me know if you like it! I can have more shipped for you.’

Maggie’s note is nice, but Alex’s words only register one word: girlfriend. That is what they’re trying to get the public to believe. She still shies away from word, but she brushes it off right now. She’s too tired to even think properly, because for a millisecond it felt nice and warm and comfortable, to think she actually had someone who cared about her that much, that she had a girlfriend. She’s fucking ridiculous when she’s almost asleep.

She leaves the gift on the counter for the following morning and heads to bed, water glass forgotten.

She dreams of beaches and coffee beans.

.

.

.

post-it-notes-clipart-2-(1)

.

.

.

 

Sunlight illuminates the open space of her apartment as Alex sits at her table, inhaling the scent of coffee. She takes a careful sip of Amor Perfecto. The taste is...different to any coffee she’s had before. She usually likes her coffee bitter and strong, and the cup she’s brewed is...but it also tastes like oranges. Or is that lemon? There’s a hint of sweetness to the after taste even with the minimal sugar Alex has added, and a prominent sort of fruity taste that makes her take a longer sip and try to figure it out as she holds it briefly in her mouth. It’s good. It’s really good coffee.

And now she has to think up a return gift for Maggie.

She refuses to lose their burgeoning gift off. She doesn’t know what to get her, though. It’s hard to think of a gift for a woman who has everything. It’s her yearly plight with her mother and Kara. She usually spends money on vacations and experiences, going sky diving or taking them to a new spa. She can’t just do that for Maggie? It’s too...intimate.

A light goes on in her head as she remembers the bonsais scattered throughout Maggie’s apartment when she was there two months ago. A small potted plant...she’d love that. It’s perfect.

She pulls out her phone to look up plant stores in the area. One of the first that pops up is Greenery NYC based in Brooklyn, which isn’t that far. She doesn’t have to be on set until 5. Destination chosen, she dresses quickly and pours some of the coffee into a to-go cup as she gets an Uber.

She’s too competitive for her own good.

 

 

 

Alex has an extreme of sense of deja vu, brought on by her own actions.

She is, again, standing in front of Maggie’s trailer waiting for her, but this time Maggie’s not late, Alex just got there earlier to ensure she could surprise her with the gift before they both get carted off to hair and makeup. She’s not sure why she’s put so much effort into a stupid plant—those 45 minutes she spent suffering through the store employee talking to her about every plant in their vast inventory is time she’ll never get back—but Maggie did take the effort to surprise her so it's only fair she do the same. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction...she loved that principle in school. Though her action isn’t technically opposite since gift buying is the same action but -

“So is this gonna be a regular thing, Danvers?” Maggie asks, suddenly appearing beside her and cocking her head. “You running a greeting service?” The dimples appear. Maggie climbs her steps and stops just before entering, choosing to lean against the closed door.

Alex has half a mind to ask whether she chose that particular location to stand so she could look down on Alex for once, not the other way around, but things have been...weird between them, since the night of the kiss. Or maybe she’s the only one feeling like the air between them is...different, somehow. Either way, she is on a mission, and she doesn’t have time to tease her.

She rolls her eyes. “You wish.” Maggie laughs at that, the sound of it tinkling through the air, and tilts her head. “No uh, I really liked the coffee, and I thought I’d return the favor.”

“You just couldn’t let me get in the last gift in this gift war, huh? Figures.” Maggie’s face settles into a smile, and her eyes seem to twinkle in the cold morning’s sun rays.

“I don’t give up that easily, Sawyer,” she replies, a matching grin on her face. She carefully pulls out the gift from behind her back and presents it to Maggie.  “I saw it and it re-” reminded me of you. It’s what she wants to say, what she was going to say, but she realizes now it sounds...wrong. That’s not something people say. “And I thought you might like it”

Maggie’s smile grows even wider, cutting across her face from practically ear to ear, and she quickly steps down the stairs to take the small potted cactus from Alex’s hands—looking over it the way Alex has seen Kara looking at puppies.

“It’s beautiful, Danvers. Thank you.” She finishes her inspection, the plant apparently up to snuff, and looks up at her, the now familiar mischievous glint in her eye. “Were you going to say it reminded you of me?” Maggie asks, and something lurches in Alex’s body, a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Is this how you see me?” Maggie continues, smiling. “Prickly?”

“No, it’s cute.” Her tone was joking, but Alex was still quick to correct her—too quick, because she clearly doesn’t think through what she says.

“You think I’m cute, Danvers?” Her right eyebrow arches upward.

Alex sputters. “No!” She stops. “Wait, uh, I don’t think you’re ugly or anything, but I didn’t mean it...that way,” she finishes, hating how stupid she feels.

“Mhm.” Maggie has a contemplative expression on her face as she turns to walk back up her stairs and opens the trailer door. She abruptly does a quick 180 turn to face Alex. “Guess I better work on that then.”

An inexplicable rush of heat flushes through Alex’s entire body, one she can only vaguely remember feeling in college.

 

.

.

.

 

Anthony’s email notification pops up while Maggie is scrolling through the news.

The preview lets her know this is the email she’s been expecting with a quiet undercurrent of dread, wary of what he’ll think up for them to do. Her thumb hovers over the mail icon, but she can’t put off the inevitable, so she clicks on it quickly. Better to look at it now so she has more time to prepare for whatever he’s chosen.

It’s a brief message. Straight to the point.

He wants them to turn the rumors about their relationship up to 11 by getting seen at a club together and having a short video taken by someone he’s paid off. Less of a mess, he says, if someone who frequents the club posts it on their Instagram stories. They just have to dance. According to Anthony, the resulting fan frenzy will take care of the rest. She’s not much of a party person, she’s tried to avoid that scene since her modeling days.

Back then, it’d been because she knew she was too young for it, and Gabriella would have killed her for it. But as she grew older and could legally enter clubs, she still rarely went. She was always too busy, and when she did have free time she spent it with Gabriella. She wonders, briefly, if she missed out on some experience most people her age have, some rite of passage or another. Then again, her adolescence was far from normal, there’s plenty of things she’s missed out on, and she doesn’t regret it.

The few times she did go to clubs it didn’t turn out well for her—one incident in particular jumps out at her. It actually could’ve sidetracked her whole career, if the news had leaked. Maggie has proven she doesn’t make the best decisions, drunk and lonely, in a dark club with pounding music. It’s not her scene.

Of course, now she does want the news to leak of this club visit, and it’s a simple enough request, but she can’t help resenting him a little for pushing this onto them; Maggie knows it’s her fault for choosing to be a gentlewoman with Alex though. She brought this on them. She gets another email just as she’s done reading the current one, also from Anthony—his private email this time, and not the King Productions one. She clicks on it, and reads his...specifications. It’s not just dancing, and Maggie swallows. What will Alex think?

Maggie’s done scenes with women before. She’s not new to it. A sex scene, even, in The Informant , and her co-star had been a stand up actress about it. They’d discussed the logistics of the scene and what they were comfortable with before it happened, and it went off without a hitch—as much as that was possible. Kissing on the job was always awkward, no matter how you spun it, and Maggie found her best kissing scene with a man and her worst with a woman about matched up.

Acting was acting, and intimate scenes always held a degree of discomfort, but at least she knew women. She’d been with women before. Her first kissing scene with a man in Rosewood Street had been nerve wracking if only because Maggie had let it build up in her head. At the end of the day, it hadn't been any different apart from the uncomfortable scratch of his beard, but she’d always wanted to play a gay woman like herself, if only to see if it would be less awkward.

She got her answer during Nightingale’s first season, and it wasn't.

It was still tiring, repetitive and uncomfortable—until it wasn't solely because after so many takes she’d grown used to it. But she felt in control and self assured in a way she hadn’t before, small and trapped beneath a man twice her size. (Their fans had loved their “height difference”. While Maggie had slightly resented the fact that she’d have said height difference with most of the population.)

It’s always weird to kiss someone for the camera, even if it’s a normal part of the job, and it can be even more stressful if the person you're kissing isn't the way you swing, so she feels for Alex. She’s been there. Their contract is another layer to it all, and although these days she doesn't give much thought to the other woman’s reasoning to...portray her sexuality as more colorful than it actually is, so to speak—though it's always at the back of her head—she doesn't want to make an uncomfortable situation any worse. And she certainly doesn't want to punish Alex. Maggie could never think that this is what Alex signed up for and so she should suck it up. It’s not who she is. Fake or not, she could never touch a woman if it isn't wanted.

They don't have to kiss tomorrow at the club.

Anthony is adamant about it, actually, but his vague descriptions of giving the tabloids something to write about, something unmistakably romantic—steamy is his word of choice—for the front page. Well, it’s bound to be problematic.

Especially when they couldn't even get through one kiss.

 

.

.

.

 

The low buzz of La Nuvola Bianca surrounds Alex, and she closes her eyes briefly as she soaks in the noises and smells.

She’s become a creature of habit the past few months and she knows it. She’d usually go out headfirst, and confront whatever came her way, but J’onn asked her to keep a low profile—to keep her head down—and so she’s stuck to a few good places, none of them clubs.

So when at 10 AM, J’onn had shown up at her door unannounced and insisted she get out of her apartment and enjoy the city for once—on her own time and not for the contract—she’d agreed. If it had been any other person she probably would’ve closed the door in his face, but with J’onn, she’d just thought of bringing him to La Nuvola Bianca.

“So what’s good to eat here, Alex?” J’onn tilts the menu down to look across the table at her.

She picks up the menu too and hums quietly.

“Well as someone who’s tasted the owner’s cooking multiple times now, I’d say anything on the menu will be great. Maggie’s aunt has a real talent with food.”

The waiter stops by take their order, and then J’onn’s full attention is on her, those kind eyes staring at her with kindness, as they always seem to do.

“How are things going? Personally?” he specifies. “I know on the business front it’s been remarkably good. Fans love Claire, and you and Maggie together.”

She shifts uncomfortably in her seat and bites her lip.

“It’s actually that last part that’s been...giving me some trouble. I haven’t gotten the chance to tell you yet, but -”

He cuts her off with a hand on her arm.

“Rockefeller.” It’s a statement, not a question. “What happened?” He stares at her carefully, his dark eyes understanding. Alex shakes her head.

“During the date you mean,” she states, buying herself some time as J’onn nods, and never stops looking at her.

Alex sighs.

“I got...nervous. Maggie must have noticed. We didn’t...you know.” She can't even say kiss out loud, how will she be able to actually do it?

“I know,” J’onn affirms. “And so does King.”

Alex looks up at that. “Did he say something? Did he call you?”

J’onn shakes his head. “I actually wanted to talk to you directly about it. I didn’t just want us to go out for the fun of it.” She feels briefly betrayed, before dread takes over. “He contacted you, actually,” J’onn continues speaking. “Sent an email this morning.”

“What does it say?”

“He said you and Maggie complicated the timeline he had planned.” J’onn very uncharacteristically rolls his eyes. “So he came up with another...event, for you to attend. To speed things up.”

A tingle of fear tickles the base of her neck. “What do you mean event ?”

J’onn nods toward her iPhone resting on the table. Right. It’s in her inbox. She slowly picks up the phone as if it’s a bomb, and she hands it to him, nonverbally asking him to do the honors.

He pushes the phone back into her hand. “Maybe it’ll be easier if I just explain.” He shifts his upper body closer and drops his voice, ensuring the natural volume of the restaurant masks their conversation—although they had been put in a more secluded area of it anyways. “It’s a club, Lavo. He wants you two to go and...spice things up. He’s not asking for any kissing though, just dancing together, like couples do.”

“Like couples do?” She raises her eyebrows.

“...Suggestively,” J’onn’s face looks pained by having to say that, and Alex isn’t faring much better. “That’s the exact word he used.”

She’s been to clubs before, far too many. She knows what game Anthony is playing, and she knows exactly what he wants. She isn’t 12 anymore. Memories flash through her mind of a sea of undulating bodies pressed together under colorful lights. She’s been there enough times herself, whatever man he’d picked for the night behind her, holding onto her hips. The thought of her and Maggie in that sea of bodies, partaking in the same activity stops her breath.

“What should I do?” Her voice comes out more pleading than she likes, but that is essentially what she’s doing right now.

“Do you want to talk about it?” J’onn offers, and Alex freezes at that. J’onn...J’onn knows , and that gives Alex come comfort, but she’s not ready to talk to herself about it, let alone J’onn.

“No.”

“You should talk to Maggie then.” J’onn says. Alex looks up, alarmed. “About the club,” J’onn clarifies. “It can be just like shooting a...love scene,” J’onn says, and Alex cringes the same way she did when she was little and her mom explained the birds and the bees. This isn’t a conversation she wants to be having with J’onn—or with anyone, for that matter.  “You can come up with choreography and execute it.”

Alex nods. It makes sense, but talking to Maggie about how they’re going to fucking grind at a club sounds like a solid nightmare.

“I hate to say it,” J’onn tells her. “And I don't want to pressure you, but I don't know if King will be as understanding if you don't follow his script a second time.”

 

 

 

It takes her a day to work up the courage to talk to Maggie.

She goes through her shooting for the day with a sort of nervous energy fueling her every move, and when she’s done for the day she hurries back to the trailers, hoping to catch Maggie in hers before she leaves for the day. This time, she doesn’t have a cactus to hand in. But her skin does feel like it’s being pricked by a million of those.

Maggie opens her door at the first knock with a knowing look on her face. She wordlessly lets Alex in. She sits on the couch and gestures for Alex to join her, but Alex thinks it’s probably best she keep her distance for now. She chooses to stand across from her—the coffee table separating them—hands dangling by her side until she stuffs them in her back pockets.

Maggie’s acknowledges her decision with a small raised brow, but otherwise her face is neutral.

“You read Anthony’s email and want to talk about it I presume?”

She’s glad Maggie said it and knew what she wanted to discuss, that makes it slightly easier for her.

“Yes,” Alex is proud her tone comes out strong, resolute, and not wavering like she is on the inside. Maggie adjusts her position for a moment, quiet, and then looks up at her.

“I called M’gann, apparently he can make us do that.”

Alex frowns. “You didn’t think he could.”

Maggie shrugs.

“I think there’s a difference between getting photographed simply kissing at a skating rink and giving people a show at a club,” she says. Alex swallows at her choice of words. A show . Maggie looks up at her, and her face softens. Alex wonders if she sees right through her. “We’ll do whatever you're comfortable with.”

Alex is taken aback for a moment.

“What about what you’re comfortable with?” Alex isn’t the only one in this PR relationship, and Maggie has been deferring to what she’s comfortable with since the beginning. Hell, that’s how they got into this position now.

Maggie shrugs. “I’m comfortable with anything.”

Alex’s eyebrows shoot upwards. She’s not sure that’s information she needed to know, or maybe she’s reading too much into her words.

Maggie’s own eyes grow wider as she sees Alex’s expression and realizes the potential implications behind her words.

“I mean —I know this is...new for you.” She raises both hands in front of her as a placating gesture. “And I don't want to overstep. So you can lead the march, Danvers.”

“I’m comfortable with whatever you're comfortable with,” Alex shoots back, not wanting to be treated with kid gloves, again. She’s a grown woman, she can and will handle this. It’s nothing she hasn’t done before, she tells herself. It’ll just be...with Maggie.

“That’s great, then,” Maggie says, tone conciliatory.

“Great.” She crosses her arms. There’s still more to talk about, though it’s thankfully less dangerous territory. “Um...what should I wear? King said he wanted us to match.”

Now Maggie looks amused, that small smirk curling the corner of her mouth upwards.

“I’ll wear black, Danvers. You can wear whatever you want. We’ll match.” She stands up from the couch and makes her way to the bathroom. “Give me a second,” she calls back. “I just have to return Blake’s clothes before I can go. We can keep talking outside.”

Alex remains standing in the middle of the room.

She takes a deep breath, the worst of it over. She’d like them to have a choreography to execute, like J’onn said, and she tries to mentally prepare herself for that conversation. Maggie is taking a while in the bathroom—it must take her some time to peel herself out of the jeans they put her in. Alex sighs, and starts looking around the trailer for lack of a better way to pass time. Maggie has one—no, two—bonsais here too. And her cactus, too, in the middle of her coffee table. Alex smiles. She has a few pictures up, most of them with Gabriella and a couple with James and the rest of the cast. Alex briefly wonders if she’ll be up there some time.

She wanders over towards the table by the mirror on the far left side of the room. There’s a few papers scattered on it, and she really shouldn’t be snooping—but she can’t help it when her eyes wander over them. She’s always been slightly curious of how much her co-star gets paid, it’s something not even J’onn knows. She sees numbers, and after a quick look to the bathroom door—still closed—she picks the page up. It’s...not what she expected. As she gets a closer look, she realizes the numbers are just tuition costs, it’s an invoice from a private school. Alex frowns. She knows of Maggie’s reputation as a player, but she wasn’t expecting something like this. She shouldn’t even be dating anyone because of their contract—Alex shakes off the ridiculous flash of irritation and what feels like jealousy—but just how old is her girlfriend?

It’s...fine though, she’s not here to judge anybody. She was almost guilty of the same thing once, even if in this case Maggie is the...benefactor, and not the other way around. It wasn’t rare. Pius X School , the invoice reads, and the first thing she thinks about looking at those words is her own private school, and being 16 and on the set of one of her father’s projects.

She only had a bit role in it, but she hung around on set long after it was over because she’d loved spending time with her dad. Her mom had been busy with a PhD at the time, and Alex had wanted her father’s company. And well, Martin’s. He’d played the son of the lead in the film, and he filmed a lot, but not so much that he didn't have time to talk to Alex. He was smart, really smart. He was only 21, and he’d graduated high school early so he could pursue acting. Alex was confident she could have done the same, but when her mother had suggested not skipping grades in high school so she could keep Kara company—Kara, who had skipped two—Alex had agreed. She'd skipped third grade already anyways. She could’ve graduated already, too, and Martin knew that.

Alex had always liked the way he talked about her and her intelligence. He asked her out, a few weeks before filming was over, and Alex said yes.

And then her parents lost it. They didn't approve of her dating someone older, and although Alex tried to remind them that she was mature for her age, as they always said, they still wouldn't allow her to go out with him. Kara, at 12, had a boyfriend of sorts at the time. The son of the cleaning lady next door, a quiet 11 year old that only ever talked to Kara. Kara’s English wasn’t that good, and his English wasn’t better, but they understood each other just fine in bits of English, Kara’s native French, and his Spanish. He made her laugh. Kara had even asked for her help to make him a Valentine’s Day card. Their parents had proclaimed their ridiculous puppy love ‘adorable’.

So why wasn’t she granted the same reaction?

She’d told Martin, who’d immediately told her that she was old enough to move out, that she didn't need them. Alex reminded him she was still in school, and that she was sure the minute she left they’d cut off her credit cards. She hadn't wanted to leave, not really...living away from her parents, living with a man, a boyfriend...it didn't sit right with her, and she’d never leave school. But he’d offered to pay for her schooling, said all his friends did that for their girls. He said he’d take care of her. That it wasn't rare in Hollywood.

What are you doing ?”

She drops the piece of paper by reflex, embarrassed at being caught snooping.

“Sorry. I was just -”

Maggie hastily grabs the paper and shoves it away inside a folder.

Alex tries to shrug it off. She can be cool about it. Plus—if she brings up their no dating rule, it’ll only remind Maggie of their first real fight, back at King’s house. Neither of them need that.

“You know, I had a boyfriend when I was 16 that offered to do the same thing,” she says. Maggie looks up. “Pay for my school, you know, since I was with him. I know how it is.”

Maggie’s expression is dark by the time she finishes her words. “This is nothing like that. I pay for my cousin’s education.”

“Oh.” She feels foolish, suddenly. And she fears she may have just truly pissed off Maggie, but how was she supposed to know? Maggie doesn’t talk about her family. But Alex has read enough about her many girlfriends. “Sorry. It’s just...you never talk about the rest of your family, apart from Gabriella. I don’t think I’ve read about them in the papers, either. I didn’t even think -”

“Obviously.” Maggie’s tone is still terse, but her expression is back to its neutral state. She sighs and looks up at the ceiling. “I’m not close with my family.” She turns back to Alex with a small, tight smile. “So for the club, I was gonna show you what I’m thinking of wearing. Let me just drop this off at Wardrobe and you can ride with me back to the apartment.”

Alex can spot the disjointed conversation change a mile away, and she doesn’t like it. She wants to know more about Maggie. She’s...so closed off, which one wouldn’t expect with a surface glance. She seems to talk to everyone, but Alex can’t think of a single conversation where she’s learned more about her—save for her brief mention of spending Thanksgiving alone.

“You’re not close but you pay for their education?” She asks. She moves her weight to her left leg and crosses her arms. “You must have a heart of gold, Sawyer.” She smiles teasingly, hoping to draw her out of her armor.

The smile falls off Maggie’s face, her eyes hard.

“I said drop it.”

She leaves her trailer, and Alex gets a feeling she isn’t coming back, so she rides back to her place in the car waiting on her. They never end up talking about the club.

 

.

.

.

school-invoice

.

.

.

 

The sunshine slants across Maggie’s bed, illuminating the various outfit choices laid out for tonight.

On her pillow is the classic little black dress, while a white blouse and black high waisted skirt lay at the foot of her bed, a blue dress she likes is thrown over the back of a chair, but she already told Alex she was wearing black. Maggie sighs. She’s not particularly in love with any of the options. She walks back towards her expansive walk-in closet, googling the night club Anthony’s sending them to as she goes. It’s an upscale establishment that ironically enough also serves as an Italian restaurant.

She rummages through her racks of clothes looking for something suitable and finally lands upon a pair of black leather pants. She looks back towards the bed, and the strappy white blouses matches well enough. She drops to her knees to look for shoes to match the outfit. She’s crawling towards the back of her closet when she hears Gabriella’s voice rising up from below.

“Oh Maggie,” she sings out, “I’m ready to judge your wardrobe choices and maybe your life choices too.”

Maggie yells over her shoulder, “Come on up, I’m in the closet.”

Her aunt’s footsteps enter her bedroom.

“I thought you left at fourteen, why the step backwards?” Gabriella laughs at her own joke, and Maggie suppresses a smile. “What will you tell your ardent gay fans who want you to and I quote, ‘shove your entire leg up their ass,’ which by the way I did not need to see.”

“It’s your fault for snooping over my shoulder on Twitter,” she says, muffled by the clothes hanging above her. “Got it,” she says triumphantly, her fingers closing around a pair of sandals that she bought specifically for her last trip to Disney World with Gabriella. They’re comfortable, and if there’s one thing Maggie remembers from the days where she forced herself to attend clubs for the networking—heels were terrible to dance with.

“What did you get?” Gabriella asks as she comes out, hair disheveled.

“My shoes,” she answers, throwing the leather pants on the bed and grabbing the blouse. She puts it on top, and drops the sandals to the floor at the foot of the bed. “So, what do you think?”

“Comfy chic,” Gabriella mentions. “I love it -” Her cellphone rings, and she takes a quick look at the screen.

“Who is it?” she asks, wondering if maybe she should go for some boots. She’s short enough as it is.

“Work,” Gabriella says quickly. “Give me a second, sweetie. And that blouse looks amazing by the way, two thumbs up from me.”

She gets up and walks out of the room, which leaves Maggie wondering since when does her aunt need to answer work related calls away from her. It doesn't sit right with her, and it’s the second time this month that she’s been left in doubt as to who Gabriella is talking to, but she shakes her head, and files it away for later.

She has enough on her plate for tonight.

 

.

.

.

 

The car stops right outside the venue.

The street outside the club, Lavo, is dimly lit by the panel of bright yellow lights above the blue awning. She read the place is also a restaurant, and she fleetingly wishes they were out for dinner instead.

She and Maggie get out quickly, mindful of the busy street and the honking drivers behind their car. Alex shivers the second the chilly December air hits her bare legs, and she starts walking towards the entrance, hoping the movement will warm her up. Maggie follows right beside her.

Alex eyes the long line outside of the club, full of girls waiting in dresses shorter than hers and strappy heels in the freezing cold. It’s the dress code of a place like this, Alex knows that, and she feels a moment of sympathy for everyone who has to wait. Alex knows Maggie is the only one getting through the door wearing pants.

This is a familiar scene for her, one she knows as well as the periodic table, and the memories aren’t welcome.

Until recently her life was nothing but dimly lit, sweaty clubs, short dresses, and dancing the night away to the soundtrack of excessively loud pounding bass, all of that  interspersed with set days before she was fired. After that, her days consisted of booze, shorter dresses, and bad sex if she was in a particularly self destructive mood. They keep walking towards the entrance, the winter cold slicing through her clothes.

Alex gives the line one last look. The only reason Alex hadn’t been one of those girls currently shooting them dirty look as they approach the bouncer had been because of her last name. If she wasn’t a Danvers, she would’ve had to wait in the cold, too.

They must know it, because Alex hears people’s whispers grow in number the closer they get to the entrance.

“Wait, oh my God, that’s Maggie Sawyer ,” comes one hushed tone towards her right.

“Informant...No, not the Netflix show, that spy movie ,” another higher voice jumps in.

Oh, the gay girl? Go ask for a picture !”

It’s Maggie Sawyer.

The girl with her is from that show too, the cop one.

Oh my God, ask for a picture!

But nobody does, and soon enough they’re at the door, closed off with the red velvet rope she’s used to getting hushed through.

The bouncer towers over them, especially over Maggie who barely reaches chest level.

He flicks his eyes over to Alex for a moment, before returning his gaze back to scrutinizing Maggie. He looks her up and down with a sneer. Alex has the sudden odd urge to step in front of her, as if to shield her from the giant before them. She brushes off the thought immediately after it pops into her mind.

“You’re not getting in just yet,” he tells Maggie, before jerking his thumb toward the long line, “back of the line like everyone else, compadre.

Alex frowns, not understanding where the fuck that attitude is coming from.

“Hey, I don’t know -“

She’s stopped by a hand at the small of her back. Maggie looks up at her with a quick warning glance as she pulls them both back from the bouncer—probably so she isn’t craning her neck too much to address him Alex thinks—and smiles brightly at him.

“The reservations were made last minute, but my name should be on there.” She pauses. “Maggie Sawyer.”

The bouncer looks amused at them, and Alex can recognize a guy on a power trip when she sees one. She suddenly feels the urge to get him fired—if she was younger and had more time on her hands, she would. The bouncer calls over a guy with a clipboard, and the man must clearly recognize them, because he goes white, and immediately talks to the bouncer in a hushed tone.

When the bouncer turns back, his expression is absolutely different.

“I’m sorry about the misunderstanding, Miss,” he tells Maggie quietly, and opens the barrier.

They’re led inside.

The place is crowded, and smells like air conditioning with a hint of sweat and the sickeningly sweet, dank smell of a certain strain of weed. God, it’s like she’s back in college.

They’re led to a table near the back, where there’s thankfully less people, and a waiter immediately serves them a bottle of champagne. They sit down, aware that they’re still early. King wanted them at a specific corner by 2 AM sharp, and it’s just barely 1.

“What was his problem?” Alex wonders out loud, thinking of the asshole at the door. She gets it’s his job to turn away people, that they can’t let everybody wanting to take a peek at celebrities in, but he didn’t need to act like that.

Maggie gives her a look. “He must have thought I was Mexican.”

“...So?”

“So, he’s a racist asshole, Danvers.”

Alex frowns. “But you’re not...not that it’d be okay if you were but you’re-”

“Yeah, it was misdirected, but it’s not about what I am or not with people like him, it’s about what I look like. He took one look at me and decided I was someone who didn’t belong in here.”

Alex frowns, her brow knotted.

“I’m…” she doesn’t know what to say. Sorry? Of course she’d noticed Maggie’s genes gave her beautiful tanned skin—she was actually jealous of it. She’d never given any thought to how that could be a problem for some people. But Alex knows most people aren’t like the bouncer—and especially not here, they’re in New York City for God’s sake. People generally don’t have problems with immigrants, be them Mexican or Italian. That’s not...that’s not a thing anymore, she’s almost sure of it.

“Forget about it,” Maggie tells her, taking a sip of the champagne flute in front of them. “This blows,” she mutters. “Want to order something else?”

Alex nods, easily shaking off the weirdness of the beginning of their night. It’s not something worth thinking about it.

She calls the waiter over and asks for a Black Russian cocktail, and Maggie corrects her, and asks for two. They kill time like that, and Alex is proud to have something where she knows more than Maggie. She smiles when she finds a drink Maggie likes, and she laughs when she finds a drink Maggie really doesn’t. Her entire mouth twists, and Alex finishes it for her. She won’t blame Maggie. She’s seen the woman can hold her alcohol, but absinthe is an acquired taste.

“It’s not even that strong!” Alex tells her. Maggie licks her lips.

“That tastes like the devil’s mouthwash,” Maggie tells her, and Alex laughs so hard she doubles over. She’d finish it for her, but she doesn’t think she can get it down without it coming out of her nose. “I’m glad you’re having fun, Danvers,” she states, before taking a look at the silver watch on her wrist. She sombers up. “It’s almost time,” she tells Alex.

All signs of laughter leave her body.

Maggie moves to stand up, but Alex holds her back with a hand to her arm.

“Just one more drink,” she tells her, and calls over the waiter. “Can we get two glasses of your best scotch?”

The man nods. Maggie gives her an amused look.

“Liquid courage?” Maggie asks. Alex smiles and nods.

“The best kind.”

The dance floor is crowded.

Sweaty bodies move up and down to the sound of the music, some Pop 100 tune she’s heard on the radio a thousand times on her way to work, when she didn’t tell the driver to turn it off. Maggie gives her a smile and a shrug, and begins bouncing up and down to the beat of the music.

“Might as well have fun!” She yells over the noise, and Alex lets herself be led by the hand to the middle of the throng of people. Surprisingly, she finds she’s more comfortable here than she was back at the ice skating rink. Maggie lets go of her hand, and Alex throws hers above her head as she begins to move to the sound of the music. She’s always loved the anonymity a crowd at a club offers, the way people just move as one without knowing each other or asking questions.

She’s pleasantly buzzed from their drinks, nowhere near where she got on her own, but it’s...enjoyable.

A different song comes on, a hip-hop one, and Maggie seems to perk up as she moves her shoulders to the beat. Alex laughs looking at her. Who would’ve thought. Maggie must notice her stare, because she looks up, and suddenly changes her movements. She looks at her with a glint in her eye as she starts doing the most ridiculous dance move Alex has even seen. She doesn’t even know what to call it, she does some sort of pop and lock with her arms like she’s clapping, but the actual clap never happens.

Alex laughs even harder, head thrown back, and Maggie smiles at her, tongue between her teeth. As she stops and returns to dancing like a normal human being, Alex realizes maybe making her laugh had been the entire point.

They dance face to face, and if Alex forgot about the contract entirely, it would really be like all those nights she used to go out before starting Nightingale, going out with her so called friends, except she’s actually having fun now. It takes her by surprise, but it's true. She knows Maggie, they’re actual friends, nothing like the women she’d met once or twice and who only ever showed up at night, so Alex could get them into clubs and they could get drunk on expensive liquor while there.

Her fun is cut short when Maggie calls her down—Alex hadn’t noticed, but Maggie is shorter than usual. Alex is wearing the heels that better matched her dress, and although they’re not too high, she has almost a head of height on her. Alex notices Maggie isn’t wearing heels at all, but...sandals. Was that allowed?

“We should probably, huh, move to the corner,” Maggie tells her, her breath hot on her ear, and Alex nods even as she shudders. Maggie shows her her watch after she pulls way. “We have ten minutes still, but I don’t want to be late!” she yells. “This place is crowded!”

Alex nods, again, and holds Maggie’s hand so they don’t get separated as they navigate their way to the designated corner, on the opposite side of the DJ. The crowd is packed less tightly there, and Alex actually has room to move freely, which is all the more nerve wracking.

The song changes before they get there, and it’s a song Alex actually likes, though she wouldn’t easily admit it. Sia, she recognizes. She’s met the woman, and she felt weird greeting her through her wig, but she makes good music.

Alex didn’t even know you could dance to music like this with a partner. It’s the kind of song Kara would blast through the house first thing in the morning, and she —she really shouldn’t be thinking about her sister right now, as she tries to dance with Maggie in a way that’s appealing, that looks like they’re more than friends. They’re dancing the same way as before, only closer.

Maggie stares up at her as she gathers her hair away from her neck, the strands sticking there with sweat, and Alex realizes once more how small she is. She feels half a dozen jokes bubble up in her throat.

“What’s funny?” Maggie asks, and Alex shakes her head. Someone pushes her from the side, and she ends up even closer to Maggie, but she’s grown used to the distance between them by now—or the lack thereof.

She tries to shake off the weirdness of dancing so closely with a woman, and tries to enjoy the song, even as she steps closer to Maggie. Maggie follows her lead, like she promised she would. She feels the tips of Maggie’s fingers pressing into her waist, but Maggie doesn’t pull her in closer. They’re just...closely orbiting each other as they dance. Alex closes her eyes and moves her hips the way she would if it was 5 months ago, and she’d found herself at some club trying to forget the last car ride she took with her dad. She lets her body move freely, and she doesn’t jump when it touches Maggie’s.

She opens her eyes when the song changes, and a second later Maggie nods towards her watch, even as she doesn’t stop dancing.

Alex swallows. She wonders briefly if King had them change the music just for them; it’s something his micromanaging ass would do. The song is slower than the one before, and Alex feels the loud bass in her chest, feels her heart beating along with it.

Maggie steps closer all of a sudden, to speak in her ear.

“I see the guy with the cellphone,” she tells Alex, her lips just brushing her skin as she speaks. Alex shivers. Maggie pulls away, but she’s still closer than before. It’s showtime. Alex feels nerves bubble up inside like an effervescent drink, but she’s distracted by Maggie, who grabs her hair in her hands and...sings along.

“You, huh, you like this song,” she mentions, or asks, she’s not entirely sure. Maggie nods a little, but she doesn’t smile, seemingly having slipped into a deeper level of focus. Alex wants to follow her. It’s not hard. Maggie’s body rises and falls to the beat of the music as she mouths the words. Alex doesn’t stop moving, letting her hips sway to the slower beat.

“....don't wanna be alone…” Alex stares at Maggie’s lips as she sings to herself. She’s enticing as she looks up at her, her eyes half closed and dark like ink underneath the club’s lights. Alex steps closer, until they're pressed together, her right leg between Maggie’s. She’s shocked at the heat for a moment, before Maggie’s warmth seeps into her and Alex only feels it like an extension of her own. Maggie nods.

Whatever you’re comfortable with, she’d said. But right now Alex feels doesn’t feel uncomfortable in the least.

Their bodies pulse together to the rhythm of the song, their hips almost slatted together. Maggie’s hand lands on her stomach, burning her. Alex feels like she’s breathing in smoke, or being intoxicated somehow.

“You can touch me,” Maggie tells her, her voice emanating from deep in her throat, and Alex does. She lets herself touch Maggie’s body and it grounds her. Her fingertips fall down her shoulder blades, her shirt sticking to her skin with sweat. She presses her palms against her back, the movement bringing them even closer so Maggie’s chest is pressed against her own. God, Alex can feel her breathe. Her rib cage expands against her body and hands and Alex feels like she’s living inside of her.

“You can, too,” she manages to get out through the thickness in her mouth.

“You can put your hands on me,” Maggie repeats, and just barely touches Alex’s arms, pushing them lower. Alex is surprised for a second, but she never stops to consider it, never thinks anything but — yes . Her hands slip down to cover Maggie’s backside, taut in the leather pants she’s wearing. She can feel her hips moving against her thigh to the beat of the music, and it’s even easier to match her rhythm.

She leans forward, her hair falling around her face, until she’s surrounded by Maggie. Her face ends up so close to her neck Alex can feel her hot breath bouncing off her skin. She jumps when she feels Maggie’s lips brush just below her jawline, as it sends a sharp jolt of something down her body.

The music rises to a crescendo, and in a spur of the moment decision she grabs Maggie’s hand and turns her around.

Her hands gravitate to Maggie’s sharp hip bones as she pulls her body towards her own, their bodies moving as one, her chest pressed to Maggie’s back. Maggie’s hair smells like spices and she’s so warm in front of her, her hands covering her own—Alex has never felt like this.

“How are you liking Lavo tonight?!” The DJ screams as the song comes to an end, and Alex gets shocked back into her body. She lets go of Maggie. She looks around, finally noticing the other people, and especially the man putting his cellphone away as he nods to the both of them, a slimy smile on his lips.

Alex breathes in, and pointedly ignores Maggie’s eyes.

The video has been taken, they’re done for the night.

 

.

.

.

 

Stupid. That’s the only thought racing through Maggie’s mind as she strips off her clothes, leaving a trail leading up to her closet.

She grabs a pair of old red boxers and a white shirt, which she roughly pulls over her slightly pounding head. She grimaces preemptively at the headache she knows is coming tomorrow morning. Besides the aftereffects of the alcohol though, the night was a resounding success. Anthony will be pleased, the jackass. Maggie frowns as she feels her stomach swim, the alcohol sloshing around. She should’ve tried to make Alex comfortable with less enthusiasm, or at least had more dinner. But she’d been nervous, just like Alex—at the beginning, at least.

She shivers standing in her closet, feeling the ghost of Alex’s hands on her.

They...definitely fulfilled the requirements. Perhaps more than needed, but it never...hurt to be thorough. Alex in particular, with the way she started dancing with her towards the end of the song. She didn’t think she had it in her, but she’s learning not to underestimate Alex Danvers. She was very convincing tonight. Maybe too convincing, if her body’s reaction is anything to go by.

Maggie walks back to her bed as she thinks of her own actions tonight. She hadn’t meant to press her lips to Alex’s neck, that hadn’t been part of the plan, but they were so close it just felt natural—and it would’ve been, if she was dancing with a woman she liked and not her co-worker. It was a slip up. A mistake that she’s glad Alex didn’t call her out on.

And Alex herself...She can still feel her body moving against hers from behind, to the beat of the music. Maggie hasn't been with anyone in ages, and she can feel it. And Alex is..she’s a woman, an attractive woman. Maggie would have to be dead not to feel...something, so near her, and with her hands on her ass...God. Stupid.

But it’s done, and they won’t be doing anything like it again, so it’s pointless to think about it.

She takes two aspirins before she falls asleep.

 

.

.

.

 

She almost takes a cold shower, but she decides against it when she thinks about the implications of it. She just needs to wash off the grime from the club.

The smell of the sweet, tangy perfume Maggie was wearing somehow wafts through her nostrils. Some of it must have gotten on her skin while they were dancing together—she has to wash that off too. 

She grabs her loofa and pours a generous amount of body wash on it, and then starts vigorously rubbing her skin. She doesn’t want to smell like a bar tomorrow morning. It takes her a moment to realize it’s the weekend and she doesn't have to film the following morning, but she doesn’t stop until her skin is pink, figuring it can’t hurt to be clean.

She washes the soap off with her hands, finally feeling more like herself. The warm water rains down on her as she runs her fingers through her hair and down her neck, feeling strange as she remembers Maggie’s lips on the skin there. That was an accident. She cleans the night from her body, and resolutely ignores the wetness she encounters between her legs as she washes it away immediately.

She doesn't want to think about it , but it's feeling more and more like she doesn't have a choice.

 

.

.

.

DawsonDailytwitterlayout

.

.

.

 

Maggie catches herself thinking about that night at Lavo as the week starts again.

Things have been weird between them the few times they’ve seen each other at work, and though she always thought it might be weird for a couple of days after things like this...she can’t help but place most of the blame on herself. She got embarrassingly caught up in the moment—she felt Alex jump when she kissed her neck, and afterwards she’d turned her around, as if wanting to keep Maggie away from her—and now she’s messed their relationship up. It’s like a constant cycle of two steps forward and three steps backwards with them.

This time she feels like the sole reason things have regressed again. Alex’s feelings towards gay women aside, she can imagine any person in Alex’s shoes would feel weird after the way she acted in that club.

She hopes it fixes itself soon. In the meantime, she has yet more things to worry about.

Time doesn’t wait for anybody, and the Golden Globes nominations are coming up soon. M’gann has told her based off the chatter her chances of being nominated for The Informant are good, but Maggie is never sure of anything. It’is a primarily action driven film, and she knows the Academy doesn’t always bother to consider action films over the indie hits. But M’gann has been successful in building the narrative around her as the next big star, and she’s seen this happen time and time again with other actresses.

They get their big break, the public falls in love, and then the awards follow. M’gann has taken her from point A to point B, and she trusts her in this. She wants to get there. Of course, what also ends up inevitably happening after ‘there’ is the fall from grace, as the public moves onto the next star and proceeds to shred the old favorite for even the smallest mistakes.

She won’t think of that now though.

 

.

.

.

 

The Danvers late Thanksgiving meal ends up taking place in mid-December.

A week after the club, Alex welcomes her mom and sister to her apartment, for a dinner that she’d been excited for in its moment, but now could only dread. Things had changed since November, shifted, somehow. And with her relationship with Maggie everywhere online and in the papers after the stunt at the club, she just didn’t want to face her mother.

There wasn’t much she could do, however, and tonight she found herself sitting under the careful gaze of the eldest Danvers, her wine glass empty in her hand.

“So...I’ve been seeing a lot about you and Maggie on the news.”

“Don’t mention it,” she pleads, and uncharacteristically doesn’t care that it sounds like she’s pleading. The thought of her mother watching that video—a video that she can’t bring herself to watch—is mortifying.

“I’m just—that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” her mom asks. “J’onn is happy?”

“Yes, J’onn thinks it’s good. But I don’t want to talk about it,” she states. “And I mean -Kara! How’s the Captain Marvel stuff going? That’s more important.” It’s the first time in her life she’d rather the focus be all on her sister. She’ll be happy to be ignored if all she brings to the table is a fake relationship she’s not too proud of.

Kara helps her out, turning the conversation away from her.

“Oh my God, Alex, they showed me the concept art for the suit and it’s- it’s unbelievable.”

Alex can believe it.

They spend the rest of dinner talking about it, and the topic naturally bleeds into Kara’s role in Humans , playing a sentient robot—and wasn’t that a paradox? They’d given her blue contacts that Kara had begged to take home. Her sister looks like a kid during Christmas as she promises Alex to show her how she looks with them on after dinner. Alex smiles and nods, but thinks to herself that Kara already has bright blue eyes. What was the point?

Dessert passes by in a blur of ice cream and brownies, and since tomorrow they’re all taking a walk through Central Park, her mom heads to bed earlier.

It’s only then, when she and Kara are putting the dishes in the dishwasher, that her sister brings it up again. Or rather, Alex does, because her little sister’s poker face is crap.

“Fine, mom is gone,” she tells her. “You can talk about it.” Kara tries to look innocent, but that expression started failing her when she hit 14.

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” she says. Alex rolls her eyes.

“Please, you're dying to mention it. I can smell it.”

Kara gives her a look before finally giving in.

“Nothing. It just -it looked real.”

Alex gulps. And the same knot of uncertainty she’s learned to live with during the past week threatens to choke her.

“Well, I am an actress.”

 

.

.

.

 

The Golden Globe nominations land on a Tuesday.

Maggie hates it, because that means she has to work, and she can’t stay glued to the TV screen like she’d prefer. M’gann had promised to let her know first thing if she heard her name come out of the mouth of one of the hosts, but Maggie has still been a jittery mess since she arrived on set. She curses the time difference between NYC and LA.

The nominations begin at 7 AM Pacific Time, which is 10 AM her time, and she still has an hour to go ‘till then. Her nerves and anticipations are almost so bad they derail her acting; it takes her a little longer than normal to film some scenes she’d regularly nail. Her mind is a thousand miles away in Los Angeles.

Finally, 45 minutes past 10, the PA tell her she got the phone call she’s been expecting. She’s thankfully finished her scene with Alex, who’s still acting somewhat cold towards her, and grabs the call, walking a short distance away from the set.

Her hand is shaking, and she tries to stop it with her other hand, but that one is trembling too.

“M’gann?” Her voice is breathless. She feels like she’s walking a tightrope above a 100 foot drop, and whether she makes it to the platform and safety depends on whatever words will come out of M’gann’s mouth.

“Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama.” Her voice is diffused with warmth and pride. “Maggie. You did it.”

“No,” Maggie’s voice breaks embarrassingly, but she doesn’t care at this point, it’s the fucking Golden Globes. “We did it.” And it’s true.

M’gann has been such a huge part of her success. From the start on Rosewood Street to Crush and now here. Maggie lets out a deep breath, and she can feel tears pricking the corner of her eyes. She feels like she just ran a marathon in the span of a minute, but it was worth it because she finished first, victorious and exuberant.

Thank you is what she tries to say, but the words get stuck in her throat. She closes her eyes, trying to regain her focus.

“Maggie? You still there?” M’gann’s question comes through the phone.

“Yeah, uh- sorry I just -”

“I get it, this is a big moment. I’m so proud of you, Maggie. You deserve this, and come January you’re gonna be walking up on that stage collecting that award.”

Maggie chuckles wetly. “If that happens, you’ll be the first person I thank, well, second after Gabriella.”

M’gann laughs too.

“I’m okay with that. You gonna call her up after this?”

“She’d kill me if I didn’t, and then how would I accept my award?”

“Call her,” M’gann tells her. “We’ll talk later, okay?”

Maggie nods vigorously, even though M’gann can’t see her. Words once again fail her.

“I will. M’gann I-” she doesn’t even know what to say, how she can put all of her gratitude into words. The human language can be so limiting sometimes. “Thank you for everything, I, uh, couldn’t have done this without you.”

“There’s no need to thank me, Maggie, you know that. My job is easy with a talent like yours.”

M’gann tells her she’ll be down to visit soon, and the call ends. She’s already trying not to cry, but she knows talking to her aunt will do her in.

Her hands are steadier as she dials her aunt’s number from memory.

As she’s waiting for her to pick up, she realizes her face hurts, and it’s because she’s been smiling since M’gann told her the news. The phone dial continues, and Maggie taps her foot impatiently. One of the few times Gabriella isn’t answering her phone right away and it’s only the most important day of Maggie’s career thus far. She hopes she didn’t let her phone die again while working, it’d be so like her. The phonecall goes to voice message, ‘Hello! I’m not available for some reason, probably related to cooking. Please leave me a message!

She sighs, her aunt probably did forget to charge her phone, or she’s busy. She scrolls through her contact list to the Ls and calls the restaurant line, careful to press on the NYC one.

“Hello, this is Maggie, I’m trying to call Gabriella and she isn’t picking up, could you tell her I’m trying to reach her?”

There’s a brief pause on the other end.

“...Maggie? Her niece?” It’s silent again, before the voice comes back in, this time much quieter. “Miss Sawyer, I’m so sorry. Your aunt she -she had a bad fall and was taken to the hospital. It just happened, that’s probably why the hospital hasn’t had the chance to call you.”

Maggie feels the world slow to a standstill. The sounds of the set vanish, and the cold biting air of winter is gone. Everything is replaced by the overpowering fear that consumes her. Gabriella.

“What hospital?” she asks the man on the phone breathlessly, snapping into autopilot mode.

“Mount Sinai,” he says. And Maggie is moving.

“My aunt’s in the hospital I’m leaving,” she tells the director as she jogs by him, headed for the parking lot. She stops a taxi outside and gives him the address, and then she’s on her way. It’ll be faster this way by minutes, but she resents not being able to do anything but worry as the taxi driver does his job.

Her mind flies with a hundred terrible possibilities.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex is free Tuesday night.

Everyone on set is, thanks to Maggie. All she knows is that Gabriella had a bad fall, because she didn’t even see Maggie leave set when it happened. She took a phonecall after they finished and then didn’t come back. Alex got the news from the baffled director of the episode, but even so, she felt her hands were tied.

She felt terrible for Gabriella—she liked the woman, and she’d be genuinely kind to Alex the few times they have met, but she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know in what hospital or clinic she was, or even if Maggie would want her to be there. Things have been strange between them lately, especially from her side as she can’t even look at Maggie in the eyes without remembering the way they’d danced together—but even if that wasn’t the case, Maggie might want only family. Or her other, older friends. In the grand scheme of things Alex is still a stranger.

That doesn’t keep her from being worried though.

And later that afternoon, when she overhears Louise saying Gabriella is at Mount Sinai, Alex makes the decision to visit her. Whatever...nerves she might be feeling following their night at the club, whatever she might want to avoid facing...none of that matters in the face of Maggie’s aunt getting hurt. She can’t avoid Maggie. She wants to be there. And so she goes.

Getting to Gabriella’s hospital room is more complicated that she thought. Alex had believed, from movies, that if you just gave someone’s name you’d be given a room number and that would be it. It isn’t. She’s just lucky that the nurse at the front desk watches Nightingale and believes her when she says she knows Maggie, because she calls to Gabriella’s room. After they give the okay, Alex is allowed to go up—not without the nurse mentioning to her that most of the surgeries she performed in Body of Medicine were impossible.

Alex gets in the elevator.

She briefly thinks of what to say to Maggie, especially after a week as weird as this one, that felt even worse because they’d be getting along so well. Gone were the days of their gift-offs, and Alex considers for a moment not going up at all, but falters as Maggie already knows she came.

If she left -that’s not who she is. She’s never been a coward with people before, and she isn’t about to start now.

The door is closed when she gets there, and she doesn’t want to knock so she softly opens it.

Gabriella is asleep.

It’s the first thing she notices as she slips quietly inside the sterile while room. The second is Maggie, sitting by her aunt’s bed, her back to the door. Alex clears her throat, and Maggie looks up. Her eyes are red and swollen, and it hurts Alex to see her like this.

“Danvers, hey,” she says with a rough voice.

“Is she going to be okay?” she asks, alarmed, nodding towards the bed.

Maggie chuckles.

“Yes, she’s going to be perfectly fine. It’s just a concussion and they’re keeping her overnight for observation. I’m just-” she chuckles again as she wipes her eyes with her fingertips. “I’m just being a wuss.”

“Maggie, no, she’s your aunt.” Alex is walking toward her before she realize what she’s doing, and then she’s enveloping Maggie in a gentle hug. Maggie returns it, tightly, and Alex wonders if anyone else has been with her today.

Alex pulls away, her hands soft on Maggie’s shoulders.

“You okay?”

Maggie nods. “Yeah. Sorry, I-”

“No, I get it. You love your aunt.”

Maggie sighs.

“She feels like more than that you know? She...she basically raised me, in all the ways that matter.” Maggie’s voice goes quiet, and Alex doesn’t take her hand away. Instead, she lets her thumb rub Maggie’s shoulder. Maggie steps away, not before giving her a thankful smile. She stands at the foot of Gabriella’s bed. “Do you, huh, do you remember before, when you asked if it had been hard to move and I said no?”

Alex nods. She’d thought then what she thinks now —that Maggie was brave. Strong.

“I lied,” Maggie tells her. “It was. It really was. But I had Gabriella,” Maggie says, and Alex recognizes the same tone with which she speaks about Kara when J’onn asks. Despite everything, Kara is her closest family in the world, and she loves her more than anyone. “My second month in LA I got pneumonia,” Maggie keeps talking. “I’d...I’d been stupid, walking through the rain without an umbrella. And Gabriella stayed at the hospital with me even when they threatened to fire her at work.”

Maggie looks up at her and shrugs sadly, and for the first time Alex wonders about Maggie’s life before she started being successful. The way she speaks about it, about her aunt being threatened with losing her job...it sounds tough. Her dad worked for himself, and her mom had her pick of hospital to choose from. Alex never had to worry about something like that.

“What about your parents?” Alex asks. “Didn't they support you after you moved?” Maggie doesn't say anything, and her silence is enough. “So they don't support your career?” Alex infers.

Maggie smiles grimly.

“You could say that,” she tells her, but Alex doesn’t get the joke. “Gabriella is the only one who’s always been in my corner,” Maggie looks down. “And I know this wasn't serious but...it just scared me, that’s all.”

Alex nods.

“I get it. And I...I wanted to see how you were.”

“I appreciate it. I know things have been-”

“It’s been weird on set-”

Alex chuckles. “Go ahead,” she tells Maggie.

“Things have been weird after the club. We both feel it,” she says. Alex doesn't deny it.

“I know, I’m sorry-”

“Don't apologize. You haven't done anything wrong.” Maggie is quick to say.

“I don't know about that. I mean -we agreed to this contract, we knew what we were getting into.”

“I know. But-”

“We should be able to be friends through it all, shouldn't we?”

Maggie nods. “So we grind at the club and we go to work together the next day, maybe get a friendly coffee?” Maggie mentions flippantly, and Alex, shocked, thinks she was right in her assessment of Maggie, that Thanksgiving night a month ago. She is brave.

“I like the sound of that -the coffee, I mean.”

“Sure you did, Danvers,” Maggie jokes. And some semblance of normal slips back.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie walks into the bathroom, intent on washing her face for any traces of tears.

Gabriella should be waking up soon to eat dinner; her aunt would never waste a chance to try new food and recommend improvements, even if it was hospital food, and Maggie doesn’t want her to know she’s been crying.

Alex’s unexpected visit and their conversation had her tearing up again, and she needs to wash that off her face. God, she’s such a dumbass. Once she loses her cool it’s like a dam has been opened, and all her emotions stray close to the surface for hours afterwards. She won’t blame herself for it today, not after she got the biggest scare of her life.

She’d desperately given Gabriella’s name at the front desk, only to be sent to wait outside the ER. She hadn’t, instead asking about her through the entire room to anyone wearing white coats. Thankfully, the nurses had guided her to where Gabriella was getting checked out by the doctor instead of kicking her out of the hospital.

Her aunt had been fine, for all intents and purposes, awake and speaking with the doctor, and Maggie had hugged her for a long moment, the sheer relief bringing tears out of her eyes. Gabriella insisted she was fine, even through the double vision and the confusion. The doctor had ruled she had a grade 2 concussion, and they were keeping her overnight in observation.

Maggie had readily agreed when Gabriella couldn’t fully explain how she’d fallen, because she didn’t remember. Brief memory loss was normal in those cases, the doctor had explained, but that hadn’t sounded the least bit normal to Maggie.

Contrary to what Maggie had believed her whole life, the doctor actually recommended Gabriella sleep and get as much rest as possible, so Maggie had forced her to try and sleep the entire afternoon. She’d been asleep for a while when Alex had arrived, and Maggie hadn’t dared wake her.

She splashes water on her face, and then takes a piece of toilet paper to rub away the eyeliner stains beneath her eyes. No wonder Gabriella was worried about her crying when it looked like that.

She’s almost done when she hears someone else’s voice in the room outside, and she throws the paper away, wondering if Gabriella’s dinner is here or if its the nurse coming to check on her. They said they’d do that through the night.

But as she opens the bathroom door to see a man she’s never seen before leaning over her aunt, and calling her Ella as she hugs him back—she’s shocked.

She’s even more shocked when they share a kiss on the lips.

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, hey, sorry we haven’t met yet...I’m Christopher.”

Maggie smiles, even as her entire stomach churns, putting her acting skills to good use.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Maggie. Gabriella’s niece.” Who the fuck are you? she wants to add, but she has a good idea already and she doesn’t like it.

Gabriella who’s been watching their interaction quietly until then, suddenly interrupts.

“Chris...do you mind getting me some coffee from the cafeteria downstairs?” she asks, and he frowns, before getting an Eureka expression and winking at Gabriella as he leaves. Not very bright then.

“Before you say anything, I know he really can’t lie, okay?”

Maggie ignores her aunt.

The fucking nerve to joke...Gabriella sits up, trying to meet her eyes, but Maggie pointedly looks away.

“Yeah, seems to me the only liar here is you.”

She can’t help but feel like a teenager again, feeling the bitter, biting anger that rarely overcome her as a teen take over in full now. She’s hurt, but she doesn’t want to feel that pain so she’d rather be angry.

“Maggie,” Gabriella sighs, and motions for her to come over to her bedside. Maggie walks over, crossing her arms and looking expectantly at her aunt.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” she says, and Maggie bites her lip. Gabriella is just confirming what she already guessed, that she was dating someone behind her back, and Maggie hates the tears that prickle her eyes. They never lied to each other. Never. “It’s just, it’s still new, and I wasn’t sure how long it would last, and you had so much to deal with, the contract, the new season, promoting your movie. I didn’t want to add anything that could stress you out. I know you always like to feel in control.”

“New?” That’s the word Maggie chooses to latch onto. “How long have you been seeing each other?” The memory of Gabriella on the phone at Thanksgiving pops into her mind, it must have been him then. And when she was getting ready for that night at the club.

“Three months or so, but it’s not that serious.”

Maggie is quiet. She turns her back towards Gabriella, and walks a few steps to the large window. She thinks it’s fitting the only view she has is of the oppressive black sky and the too bright street lights of the hospital parking lot. The moon is hidden behind clouds tonight.

She can hear the faint sounds of ambulance sirens in the distance, and a crying infant down the hall. She hates hospitals.

Her eyes are glued to the streets down below as her next words come out, softly.

“I think...you should rest. I’m gonna go, and I’ll see you later. If you -if you want help I’m here.”

“Maggie wait -“

Maggie ignores her, and she’s 10 steps away from the door when she makes the split decision to return to Gabriella’s bedside, and lean over her to hug her gently.

“I’m not...mad zia. I’m just -“ hurt is what she wants to say, but she doesn’t want to make her aunt feel bad. She’s not a lost little girl anymore, depending on her for everything, even not feeling left out. They’re both adults now, and she needs to act like one.

I love you,” is what she settles with before leaving.

She pulls her hood up and her worn black leather jacket tighter around her—she absentmindedly realizes she left her winter coat in Gabriella’s hospital room—as she walks down the sidewalk, not knowing where she’s going, but knowing she needs to do something. She walks, and after a dozen blocks go by she stops feeling the cold as much as she feels she’s become one with it. The freezing December night has seeped into her bones, and Maggie is thankful. She likes the way it makes her feel numb. She just doesn’t...understand. She tells Gabriella everything. Every disappointment, every hope, every bad date she’s ever had since she started dating at all. That guy...Maggie can tell Gabriella likes him, loves him even, and she doesn’t understand how there can be someone in the world Gabriella loves, that Maggie didn’t even know existed until an hour ago.

She somehow ends up back at her apartment.

She doesn’t know how long it took her to walk here, but she does register that her feet are sore and the bottom of her jeans are wet. Her teeth chatter as she enters her quiet apartment, locks the door, and immediately pulls out the strongest alcohol she has on hand.

She sits in the dark and drinks.

 

.

.

.

 

King’s next assignment arrives into her inbox early one Sunday morning, and Alex is ready for it. When he underlines that he needs a kiss for the cameras, she’s not surprised.

She knows the grace period is over, and either way, it couldn’t be more...demanding than the night at the club had been. Nothing could be like that. And so she swallows her nerves and her first order of business for the day isn’t even to call J’onn—but to talk to Maggie about it.

She goes up to Maggie’s loft just shy of midday—which is why she stops in her tracks when Maggie answers the door wearing nothing but a shirt that she can see, her bare legs rubbing together to preserve heat as Alex stands in the door, just...looking.

“Come in, it’s cold,” Maggie says, ushering her in, and Alex has no choice but to comply. It looks like Maggie has just woken up, and she’s about to offer to come back later when her eyes notice Maggie’s...she’s not wearing a bra.

She forces herself to look at her face only, and Maggie looks...tired. Different.

“Are you okay?” she asks, her embarrassment at catching Maggie unaware fading into concern. “How’s Gabriella?”

Maggie shrugs and diverts her gaze.

“She’s fine,” she mutters. Alex frowns.

“What did you want, Danvers?” Maggie asks, brightening up a little.

“Have you checked your email?” She asks, for once in their time together having the upper hand when it comes to information. But Maggie looks so down that’s it’s not even satisfying.

“No. Anthony, I’m assuming?”

“Yeah. The...kiss,” Alex tells her. “Next week. He said we can choose the place, so we don’t ‘get nervous’ again, but he wants it.”

Maggie nods. “It was a matter of time. Are you cool with that?” Maggie asks, and Alex is touched, that even with her aunt being out of commission and how it’s clearly affecting Maggie, she’s still concerned about her.

“Yeah, don’t worry about me.”

 

.

.

.

 

 

It’s strange not having Gabriella help her pick out her outfit.

The day of their first kiss date—or as her an Alex had dubbed it, Operation Basium, Latin for kiss, she’d been informed by Alex, and she’d agreed because it sounded funny—arrives bright and early, without a care about her being in a bad place with her aunt.

It’s been over week since Gabriella’s fall—from grace, her mind supplies—and she has visited her since then, given that she’s confined to her aparment, but all their visits have been tense.

She’d driven Gabriella home after her 24 hours at the hospital had ended, and her aunt had tried to restart their conversation, but Maggie had made it clear she wasn’t ready to talk about it.

Since then, they’ve mostly sat in silence when together, or opted for only discussing trivial stuff. It reminds Maggie of how she used to be with her mom, which she hates because Gabriella is so much better than her mom. She shoves that all down though, as she finished getting ready. Today is about her fake date with Alex, and she wants to be a good company.

She’s actually a bit excited to show Alex around the city she loves. It’ll be a nice distraction.

Maggie’s been to Manhattan for some modeling gigs and TV roles in the past, and she’s explored the city every chance she’s gotten. And every single time she discovers something new—she loves it. She doesn’t even mind the array of smells wafting through the air or the brown slush they walk through. It’s part of the city’s character. She’s not sure Alex agrees though—her face has shifted from contentedness to a slight grimace as they’ve walked down the sidewalk, through the icy mess left by last night’s snow—but she’s determined to change that.

She knows just the way to show Alex the magic of New York City, and she sees their destination up ahead. Staten Island Ferry looms large in front of them. It’s one of her favorite places to visit with...Gabriella, just to pass the time, and she’d sent the time and place to Anthony last night as required, so the cameras would be ready. All they had to do was show up.

She points ahead, and Alex finally recognizes where they’re going.

“Maggie,” Alex stops her midwalk with a hand to her arm. “Wait, I don’t have any cash on me, do they take Visa?”

Her expression is worried, and Maggie can’t help laughing.

“It’s free, Danvers.” She grabs Alex’s hand and pulls her towards the entrance with excited steps. “Come on!”

They make their way to the top level of the boat, two more people in the throng of bodies trying to get to work on the island, and Maggie finds them a free spot where they can lean over the railing. She looks out at the city and choppy waters below, and closes her eyes savoring the smell of the ocean and the invigorating cold air hitting her face.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” she turns to ask Alex. She stares at her with a small smile, but she shakes her head.

“It’s cold,” she states. Maggie smiles.

“I grew up in Nebraska, you know? And I don’t miss a lot from that place, but one of the things I miss are the winters. Good cold winters full of snow, the way it’s meant to be.” She chances a look at Alex, and her gaze is far away, as if she’s imagining Maggie’s childhood winters along with her. Maggie closes her eyes again as the ferry finally starts moving. “The one thing California couldn't give me," she tells Alex, even as she realizes it’s a lie.

There’s another, but that one’s more impossible than snow in LA.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex watches Maggie enjoy the day with her eyes closed, and though she huddles in her jacket—there’s something fundamentally wrong about it being sunny outside when it’s this cold—she likes the fact that Maggie is having fun.

She deserves to feel carefree after the scare with her aunt at the hospital. And she feels privileged that she gets to be the one to see it—even if it is being required by a contract.

The ferry moves along the water, and Alex barely notices the man on the other side of the boat, taking pictures of them. He at least does a good job of pretending to be a tourist and not a paparazzi. If she doesn’t look at him, she can almost feel like she’s a tourist herself, getting shown around the city by a friend.

Alex looks straight ahead—in the distance she can make out the Statue of Liberty. It looks...smaller than she expected, and she can’t believed she hadn't’ seen it before. They must have passed by it during their helicopter ride, but she must have been distracted—probably by the woman at her right. Maggie had been scared of the height.

She’d spent Thanksgiving alone once when she was younger, her parents don’t support her career, and Alex is sure she loves her aunt more than anyone in the world. She knows more and more about her every day.

Alex is about to point the monument out to Maggie, but she’s already noticed, if her sparkling eyes are any indication.

“Lady Liberty,” Maggie announces, saluting her. Alex hums in agreement.

“Give me your tired, your poor,” Maggie says, and it takes Alex a moment to realize she’s reciting a poem. “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Maggie says. “The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Maggie gives her a smile. “You ever heard it, Danvers?”

“I recognize some of it. It’s what’s written on the statue, isn’t it?”

Maggie nods.

She gasps, suddenly, and Alex looks behind her.

"What?"

“Your hair, look,” Maggie whispers, and Alex stays still as she touches the side of her head. “It’s a snowflake,” she says, but it melts too fast for Alex to see it.

“With this sun?” she asks, looking up and starting to feel the tiny pinpricks of cold against her cheeks.

Maggie shrugs.

“Sunshowers happen,” she says, before closing her eyes to seemingly enjoy the tiny ice particles hitting her face. Alex shakes her head, and finally decides to close her eyes too. It feels...cold. And not any different than before. But she feels well accompanied.

Maggie sighs.

She nods over her shoulder, pointing to the paparazzi.

“We can come back outside for that guy on the way back, give him his pictures.” Maggie shoves her hands into her jacket pockets. “Want to go inside now?” she asks.

Alex looks down at Maggie’s lips, and then shakes her head.

“Not just yet."

And then she pulls her in.

 

Chapter Text

Alis Propriis Volat : She flies with her own wings

.

.

.

 Twitter Post Mockup 2017

 

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

.

.

.

 

Alex tilts the to-go cup all the way back, trying to collect every last drop of coffee.

She probably shouldn’t even still be drinking coffee—it was one of the items on the do-not list the private trainer assigned to her by the show, Matt was his name, had given her. Alex privately thought they couldn’t have given her a more stereotypical dudebro guy. She persuaded him to let her continue having one morning cup of coffee. It helped her art and all that. She couldn’t act without it. (Actually, she couldn’t be alive without it.) Matt would’ve liked her a lot less without any coffee in her.

Alcohol was another thing she wasn’t supposed to consume anymore, but they both knew that rule wouldn’t be followed. Alcohol was a necessity of the job, everybody knew it, and she didn’t even drink much of it anymore either.

Done with her drink, she pushes her chair back—the metal legs screeching on the sidewalk—and throws her cup in the trash. She’s on her way out of the cafe when she passes by a magazine stand and a particular face catches her attention. It’s Maggie’s. It’s her Vogue cover. She looks regal in a white dress, looking off to the distance. Her lips are stained a brilliant red that contrasts with the white of her dress and the dark background. Alex briefly wonders how they shortened her hair to chin length when she knows the shoot was done a few weeks ago—Maggie had brought the interviewer to set and everybody had been notified to be on their best behavior for the day—but then she remembers the magic hair and makeup can work.

She spends another moment looking at the magazine before quickly grabbing one from the stand. She hesitates for a second before grabbing two more. She could surprise her sister for once. She hands the man a $20 dollar bill for the three magazines. He gives her $1 in return, and Alex tells him to keep it. Damn, when had they increased the price?

“You a big fan of hers?” He asks, nodding towards the magazines in Alex’s hand. Alex smiles faintly.

“Yeah, sure.”

She folds them and carries them in her hand the block to her apartment. They’re too big to shove in her purse, and Alex briefly wonders why her first thought is to hide them.

She rounds the corner to her building and slows as she sees a handful of paparazzi outside, waiting for her—or Maggie possibly. Their presence had gotten worse since they’d gotten the tip about where they lived while the show filmed, and it had reached an all time high since the kiss a few days ago. It’s never ending.

Alex stops to consider her options, wondering if it’s worth it to go back to the cafe to wait it out until they leave, or take a detour and enter through the back, but then she decides she’s being ridiculous. She’s dealt with the vultures since she was a child, and she’s not afraid of them—she’s not afraid of anything.

Even if she was, there’s no going back as they’ve already spotted her. She fixes a bright smile on her face, taking a deep breath as if off to battle, and strides into the fray.

“Alex! Are you gay?!”

“Alex, look this way! You’re gorgeous!”

“Did you see Maxwell Lord’s tweet about you? Any response?”

“What do you think about your sister’s Golden Globe nomination?!”

“How’s Kara?!”

“Alex is Maggie as a good a kisser as people say?!”

She inwardly scoffs at that last question, but smiles throughout.

“I’m really happy about Kara and Maggie’s nominations! Have a nice day everybody. Enjoy the great weather!”

As soon as the cameras disappear she lets a frown slip over her face. God, they’re fucking annoying.

She’s not entirely sure whether Anthony placed them there or not, but she didn’t tell him she was going out today and she’s fairly certain he doesn’t have people watching her (yet). That leaves the option that they were there for her, which in the larger picture is good, and they didn’t even ask her any alcohol related comments. It’s an improvement.

They still had to ask about her sister, though, the superhero. The Golden Globe nominated superhero.

After she’d gotten home from the hospital that Tuesday, she’d finally checked her phone—she’d turned it off in deference for Maggie and her own dignity, a cellphone going off in the middle of an emotional hospital room would've been embarrassing—and saw 5 missed calls from Kara and a few text messages telling her to call her when she had the chance. Ten minutes later, after listening to Kara’s screams and unintelligible rapid fire gibberish, she found out the reason. Kara, her little sister—who just started acting a few years ago and landed a fucking superhero role like last month—was also nominated for a Golden Globe, Best Supporting Actress in Limited Series or Motion Picture.

It was for her role in Highriders, the HBO Western themed short series she’d filmed this past spring. Alex had shaken off the jealousy curdling in her stomach and congratulated her, to her face, switching the phone call to FaceTime. She was happy for her sister, of course she was, and seeing her ecstatic face through her screen had instantly dispelled any lingering feelings of jealousy. Kara had been so happy and her happiness had been contagious. Alex promised to properly celebrate with a sisters night when she was back during her fast approaching winter break. She’d been about to end the call when Kara had told her to congratulate Maggie for her big nomination too. That had thrown Alex for a loop, but she hadn’t let it show—it wouldn’t do for her sister to know she hadn’t even realized her co-star had been nominated too.

Alex felt stupid. She’d quickly googled Maggie’s name and there it was, Best Actress for a Motion Picture Drama. She’d mentally slapped herself for not congratulating her while she was at the hospital. Then again, she’s not sure that was the appropriate setting to offer such congratulations.

That was what she’d gotten for taking a nap straight after finishing all the scenes they could on set without Maggie’s presence and not checking her phone before she’d collapsed into her bed. She hadn’t been sure of her course of action after that. Another gift? But that’d seemed silly in light of Maggie’s aunt’s situation. She’d settled on a text. A text was safe, and it’d let Maggie know she was happy for her, and that she wasn’t so self involved she didn’t know about the fucking nomination. She’d sent it, and Maggie had replied with a simple thumbs up emoji. The next time she’d seen her, Maggie hadn’t mentioned it, and neither had Alex. They’d both had more important, kiss related things in their minds.

She finally enters her apartment, and makes a beeline for the shower after dropping the magazines on her coffee table. She’d headed out for coffee and a small breakfast first thing in the morning, having run out of both in her own kitchen, and she hadn’t even taken a decent shower. She turns the faucet on, sitting on her toilet seat as she adjusts the heat.

Her phone rings with a text, distracting her from the task at hand, and she decides to take care of whatever it is before she undresses. She knows she won't be able to enjoy her shower with something to do right after. She looks at her phone, and it's J'onn. He tells her to call him, and she does right away. J'onn is...he's J'onn. 

"Hey, good morning," he greets her. "Are you busy?"

"No, I just woke up an hour ago."

"Do you want to be busy?" He asks. Alex frowns.

"Meaning?"

"I have four magazines knocking down my door Alex, and that's just for next quarter. You haven't given me an answer yet."

"Sorry." She touches her fingers to her forehead. She knows she hasn't, she's just been too focused on the show and on the contract to think about possible interviews. She hadn't wanted to, either. There was something vulnerable about letting people write about her. She could control the direction of the questions, and manipulate the interviewer, and fake what she needed to—Alex is pretty sure she could pass a lie detector test. But she couldn't control what they wrote, or the pictures that got published. She's an actress, sure, but she's always felt more comfortable with her private life in the shadows. Claire Lawson, her other characters...they're not real. But having 'Alex Danvers' emblazoned over a magazine cover is very different from a role. It's her.

"It's not a problem, but you do have to let me know if I can set it up."

Alex hums. She thinks about Maggie's magazine cover, waiting in her living room. She...wants that. Her mother would love to have another one, it's been over a year since Alex has gotten a spread like that. And with Kara about to film for her Marvel film...she doesn't want to compare herself, but it would be something to have her accomplishments out there, too. She hasn't wanted to, but that changes now.

"Sure. Yes, of course. As many as you want."

"That's a change," J'onn says, surprised. "Sounds like you're in a good mood."

"I don't know," she says. "Filming is almost over. I'm looking forward to the break."

"Well, that's good Alex. I'll talk to you later, okay? I have some work to do," he laughs. 

"Bye." She closes the call. 

J'onn's call was a welcome distraction, but the paps don’t leave her mind, and another comment one of the photo hounds made floats to her consciousness. Maxwell Lord. A name she didn't need to hear ever again. What they said was even more alarming than someone asking about her ex-boyfriend, though. They’d mentioned a tweet. Alex doesn’t do social media much, definitely not enough for J’onn’s taste, and the fact she missed this just proves it.

She reaches for her phone, and searches for his Twitter. She’d never find whatever it was in the sea of notifications she’s always drowning in, the good comments as equal as the bad.

It’s the last tweet from his account, from an hour ago.

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

Alex grits her teeth. Well, he’s as self centered and smarmy as ever. Some things never change.

Alex huffs. As if that was why their relationship ended. Nevermind that what she and Maggie had, and therefore the entire “gay” reason Max was trying to imply, wasn’t real, it had ended because they had nothing in common apart from one fucking hobby: science. And he’d spent far too much time explaining it to her, acting like her two years of college still didn’t trump the education his daddy had bought for him. He’d been a terrible kisser, too.

She strips and enters the shower, her mind ruminating over the subject. She can’t help but think back to her kisses with Max and compare to them to her most recent experience.

Her kisses with him had been sloppy and emotionless on her end. She can remember how he kept trying to shove his tongue down her throat, and it’s not a memory she likes. In fact, she’s tried to suppress it to no avail. Her kiss with Maggie had been...very different. It’d been a short, closed mouthed kiss. She’d pulled her in by the lapels of her winter jacket and just...done it.

The hot water pounding against her back is a refreshing wake up in addition to her coffee, but Alex doesn’t think anything rouses her quite as much as remembering that moment.

She can scarcely believe she did it, but Maggie had been looking at her with her cheeks pink from the cold and her eyes bright... And the paparazzi had been right there, and Alex wanted to do this on her terms this time. A small part of her had wanted to prove to Maggie that she wasn’t a little kid that needed to be handled with gloves, too. She was one half of their agreement, and it was about time she stepped up to the stage.

Kissing Maggie...It had felt good. The way kissing anyone feels good.

Alex was a medical student, she was almost a scientist. She knows science, and she’s done her research. Kissing—kissing anyone—increases the levels of oxytocin in the body, and endorphins, and dopamine. It’s human to enjoy kissing.  And Maggie’s just -she’s a good kisser.

She’d reacted the second Alex’s lips had touched hers, had gone soft and pliant against her, below her. Alex had never kissed anyone shorter than herself, or anyone that felt quite so delicate to the touch. Not that Maggie was weak, she was just...small. Her frame felt delicate yet strong below Alex’s hands. Her lips had been cold from the biting wind, but after a second they’d warmed against her own. And all the while her stomach had been fluttering, had felt positively efervescent, like Alex had decided to swallow a dozen Alka Seltzer tabs.

Her body had gone haywire. It had just...been. Happened. And the way her heart had sped up, had stuttered along almost to the rhythm of the choppy waters below, had been normal. She doesn't think there’s a person alive who could kiss someone else and not get nervous. It was basic science, response mechanism millenia old. It didn't mean anything more. (And there’s something almost liberating in that.)

It doesn’t mean what those paps had been asking—yelling—at her. That she’s gay. Though for the purposes of the contract she couldn't say no -well, she guesses she could, and let them think she’s bisexual, but J’onn told her the better road was to not adress things at all. He’d said it with a glint in his eye that Alex didn’t want to acknowledge. Like he was protecting her but also...sad.

And there’s no freedom to be found in that.

 

.

.

.

coverfinal

 . 

.

.

 

Maggie turns on the TV simply to fill the dead air in the room.

Gabriella stands in front of her, the kitchen island a barrier between them, as she chops basil to sprinkle over her frittata. The taste is too strong for Maggie, but Gabriella can never have one without it. Maggie chews her eggs as the sounds of early morning Criminal Minds re-runs fill the space. They don’t talk.

Gabriella had shown up unannounced early this morning, and Maggie had only known it was her and not a gifted burglar because she smelled her aunt’s signature frittatas, a scent she’d grown familiar with in her younger years. Back then, she’d gladly served as Gabriella’s test subject for new dishes she’d cook up for the hotel, and then later on for her own restaurant. Those were simpler times, harder for them financially, and shitty for her emotionally, but at least she and Gabriella hadn’t kept secrets from each other.  

And they certainly hadn’t trapped each other in the other’s own apartment, knowing that the person was too polite to ask them to leave

She still felt indebted to Gabriella, like everything she had was just as much hers given the amount of sacrifices her aunt had made for her—Maggie could never kick her out, and Gabriella knew it.

She takes another bite as Gabriella finishes fixing up her plate. The cheese melts on her tongue, and the broccoli is still crunchy, and even though it’s the perfect combination of textures she knows and loves, she can’t muster up more than a sentence.

“This is good,” she says out loud.

“Thank you,” Gabriella responds.

They eat their breakfast in silence.

It's not awkward.  It could never be with them. But it is tense, slightly, fraught with the knowledge that for some reason or another, a big part of her aunt's life had been concealed from Maggie. She only has a few bites  left  when Gabriella speaks  up.

“So...your Vogue cover. I saw it on all the magazine stands on my way over.” Her aunt offers her a smile. “You look amazing.”

“Thank you.”

“I read the interview, too,” Gabriella tells her,  and Maggie imagine Gabriella waking up early, like she did when they were younger, so she could be at the magazine stand before it opened or at the 7-Eleven near their old apartment. Back when they didn't get copies of the magazines sent to their apartment, but had to buy them like everyone else. She can remember Gabriella proudly telling everyone that would listen that the girl in one of the pictures on page 14 was her niece. 

In the early days of her career, when she wasn't sure she would succeed, every small picture on the pages of a magazine had felt like a win. Now she’s nominated for a Golden Globe, and posing on the cover of Vogue, and it doesn't feel as good as it did those days.

“The guy sounded like as much of a douche as you told me he was,” Gabriella comments.

Maggie nods, and takes a sip of her orange juice.

Vogue was a huge fucking deal. Even M’gann had said those exact words, and the woman wasn’t known to curse. And the interview itself had been nice, along with the interviewer, a man in his forties who—if a bit obviously enamored with her—had asked good enough questions. (She supposes it’s better to be interviewed by someone who loves you rather than the opposite; it at least guaranteed you’d be placed in a good light for the interview.)

She’d showed him around set, let him tag along at her photoshoot, and eaten lunch with him at La Bernardin—a restaurant chosen specifically to fit the elitist tastes she knew he had. She’d had Winn look into him, so she’d have a grasp on his character and know which face to present to him that day.

She’d quickly read over the copy Gabriella had brought, and it was a good profile, glowing really. She’d underestimated the interviewer though, some of his observations of her character—the way she carefully chose to present herself to the public—hit a little too close to home.

“You played him like a fiddle.”

Maggie softens at that. “Did you read the Gal Pals comment?”

Gabriella nods, seemingly excited that she’s finally saying more than two words to her. Maggie feels guilt bubble up, but it’s still overshadowed by hurt.

“‘A laugh that can’t be faked’,” she quotes. “Or whatever that was.” Maggie shakes her head. “I was faking it.” She snorts. “Gal pals.”

Gabriella laughs, and Maggie would be lying if she said she didn’t miss the sound. It’s been days, but she’s spent an entire decade with Gabriella...a week feels like a lifetime. And Maggie knows it’s in her power to fix it, but she can’t bring herself to yet.

“The interview was amazing,” Gabriella promises her. “I bought a dozen and I’m giving them to everyone at work. And the pictures -you looked like a princess.”

Maggie takes her plate to the sink the second her throat begins to itch and her eyes inexplicably burn.

“Thank you,” she tells Gabriella, her back to her as she scrapes off the last of the frittata and puts her plate in the dishwasher for later. She clears her throat. “Look, Aunt Gabriella, I loved breakfast, but I have to go exercise.”

She’s briefly surprised at herself for the way the title leaves her lips. She’d been raised to believe calling adults by their first name was disrespectful, and so Gabriella had always been ‘aunt Gabriella’, regardless of their ages. She’d called her that, too, after she first moved, but Gabriella had quickly trained her out of the habit.

But she feels like a kid again now, just a little lost, and it seems her language regresses with her.

“Exercise,” Gabriella says, her tone a picture of disbelief. Maggie turns around, slapping a smile on her face.

“Yeah. I’ve been trying to put more hours in. There’s the big fighting ring story line coming up next year, and with Christmas...I can’t afford to slack off now.”

“Right.”

“I’m just gonna use the gym downstairs,” she tells her. “You’re welcome to join me,” she offers.

But Gabriella doesn’t exercise other than running, and they both know that.

“I’m good, sweetheart, I’ll just clean up here and be on my way.”

Maggie nods, biting her lip.

The door clicks closed after her a few moments later, and Maggie doesn’t turn around to get a last glimpse of her expression. She doesn’t think she can handle it.

 

.

.

.

 

The cold air of the empty gym room hits Alex like a freight train as she halfheartedly warms up.

She’s going to have to ask the management to up the heating in her building’s gym. It’s clearly not working. She goes down on a lunge as she finally feels her muscles wake up. She’d called Matt, her personal trainer, and told him she couldn’t make it to their session today. The paparazzi were still outside, probably, and even if they weren’t, their yells and Lord’s tweet had left a metaphorical bad taste in her mouth. And a very real headache. Not exactly conducive to training.

But her personal trainer, of course, had then shown up at her door—his face far too bright for a Saturday. She wonders if King paid him to make sure she wouldn't gain a single pound; it fits his MO. But she doubts King would trust him to carry out his requests, even the simpler ones. Alex has learned over the course of their months together that Matt isn’t the smartest tool in the shed. Ask him about body fat percentage and he’ll give you a straight answer sure, but Alex doesn’t think he can name all the planets in the solar system. He’s nice enough to her, though, at least.

A loud clap from the corner shatters the quietness of the room.

“Okay! Enough warm up, time for the gloves!” He bounces on the balls of his feet excitedly, and Alex is suddenly struck with the image of a golden retriever waiting for their owner to throw the tennis ball—silly, but ultimately harmless. He kind of reminds her of a younger Kara, actually.

She walks over to the corner and grabs the gauze and tape on the floor, shucking off her thin jacket in the process. Hands wrapped and boxing gloves fitted on her hands, she turns to face the heavy bag swinging from the ceiling.

She starts off slowly, starting up a rhythm to her punches. It’s repetitive and steady, perfect for Alex to clear her mind—which she usually does do, but today she can’t seem to stop the buzzing of her brain. Her hits land a little harder as she picks up speed and loosens up, feeling sweat dripping down her neck and chest.

Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Matt giving her a thumbs up with a big grin on his face.

“Great form today, Alex. You’re really hitting those punches.” He laughs, “I feel bad for the person fueling those.”

She smirks and throws a particularly strong right hook causing the heavy bag to swing wildly off to the side. She stops it in its return path headed straight for her face, not even budging as its full weight impacts her arms and reverberates through her body. J’onn and her had trained with an even heavier one back in LA, on the weekends he could allow it.

And Alex is much stronger today than she was months ago.

“Never wrong to let off a little steam,” she shrugs nonchalantly, and he rewards her with another grin and offers she take a 5 minute cool down break, which she politely refuses. Alex isn’t about to break her rhythm now, and she’s having a good time. She’s always liked the idea of kickboxing—any exercise where she could hit things was amazing in her book— ever since she’d been introduced to it on set of one of her dad’s films. She’d watched from the sidelines as the actor had gone through the choreography of the boxing ring scene with his scene partner. And when she’d gotten home that day, she’d declared to the household she’d be picking up boxing along with her surfing. Like most of her impulsive ideas, it hadn’t materialized, and she had never actually practiced it until J’onn had asked her to go to the gym with him one Sunday morning, when she was fighting off a killer hangover.  

She realizes now she missed it. It was a healthy outlet for letting off steam, far better than blackout partying, even if she hadn’t been able to see it at the time. She can definitely see it and appreciate it now.

Today, the source of her hits is a smarmy, self satisfied baby faced man and his ridiculous tweets, and his even worse past behavior. Maybe past Alex, too, for ever thinking it would be a good idea to date him. Every thwack of the heavy bag is accompanied by an inward snide remark to Lord that she unfortunately hadn’t gotten the chance to tell him before their short lived relationship came to an end.

Half an hour later, she can feel her body slowing down, her muscles burning with exertion. Finally, she’s done, and then Matt pulls out a pair of 10-pound dumbbells.

“It’s arm day, you know what that means!”

She takes the weights without a word, and starts the practiced repetitions. It’s a lot harder now, but she knows she’s going to feel exhausted afterward, her mind clear, and so she pushes herself.

“Do you mind if I leave you at this? I have another client back at the gym.”

“It’s fine.”

Matt nods, and her with congratulations of a hard day’s work. Alex thinks about making this permanent thing. She hates going to the gym, and she has a private gym right in her building. She might as well use the facilities the show is paying for. It’ll certainly makes her life easier, and it’d prevent any sweaty post-gym paparazzi pictures from popping up on the internet. She takes a breath, and let’s her body fall forward, the dumbbells hanging from her hands.

She’s already fantasizing about her second shower of the day when a familiar pair of legs walk in.

At least, from her inverted position all she sees are legs at first, and then firm, toned thighs, and then -places her hands have been.

“Hey, Sawyer,” Alex says, straightening back up and putting the weights down.

“Hey, yourself,” Maggie says. She’s wearing a sports bra and form fitting leggings; Alex has never seen her like this. She realizes Maggie could have had a full back tattoo that she hadn’t known anything about. She doesn’t. Her stomach and back are toned and tan, like the rest of her body. Alex suddenly feels very self conscious underneath her sweat stained tank top. “We’ve been living in the same apartment for months and this is the first time I run into you,” Maggie says, putting down her bottled water on one of the workout benches.

Alex shrugs.

“I don’t really go out a lot,” she tells her. Cutting out her nightly outings meant that she had very little left to do but work. Most of the times she’d gone out this month, it was with Maggie herself, to fulfill the contract. Alex picks the weights back up again, starting her last set of reps. “I’m actually training here now,” she tells her, her choice made. “So I guess I’ll be going out even less.”

Maggie gives her a knowing look as she begins to wrap her hands. Alex didn’t know she boxed, too. It makes sense, that they’d put them in the same training regimen. She briefly wonders if that means they could spar some time. She’s never sparred with anyone, not even Matt, because he thinks she’s not ready yet. But she thinks she could take Maggie. She wonders if the sweat makes it harder to land hits, if their skins sliding together would make it-

“Danvers!”

“Huh?”

“The paps,” Maggie explains. “They got to you?”

“Oh.” Alex shakes her head to clear it. She shrugs. “It’s not worth it.” She’s not letting them trap her in her own home, she’s just deciding to pick her battles. And walking out of her apartment 3 times a week to encounter that particular bunch would only mean she’d eventually pick a battle she shouldn’t, and break someone’s nose. And she doesn’t need to be there again. She looks at Maggie, who’s pulling out a pair of boxing gloves, a pink stripe going down the middle. “It must be worse for you anyways,” she mentions. “What with the nomination and everything.”

Maggie looks up at her and shrugs.

“They’re more annoying than usual. I can deal with it.”

“You’re far more patient than me,” Alex tells her. She groans as she starts on the second set, drops of sweat sliding down her back and between her breasts. She can feel her biceps burn as she pushes herself to the end.

“If you’re stressed, you could come to yoga with me,” Maggie offers.

Alex chuckles as she puts down the weights.

“Thank you, but I think I’ll pass.” She takes a long swig of water before picking up her towel.

“Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried,” Maggie tells her, a glint in her eye.

“I’ll see you later,” Alex says, and starts walking toward the door.

“Wait, Danvers?” Maggie calls out. Alex turns around. “Help me out?”

Maggie’s arms are extended in front of her, both covered in boxing gloves, the velcro strap in her right hand hanging loose.

Alex walks back to her.

She takes Maggie’s forearm in her hand, noting the warmth and softness of her skin, and then wraps the strap snugly around her wrist.

“That okay?” she asks, looking up and then getting startled by Maggie’s immediate proximity. She didn’t realize how close they were standing. Maggie hums and nods her head. Alex shakes her head as she steps back. “How would you have put them on if i wasn’t here?” she asks her.

Maggie shrugs with one shoulder, and then makes her way toward the punching bags.

“Guess I’m lucky you were.”

Alex salutes her, and then makes her way out of the gym.

When she arrives at her bedroom, she forgoes a shower in favor of a more pressing issue.

She splits open the Vogue issue with Maggie on the cover.

 

.

.

.

01-to-do  002-flo-vogue 003-complete

004-FINAL-ONE 

.

.

.

 

Maggie gets to the makeup trailer ten minutes past her usual time.

It’s their last day of filming before their winter break, and it’s almost like her body knows it, already craving getting to sleep in.

“You’re joining me today?” she hears behind her, and turns around to meet Alex’s eyes. The last of the sleep fog leaves her as she wakes up fully.

“Well, this is my usual makeup trailer, so I’d say you are joining me .”

Alex smiles, and Maggie returns it.

“My makeup crew already went home,” Alex explains. “Set feels kind of empty.”

Maggie nods in agreement. Only the skeleton crew is around to keep things running, and she and Alex are the only members of the cast shooting today, apart from a few extras. They’re shooting on location until late tonight, and after that -they’re free.

“Soon enough that’ll be us,” she tells Alex.

“Not before our dinner tonight. And King’s party.” Alex rolls her eyes as she shares a look with Maggie.

Maggie spreads her arms beguilingly, smiling all the while. “Welcome to the life of glamour I lead Danvers.”

“Right, you’ve experienced his annual Christmas Festivities Bash before,” Alex winces apologetically.

“Experienced it just about covers it. I don't know about enjoying it.” Last year, it was filled with Anthony’s friends, all cut from the same cloth as him, and she doesn’t expect this year to be any different. Except for the addition of Alex—and the duties associated with the contract. She just knows Anthony will insist on some sort of spectacle from them tonight. He’s never been one to pass up an opportunity, and a Christmas party moment he can feed to the press to keep them occupied over their break is exactly the type of stuff he loves.

Alex gives her a grim smile, and Maggie laughs.

“After you m’lady,” she says, comically opening the door of the makeup trailer with a deep bow. Alex walks through, her cheeks pink from the cold.

“Maggie’s brought a friend!” Louise announces when she walks in, and Maggie realizes that Alex and the rest of the cast have their own makeup crew, and she has Mary and Louise all to herself. Apart from Maggie getting her makeup retouched between takes, Alex doesn’t really know them.

“Alex,” she says. “This is Mary, and Louise.”

“Nice to officially meet you,” Alex says, shaking their hands. “I’ve seen you around on set a few times.”

“Yes, we’re usually running after this one,” Louise jokes. “Sit down ladies, it’s the last day of school.”

They do, and Maggie pulls her leg up to rest on the seat of the chair, propping her other leg up and resting her chin on her propped knee.

“Wait...Mary and Louise?” Alex chuckles to herself. “My middle name is Alcott,” she says.

Mary looks at her with a frown. To be fair, Maggie doesn’t know where she’s heading either.

“What?”

“Louisa May Alcott. Author of Little Women ? Your names are almost like hers,” she supplies, her own connection from the similarity of their names to the famous author probably didn’t translate to the rest of the room.

Realization dawns on Mary and Louise’s faces, but then they look at each other, almost twin-like,  and their face blank at the same time.

Mary looks at Alex very seriously. “I never learned to read.”

Alex’s face goes pale.

“Oh. I’m so-”

Louise breaks first, laughing  “Oh my God kid, lighten up,” Mary says. “I’m kidding! I’m kidding!”

Maggie, chuckles, but then stops after a look at Alex’s face. She’s embarrassed at being the butt of the joke, no matter how harmless, and Maggie feels a bit guilty.

“Oh, leave her alone,” Maggie says, rubbing her hand over Alex’s shoulder. She’s not a touchy feely person, and she’s come to realize neither is Alex, but it feels natural. “When I first met them,” she tells Alex, “they had me call them by the other’s name as a joke for an entire week.“

“What can we say, we’re old women. Pestering you young things is our only joy.”

“Dramatic,” Maggie notes. “You should’ve been actresses too.”

“We’ll leave that to you,” Louise says, taking out the bottle of foundation. “Now sit back, both of ya.”

Maggie does, and the process of putting on her makeup seems longer than it does daily, almost how the last class before Spring Break seems to last a year.

“I do read,” Mary tells Alex a little while later, as she’s delineating her eyes. “But I’ve never read that particular book. Is it good?”

Alex lifts one shoulder in an attempt at a shrug, she can’t fully shrug for fear of messing up Mary’s steady hand and getting poked in the eye. “My sister, Kara, she loves it. I’ve never read it. But I did see the movie.”

The day is almost half over by the time Maggie has a moment to herself. She peers out her the window of her trailer looking for any PAs headed her way to inform of her an extra shot needed or more blocking for the upcoming scenes. The coast is clear, and she pulls the blinds back.

She pulls her cellphone out, making the call she’s been thinking about all morning.

“This is Maggie Sawyer’s assistant, how can I help you?”

“Hey, there,” she greets Winn.

“Boss lady! Hi, how is everything? I was about to send you an email with your flight information for getting back here. And wow, do we have a lot of work ahead when you’re back for the big Gs and the Oscars. I have a shortlist of all the designers wanting to dress you, but you have the final call. M’gann wants to be there when you choose, too. We need a decision before Christmas.”

“Right. I’m not calling about any of that, though.”

“Oh, okay. What’s up?”

She sits down on her couch, the leather feeling cold beneath her jeans.

“I need you to research something,” she says carefully, slightly disbelieving that she’s actually doing this.

“Okay, boss. Who am I...researching?” Maggie can hear the air quotes in his voice. She smiles lightly. And then it disappears as the weight of what she’s doing really falls on her.

“Christian.”

“That a name or a religion?” Winn asks.

“Name. Goes by Chris.”

“Okay. Last name?”

Maggie hesitates.

She doesn’t know. She and Gabriella only had a few conversations since that afternoon at the hospital, and her aunt had tried to bring up her boyfriend more than once, but Maggie hadn’t felt ready to deal with it and her lying about him. As a result, she had absolutely no idea of what his last name was.

“I don’t know.”

Winn doesn’t answer for a moment.

“Maggie, you do know there are at least a few million Christians in the country, right? I’m sorry but it’s impossible to track someone down by a name. Do you have a picture you can send me? Or maybe you could describe him to an artist—you’re not looking for someone who committed a crime against you, are you? Because in that case the first step would be to go to the police, and if they can’t do anything then yes, of course I would try to rain hellfire over anyone who-”

“Winn. It’s nothing like that, okay? He’s...friends with Gabriella. I just want to know a bit more about him, that’s all. But that’s all I have.”

“He’s friends with Gabriella? From the old hotel? Or her cooking class?” She hears quick typing. “Because I can pull up a list of people who signed up for that class…”

“No. I don’t know much about him, really. He could be from here, or LA, though I’m leaning towards LA because I’d never seen him before and Gabriella and I spend so much time together...unless she saw him while I was at work?”

“Maggie, what’s going on? Is Gabriella...seeing this Christian? You know, like -”

“You know what, this was stupid. I shouldn’t be trying to snoop into her life like this.”

“If he’s friends with Gabriella...she has security cameras set up at both of her restaurants. Remember how she asked me to set them up here? And in New York, too. I could maybe...take a look? And if I see some guy who matches his description I’ll find out who he is and give you a call?”

“That’s…” Terrible. She knows it is. It’s all kinds of terrible that she’d breach Gabriella’s privacy like this. But she just needs to know, needs more information so she can make a decision on what to do next. She needs to feel in control, and getting the information that she’s missing is the only thing right now that could do that.

Maggie bites her thumbnail while she wonders if she’s capable of that.

An agonizing moment later and she decides that she isn’t. Regardless of how much she might feel like a girl again, Gabriella isn’t abandoning her just because she’s dating someone, regardless of how long she’s lied about it. (3 months, her mind supplies. 3 months.)

“Don’t,” she tells Winn. “Don’t do that.”

“Okay. I think I found something anyways.”

“What did you find?” she asks, feeling guilty even as the need to know expands in her chest.

“Do you remember the weekend long pottery class Gabriella took a few weeks ago?” Winn asks. Maggie nods, thinking back to the way her aunt had gotten home, clay under her fingernails, and how she’d had Maggie get Winn to receive the final piece of “art” she’d made back in LA, because she wanted it on her mantelpiece.

“Let me guess, there wasn’t any class?” she asks, already dreading the answer. For Gabriella to have been able to keep a relationship secret for so long, she must have had to lie a few times, probably more than a few.

“No, there was. And a Christian Miller was enrolled with her. I just looked up their Instagram and if he’s user @Chrism75 then I’m guessing he’s the one standing next to Gabriella. I’m sending you a picture, hold on.”

Maggie gets the text a minute later, and when she opens it -yes, it’s him. Mild smile and light eyes and a bit taller than her aunt, who was already taller than Maggie. She remembers he towered over her, that day at the hospital. She hadn’t seen the picture before, hadn’t even thought to look for it.

“Maggie? You there?”

“That’s him,” she says. “Is Gabriella on his Instagram?”

“His Instagram is private, so that’s gonna take me a while. I can try to brute force crack the password-”

“No. Nothing illegal. Nothing like that. Just...google the guy. Find his LinkedIn profile. Facebook. I don’t know,” she tells Winn, trying to keep the unease out of her voice.

Winn hums. “I’ll look him up,” he states.

She sighs and massages her forehead with the tip of her fingers. “I just want to know what kind of person he is. There’s gotta be something, right? Charities he’s donated to or participated in, Facebook posts in support of movements. I just need something, okay?”

There’s a long pause on the other line.

“Consider it done, boss.” Winn’s voice is soft, and Maggie is—once again—filled with a rush of gratitude towards her assistant. She knows her request is unorthodox, even for a celebrity probably, but he was still instantly willing to help.

“I just want to know if he’s a good guy,” she tells him quietly, hearing the vulnerability seeping into her voice.

“Maggie...I’m going to be honest. With how much I love computers, and I love them a whole lot, I don’t think you can find out that through the internet.”

“I’ll talk to you later, thanks for doing this.”

She closes the call.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex fights to keep her eyes open as the last scene of the day drags on.

The sun has already disappeared from the sky, leaving the street illuminated only by the unnaturally bright set lights and the orange glow of the fire she’s huddled next to for warmth. It’s the only thing she doesn’t like about shooting on location. The tents are always just a little colder, and Alex can’t go to her trailer when setting up the cameras takes too long. Alex puts her hands deep in her pockets.

Maggie stands at her side, drowning in an oversized winter jacket much like her own, the only difference being the large hood pulled up over head. Only the tip of her nose is visible at this angle. She reminds Alex of one of those eskimos and she chuckles softly.

Maggie peers up at her from underneath her ridiculous hood. “Something you find amusing, Danvers?”

“Just your jacket,” she tells her. “It’s so big and you’re so...small.”

“You couldn’t hold off on the short comments even during the holiday season?” She clutches her hand to her heart in an overly dramatic fashion. “That’s harsh, Danvers.”

Alex shuffles closer to her for heat, as the cool penetrates her outer layer. Maggie might be small, but she seems to be her own furnace, always comfortable in the cold.

“I never said being small was bad, good things can come in small packages.”

“You think I’m a good thing?” Maggie asks, looking up at her. “I’m touched.” She bumps into Alex’s shoulder and doesn’t pull back afterwards—they stand shoulder to shoulder now, sharing body heat and company, and Alex is briefly surprised at how much she enjoys it. She’s never had a friend on set like this.

She’s probably never had a friend like this, period.

“What’s not small about you is your head,” she tells Maggie flippantly. “How do you even hold the weight of it up?”

“My ears balance it out,” Maggie tells her, and Alex doesn’t even have time to laugh out loud because they’re being called back for what hopefully will be the last scene they shoot tonight.

 

.

.

.

 

“Action!”

 

Blake breaks out into a dead run after the perp, her boots pounding the asphalt with every step she takes. She hates runners. Most of all, she hates big strong men who think they can abuse women half their size, and in front of their children at that.

He turns a corner, and Blake scrapes her hand on a rusty pipe as she uses the momentum to change her course and launch herself into the alley he ran into.

It’s a dead end.

He knows it, too, even as he starts pointlessly trying to climb the fence at the end, his hands scrabbling for purchase on the metal.

Blake grabs him by the ankle and pulls, and he slams into the ground with a satisfying smack she can feel in her bones. Bastard.

“Davenport!”

Blake listens to Lawson’s breathless scream behind her, but not even God can stop her now.

“Malina Weasley, your ex-wife.” She grabs him roughly by the lapels of his jacket. “Remember her?”

“I don't know anything about that bitch!” He struggles against her grip, but she rams his head back onto the cement below to quiet him.

“You put her in the hospital,” she reminds him, putting her knee on his neck. “We have a witness. Your four year old child! She pointed you out in pictures as the person who did that to mommy, you absolute piece of shit. Talk, now.” She puts her full weight behind her knee, but he doesn’t budge. “I said talk!”

She just barely dodges the spits he throws at her face.

“Davenport, I’m calling for backup,” Claire says behind them, her voice shaky, but Blake shakes her head.

“No, you won’t,” she tells her partner carefully—her tone even and calm as if this is just any other day on the job—and then turns back to the man spluttering beneath her knee. “You ready to talk?”

“I don't have anything -” he wheezes and splutters as Blake increases the pressure on his neck, relishing in the purple tinge creeping up his face. She finally eases up the pressure, not wanting to kill the man. He gasps for air, his chest heaving. “I got nothing to say to you, bitch.”

She simultaneously pulls up her knee to deliver a vicious hit to his groin and smashes his head on the ground again. “You sure about that buddy?”

Claire looks on in horror.

Blake’s usually deep brown eyes are almost black now, and Claire shivers at the picture she presents now. She knew Blake had a reputation as a tough detective, the whole precinct knew she didn’t always follow the rules, but everybody ignored it because she brought in results. Her success rate was the highest in their district, and who could argue with that?

The daughter of two attorneys maybe.

Claire squares her shoulders and approaches her partner. “Blake! Enough, this isn’t the right way.”

Blake turns back to Claire then, her gaze dark and furious. She involuntarily takes a step backward, feeling the beginnings of fear trickle down her spine. Her body language must give her away because a second later Blake’s face shifts back to its normal neutral expression. She turns back to the suspect with a sneer, but she’s removed her knee from his neck and backed off slightly Claire notes with a small sense of victory.

“Maybe you’ll talk back at the precinct,” Blake grumbles. He looks smugly back up at her and then nods towards Claire with a wink.

“Thanks for the help, sweetcheeks.”

A flush of anger rushes over Blake at that, and her arm is moving before she can even think it through.

The loud cracking sound of his head as it hits the muzzle of her gun echos in the empty alleyway.  

Claire is stock still, her eyes disbelieving at what she’s just witnessed. But her body starts moving and she skids to a stop next to the perp, her knees hitting the asphalt, hard. His face is a mess, smeared with blood and bruised, and she can clearly see the trail of Blake’s gun along his face. His neck is an ugly mottled purple and green blotch. She brings a shaky hand over his nostrils, looking for a sign of life.

She looks up at Blake.

He’s not breathing.

 

“Cut!”

 

.

.

.

Everyone claps as they finish their scene, and Alex starts to as well when the director says the words she’s been longing to hear.

“Great work! This one stays!”

Alex sighs. She’s free until late January, and she’s looking forward to the small vacation. Award season is coming up and she’s fully aware of that, but before that there’s the holidays, and getting to sleep in every morning.

A production assistant wraps her winter coat around her shoulders, and she walks back toward her chair, in search of her cellphone and water bottle before the car takes them back to set. From there, she can take her usual car ride home. God, she needs her license again.

“Danvers! Did you see who showed up?”

Alex looks up at Maggie, still bright eyed at this time of night. “Huh? Who?”

“A bunch of fans have been over there all night, watching us film,” Maggie tells her. “We should go say hello.”

Alex frowns.

It’s not something she’s ever done. They always filmed on set back in Body of Medicine , and fans rarely had a chance to show up because of it. She’s not even sure how Maggie still has the energy to smile and talk with the fans after that intense of an action scene. She’s not sure she feels like it, either.

“Danvers, please. They’ve been braving the cold just to see us.”

The guilt trip only works because Maggie pairs it with a ridiculous look in her eyes, and an expression that could rival Kara’s.

She lets herself be lead toward the edge of the cordoned off area, walking through the last of the crew putting equipment away.

The buzz reaches a crescendo as the people—girls, really—standing there see them come closer.

Alex even hears a few high pitched squeals and gasps and sees some of the girls physically hopping around in excitement. Her own reluctance at prolonging her already long, tiring day by stopping to chat with the small crowd dissipates. These fans waited probably all day in the cold just to get a glimpse of them. They’re the ones avidly watching Nightingale and probably the source of most of the nice, if a bit inappropriate, tweets in her mentions.

She notices Maggie in the corner of her eyes quickening her pace to meet their fans, and she catches up to her. They’re met with a sea of bodies and yells. Alex can’t help but smile at their excitement, and Maggie is laughing alongside her.

“How long have you guys been waiting out here?” Maggie raises her voice above the noise, and Alex is surprised such a large voice can emanate from such a small being.

Alex joins in, “You must all be freezing.” She laughs, “I can’t believe you’ve been standing in this freezing weather just for us.”

“Some of us sat towards the end!” A voice pipes up from the back of the group.

“So, you guys, I’m sorry but we need to know. What about those ferry pictures? Is it seriou-”

Another fan quickly butts in with an apprehensive expression. “Let them have their privacy, they get enough of that from the paparazzi they shouldn’t get it from their fans too.”

“So where are you all from?” Maggie interjects. “Are you all from New York?”

“I’m from New Jersey,” one of the girls answers, and it’s like no one brought it up at all.

They talk for a few minutes, and then they take turns taking pictures with anyone who wants one—which is everyone. After a while, Alex relaxes. She realizes that they’re not the type of fans she dislikes, the ones who seem to judge her every move and write terrible things on social media. They’re just...girls. And they admire her for some reason. What she does, it doesn’t feel like enough to warrant that.

Most of them begin to leave after they get their pictures taken. One girl hangs back, though, and she tentatively edges up to Maggie.

“You okay sweetie?” Maggie asks.

She nods, and pushes her hair away from her face before she starts to talk.

“I just wanted to tell you,” she takes a deep breath. “I just- I wanted to say...Sorry, I’m nervous.”

“Oh that’s okay,” Maggie tells her, rubbing up and down her arms. “Take your time.”

The girl smiles.

“I just wanted to tell you that Blake gave me the strength to come out.”

Alex looks away. She’s obviously talking to Maggie, and it feels like she’s intruding.

“And Alex-”

Alex looks at her, startled. “You two...watching you two, and Dawson -I mean, I know nothing has happened on the show yet, but I mean, we all know so-”

Maggie chuckles wetly. “I just wanted to thank you,” the girl says. “Both of you. You made me strong.” She reaches forward to squeeze Alex’s hands, and Alex returns her grip as if in a trance.

“You were already strong,” Maggie tells her, before wrapping her arms around her in a hug. Alex lets go of her hand.

The car is ready for you,” an assistant comes up to inform them. They quickly say their goodbyes, and as they walk away, Alex chances one last look at the girl with tears in her eyes. She’s not deserving of the happy smile and wave she gives them as they leave.

She’s lying, the both of them are lying.

Alex wonders for a moment if their lie is worth it, if it helps someone like that girl. She can’t imagine what that must be like. The exchange between Maggie and her echos through Alex’s head on repeat as she gets in the car on the way back to set. The fan’s words strike a chord in the depths of her soul, and a small voice worms its way into her mind, breaking the echoes of the girl’s words. What if. Theoretically, if she was in her shoes...well, she’s a grown woman. And if it was just her mom, and Kara, and J’onn -it’d be easy. But it’s not. It’s the entire world, waiting for her to mess up so they can judge her, scrutinizing her every mistake so they can declare she’s staining her father’s memory.

If Alex was like that girl, she could never do what she says Blake gave her the strength to do.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie gets the call as she’s packing up her trailer.

She’s putting all her tubs of chapstick and chargers into a bag, anything that she might not want to leave behind for a month or so in a place that’s probably going to be fumigated, when her cellphone starts ringing.

It’s Winn, and Maggie’s surprised at the hour. It’s 4 AM here, which means it’s 1 AM in LA. And Winn always, religiously goes to sleep at 11 o’clock. She feels a smattering of guilt that she’s ruined his sleeping schedule with her insane demands as she answers the phone.

“Winn, hey?” Her stomach flutters as she anticipates what he’s calling about.

“Hey. So...I found what you asked me to.”

“You did? That was...fast.” It had been a scant 12 hours since their conversation.

“Chris Miller is a very trusting man,” Winn tells her. “He also seems perfectly harmless from what I could see. I’ll let you be the judge of that, though. I sent you an email with everything i could find.”

“Okay,” she tells him. “Thank you.”

“No problem. And with that, I'm going to dive into my bed and sleep for 48 hours so my sleeping schedule can recover. Goodnight.”

She smiles to herself. “Night.”

She pulls her bag down and grabs her laptop from it. She’s too curious not to check right away.

She enters her email, and soon enough she’s learning that Christian Miller is a 33 year old restaurant manager whose hobbies include anything outdoorsy or to do with food. He’s attended the LA Food Fest since its inception in 2010, which Maggie knows and Winn had found thanks to his friends’ instagram accounts. He volunteers at one of the local veteran’s shelters in LA, which is currently using his smiling face as an advertisement to encourage more volunteers. He has a cat, and she has no idea how Winn found that out, but it’s a bullet point.

Winn was right, there’s nothing shady or bad about him—the only fault she can find is that he seems a bit bland, and not too bright she remembers wirily from her short meeting with him. That may be a deal breaker for her in a relationship—she couldn’t bear to be with someone who couldn’t keep up with her mentally and physically—but if Gabriella is fine with it...Who is she to pass judgement? She wants her aunt to be happy, first and foremost. She’s a good person, the best person Maggie knows actually, and good people deserve to be happy.

There’s one last file attached to the email.

It’s a video.

Maggie clicks on it with trepidation, only to realize a few moments in that it’s security camera footage of La Nuvola Bianca LA. It’s grainy footage of Gabriella and Chris having lunch, she guesses by the food on their table. Her aunt has her head thrown back in laughter, and Maggie can hear the sound of it in her head. Chris is looking on fondly across the table from her, and his hand is holding hers on top of it. The longer she watches the video the lower her stomach sinks. They look really happy together, and she can’t remember the last time she saw her aunt this happy around someone who wasn’t her.

She can’t believe Gabriella hadn’t told her about it at all. But she still knows she can’t stand in the way of it.

Maggie closes the laptop and packs up the rest of her things. It’s time to go home.

 

She doesn’t sleep. She gets home at 5 AM, and it’s too close to her usual wake up time to do anything but wait for the sun to rise. Although that’s not the only reason. Her fingers tap out an uneven rhythm on her dining room table as she waits for her aunt to appear. She’d called her 15 minutes ago, as soon as the clock struck 7, and asked to speak with her.

Maggie finally feels ready to talk. She’d needed time to mull her feelings and the situation over, but she’s done that now and the conclusion she’s come to leaves her feeling empty. She just needs Gabriella to confirm her suspicions and she’ll move forward with what she’s decided.

A steady knock on her door disrupts her racing mind.

She takes a deep breath before opening it, and then she finds herself engulfed in her aunt’s arms.

“I don’t care if you’re still mad at me, I deserve it, but I needed this,” she says, and Maggie swallows thickly and returns her embrace. Her aunt pulls away. “You said you wanted to talk?”

Maggie nods.

“About Chris,” Maggie clarifies. A somber expression comes over Gabriella’s face, but she seems to suck it up as she nods and walks in after Maggie. She sits down on the couch, and Gabriella joins her.

Maggie asks the first question burning in her mind, the one no one but Gabriella can answer.

“How serious is it with him?” She asks quietly. “Do you see...a future, with him?”

Gabriella meditates on the question for a moment, and then...she shrugs.

“I don’t...know, can anyone know? But I really like him. He’s sweet, and he’s nerdy and lame, but it’s...cute. He’s cute. He’s really kind, too. And he can’t lie for shit.” Gabriella cracks a small smile.

Maggie scrutinizes the look on her aunt’s face. She’s talked with Gabriella after her dates before, and she’s never looked like this. She looks...softer, happier.

“When did you meet?”

“Remember a few months ago when I decided to hire people to manage the LA restaurant while I was gone? Well, he was one of the people I interviewed, he’s a restaurant manager.” Maggie’s eyebrows rise. “Oh didn’t give me that look, I didn’t hire him,” Gabriella tells her. “But we did exchange numbers, and we ended up talking later. We...clicked, he’s in the same industry as I am and you know that makes things easier. When I came back to New York, we kept talking, and he came here a few times and things just naturally progressed from there.”

Maggie’s voice drops, thins, fills with uncertainty as she ask the question that’s been bothering her most of all.

“Why keep it a secret from me?” she asks. “We’ve never kept things from each other, we’ve never lied. So why?” she demands, her voice rough.

Her aunt hesitates at that. “I don’t...At first, it was because you were busy promoting your movie. You were so excited and so busy every night-”

“Oh, so it’s my fault?”

“Maggie, no. It was your time to shine. It was your time, and I didn’t want to get in the way of that. It was just texting, back then. And I thought, I don’t tell you about everyone I text. It’s not a big deal. And then when we went out on a date and it kind of felt like a big deal, but there was the new season to promote, and then we moved to the other side of the country. I honestly thought it would be over after that. I did. But Chris proved me wrong. I should’ve told you then, I know, but then the whole contract business came along, and that was a big surprise to both of us. It didn’t feel right to saddle you with my relationship drama when you had some of your own, even faked.”

Maggie bites her lip, and looks away. Gabriella wraps her arms around herself, and suddenly her aunt seems smaller than Maggie has ever thought her to be, tiny and fallible. Her aunt’s eyes are watery, and that dissolves her.

“But part of me also knew that if I’d told you about him, you would’ve told me to go home.”

Maggie looks up. She shouldn’t be surprised at how well Gabriella knows her.

Gabriella continues, “After that, there just didn’t seem like a good time to tell you. Next thing I knew three months had passed. I’d kept this secret from you for three months, and I felt horrible about it.” She drags her hand down her face. “I know we always tell each other everything, but at that point it’d already been so long, and I couldn’t figure out a way to dig myself out of the hole I’d put myself in.”

“That’s what you’re going with?” Maggie gives her a look, she can feel there’s more to it than that. Gabriella sighs and moves to grab Maggie’s hands in her own.

“This sounds foolish outloud, but I guess I was nervous you wouldn’t approve of him, and I didn’t want to choose between the two of you. And -and I was scared I would have to, because Maggie, I will always choose you, but I also didn’t want to lose him.” She finishes her speech with a deep breath, her eyes watering, and Maggie can feel tears pricking her own eyes too.

“He seems nice,” Maggie says finally, and Gabriella eagerly takes the closest thing to approval she can muster right now. “Are you happy? Are things okay between you two?”

Gabriella nods.

“Long distance isn’t ideal but we’re making it work.”

Maggie looks away, she doesn’t have the strength to look into her aunt’s eyes as she prepares herself for the fatal blow.

“For now, sure, but it won’t work forever. The show is going to continue shooting in New York for the foreseeable future. What are you going to do? Put your relationship…your life on hold for me?” She looks up at her aunt, and it’s like she can read her mind, can see where Maggie is going with this. “I don’t want you to do that. Gabriella, you’ve sacrificed so much for me already. You didn’t even need to take me in and raise me-“

“Of course I did.” Gabriella’s grip on her hands tightens, her eyes bright in the early morning rays starting to come through her windows. “You’re family, of course I had to.”  

“My parents didn’t, and they’re family too.” She pauses to swallow the lump in her throat. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I found out,” Maggie confesses. “And  I’ve realized you’ve had your life on pause for me since the day I showed up. The focus has always been on me, my career, my show, my movie. And I just expected you to always be there, which is selfish of me.”

“Piccola, you’re a kid! And I’m the adult, that’s how it works! And it never felt like a sacrifice to me. The years we’ve spent together have some of the best of my life. And getting to watch you grow up into this beautiful, amazing woman has been an honor.”

“Woman. Exactly. I’m not a child anymore.” Maggie swallows. “I don’t need you to hold my hand. You deserve to live your own life, Gabriella.”

Gabriella’s eyes are filled with crystalline tears as she looks back at Maggie.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying I think you should go back to LA and live your life,” she says firmly. “You can hire someone else to run the restaurant here. There’s only one reason you’re in New York, and that’s because of me.”

“You’re asking me to leave?” Gabriella looks shocked, and hurt at the words it has taken Maggie everything in herself to get out. “But you’re...you’re my kid.”

“You’re eleven years older than me. I literally could not possibly be your kid.”

“You're my kid,” Gabriella insists, a tear falling down her cheek. “I feel like I’m abandoning you. Leaving you by yourself…” She sniffs and wipes the tear away with the back of her hand. “Plus your middle name is Ellen. you were even named after me.” Her aunt’s tone is teasing, but its effect is lost due to her watery eyes and the small depression she gets in her chin when she’s sad.

They have the same one.

Maggie can’t stop the tears from clouding her vision either, and she can feel some slip down her face. “That’s not even close.”

Gabriella only smiles—a sad, muted smile. “If you need something, anything, call me. I’ll be on the first plane back.”

Maggie nods, acknowledging her words for what they are. An acceptance of what she’s set into motion.

Gabriella hugs her, and Maggie returns the embrace, trying very hard not to feel 14 years old again.

 

.

.

.

 

Nat King Cole’s deep baritone voice comes crooning from the surround system speakers in Anthony’s apartment.

The entire place is decked out in tinsel and wreaths, with wooden Christmas decorations littering the tables and lined up on the mantelpiece. It’s unabashedly over the top and outrageous, just like the host of the party. There’s even a two foot high real gingerbread house serving as the centerpiece on the large dining room table.

Maggie watches the crowd of people talking and laughing under the multicolored Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling from her corner in the room. She’s taking a sip of her eggnog, creamy and strong, when a shadow suddenly casts over her.

She looks up, only to meet James’ eyes. Her co-star is wear wearing a tacky red Christmas sweater with a stuffed animal reindeer head protruding from the front of it—she’d wager there’s a matching tail on the back.

“So,” he leans against the wall next to her and lowers his head (damn his height). “Your girlfriend around?” He laughs at his own words, clearly loosened from the good eggnog already, and Maggie groans.

“You promised you wouldn't say anything.”

Telling James had been easier than she’d expected. He was a smart man, with his own photography gig on the side, which was mostly funded by rabid Captain Ellis fans (and there were quite a bit of them, begging him to take his shirt off. Never let it be said that Nightingale didn’t cater to all demographics.) James knew the power fans had, and how harnessing that was just as important for an actor as actually being able to act.

He’d still smiled grimly at her, and mentioned how the tables had turned.

Last year, he’d been the one telling her he was dating a co-star: Lena Luthor. Oddly enough, the woman had played a FBI agent, an old flame of Blake’s. But in real life she’d only had eyes for Captain Ellis. Maggie didn’t really see it coming. James hadn’t exactly had a soft sport for Lena when she had first joined the cast in episode 3, after everyone had already bonded filming the pilot. But it had happened, and everyone on set had been privy to their flourishing relationship. And then to its tumultuous end. They were both professional about it, but Maggie could feel the tension every time she stepped on set.

When she’d told him about the PR contract, the last thing he’d said was that she’d told him it seemed like a bad idea to date a co-star, and she’d ended up doing the same, even if it was fake. It was some type of funny to him.

“I actually have a confidentiality clause in my contract preventing me from saying anything. That doesn't say anything about not teasing you.“

“You promised.”

“No. I implied that I understood, and I was cool with it. Which I am. I’m also cool with teasing you. So. Where is she?”

“Hasn't arrived yet,” Maggie finally tells him, if only to shut him up.

“Is that why you’re skulking in the corner? Waiting for your lady love to arrive? Do you think she’s coming?” James asks.

Maggie’s stomach falls at the thought that she might not. She’d seen Alex last that night filming on location, and she hadn't actually said her goodbyes. She thought she was seeing her tonight. And she does know that they’re seeing each other very soon anyways for the Globes, and that they resume filming in a month, but Maggie doesn't like to leave things open ended. And shoot her, she wants to wish her a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

“She’ll come,” she tells James, and finishes off her eggnog in a big gulp. Alex, much like Gabriella now, are flight risks. And the more eggnog she drinks the better the party is, and the less she can remember that her aunt is leaving New York tomorrow. 

 

 

Alex shows up to the party half an hour and way more alcohol later. She is also—surprisingly—wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, actual ornament baubles and even lights attached to the embroidered pine tree on the front of it. Alex Danvers enjoys partaking in the Christmas spirit. Who would’ve thought. Maggie immediately makes her way towards her, blatantly ignoring James’ amused looks in her direction.  

Just as she’s about to enter Alex’s vision, a hand grabs her elbow and guides her the rest of the way towards Alex. She looks up at the hand’s owner to her left: Anthony. She shoots him a questioning look, and he shoves her lightly in front of Alex and subtly nods upwards.

A sprig of mistletoe hangs innocently above the two of them, and she catches Alex’s slightly widened eyes as her gaze falls back down. She looks over at Anthony, and he’s got his phone out and ready to go.

“So I can,” he does air quotes, “accidentally upload the photo to social media.”

Maggie swings her eyes back to Alex, who looks slightly blurry. Alex shrugs lightly at her. Anthony’s throat clearing prompts her into action, and she leans up to press a light kiss to Alex’s lips. They’re cold from the air outside she assumes, and taste...like cinnamon. She pulls away the next second, when her mind incoherently suggest she stay kissing Alex until her lips warm up.  

Anthony gives them a thumbs up and leaves them standing awkwardly under the mistletoe.

Alex pulls them out of the spiraling awkwardness. “So, drinks?”

Maggie knows she probably shouldn’t drink any more, but she nods anyways and leads Alex to the open bar. She orders them two Santa Clausmopolitans—which Alex laughs at and Maggie can only shrug helplessly in return, she certainly didn’t throw this party together.

“King really goes all out huh?” Alex smiles and leans up against the bar counter, the white fairy lights entwined throughout the bar bringing out the auburn highlights in her hair. Her body position is relaxed and easy. Maggie doesn’t think she’s ever seen her looking so...comfortable—besides when they act together, then Alex is as fluid and confident as ever. It must be the holidays. She assumes Alex is going home, and since her family couldn’t make it back for Thanksgiving she must be looking forward to celebrating Christmas with them even more.

Maggie matches Alex’s loose stance, though hers is caused more by alcohol than comfort, and barely registers the feel of the rough texture of the wooden counter rubbing against her arm.

“You’re one to talk, Danvers.” She nods towards her sweater, and Alex rolls her eyes, lips quirked up in a smile.

“My sister bought it for me as an early Christmas present.” She shrugs. “And when I told her about this party she insisted I wear it.”

“Well, give her my thanks,” she raises her cocktail glass in the air. “You’re the brightest thing in this room.”

Alex scoffs and looks down at her sweater, pulling at the hem of it to get a better view. “Let’s just hope nobody spills water on me with the electrical wires running through the sweater.”    

“Alex Danvers sparks up Nightingale Christmas party; I can see the headline now.” Alex’s subsequent laugh feels like a victory, and Maggie savors the warm glow in her chest—from the presence of the woman across from her or the alcohol, or a combination of them both, she isn’t sure. It’s silent after Alex’s laughter dies down, and Maggie picks at the loose thread on her jeans. She’s fairly certain she’s the only one in the room not decorated by some Christmas object.

The holiday isn’t her favorite, it’s a time meant for family, and that only brings up bad memories for her.

She’s thinking about asking Alex if she’ll be going home, just to be polite, when Anthony drops by suddenly, a smile on his face.

“Up on my public account for four minutes before I deleted it, and Sanvers is trending in the US.”  His face is positively gleeful as he claps them both on the back, almost pushing Maggie forward into her drink. “Merry fucking Christmas to us, ladies!” He steps back. “And I’ll get my happy New Years too.”

He’s quick to leave after depositing the “good news” and the sudden cold on her back and his last words lingering in her mind are the only remainder of his presence. She hope he doesn’t have anything outrageous planned for them for the New Year celebrations.  

Maggie rolls her eyes and downs the rest of her drink in one gulp. “Wanna get out of here?”

Alex eagerly nods.

The noise of the party slowly fades away as they navigate their way through the crowd to Anthony’s balcony. Frozen chunks of snow peep out between the rails, and Maggie shivers slightly in the cold December air, her leather jacket, while stylish, not offering much protection from the cold.

Alex, with her sweater, doesn’t have that problem. She steps out farther onto the balcony to lean against the rail, looking out at the view of the city lit up at night. Maggie opts to hang back nearer to the door and away from the wind.

Alex’s back is to her when she begins to speak, her voice soft, and Maggie has to strain to hear her. “You know, that was my first mistletoe kiss.”

“It was?” Maggie immediately feels a wave of guilt wash over her.

Alex nods and scratches the back of her neck. “Now that I think about it...it’s just never happened.”

“Sorry.” Alex deserves better than a kiss born from a web of lies, and Maggie mentally berates herself for giving her such a forgettable first. She’s realized over the course of their friendship—the word slips easily to mind when she thinks of Alex now, and she files that information away for another day—that there’s a lot of firsts Alex hasn’t had the chance to experience. She’d been the first person to take her ice skating, and the first to take her on the ferry, and now the first to kiss her under the mistletoe...she remembers a dozen of little things.

Due to their contract, Maggie is the one giving her those firsts, which is a pretty shitty situation. Experiencing what should be special life moments you can remember when you’re older, with a person you’re only with for the cameras. It can’t be helped though, they both signed a contract and its handcuffed them together for a year (less than a year now, she absentmindedly notices, surprised at how fast their time together has gone). So she gets to be Alex’s first mistletoe kiss.  Now that she thinks about it, she can’t remember when her last one was. Emily, maybe?

“It wasn't bad,” Alex tells her, turning around to face Maggie.

“Not bad?” She scoffs and joins Alex by the edge of the balcony. “Not the best compliment I’ve received from a woman.”

They’re not touching, but Maggie is still hyper aware of the warmth radiating from Alex, and her slow, steady breathing—the rise and fall of her chest. Alex is the only person she’s had contact with besides Gabriella for months, and now her aunt will be leaving soon. Alex will be leaving soon, too, back to her family. And she knows it’s senseless, but she feels left behind all the same.

All she has waiting for her tonight is an empty apartment.

“We’ll, we’ve established I don’t have experience kissing under mistletoe, so it could have been terrible.”

Maggie laughs. She looks up at Alex, who is also chuckling. There’s a sprig of mistletoe above them, hanging from the balcony of the next floor over, and she makes a split second decision.

She reaches up and kisses Alex, half on her lips.

“There,” she says. “Placeholder kiss until the right one comes along.”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex touches her lips, her heart beating hard in her chest, and tilts her head at Maggie. She points above her.

It’s mistletoe. Of course. Because Maggie wouldn’t just kiss her.

She drops her hand from her mouth.

“How much did you have to drink, Sawyer?” she asks, forcing a chuckle, noting the way Maggie takes a second to stand up straight as she steps away from her. Maggie meets her eyes, seeming much more somber than the minute before.

“Not too much,” Maggie tells her. She looks out towards the streets below, and Alex notes all the mirth of a kiss between friends has left her face.

“Are you okay?” she asks, concerned. Maggie meets her eyes.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” She shrugs, and then sighs. “My aunt is just...she’s moving back to LA for a while.”

“Oh, wow.” She’d come to think of Maggie and her aunt as a team, inseparable, and the news surprise her. She likes the woman, too.

“Yeah, it’s…it just has me bummed out,” Maggie says, but her face looks like it’s more than just being bummed out. There’s no trace of dimples as she looks at her shoes.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” Alex offers. She doesn’t like seeing Maggie like this. Maggie, who is usually so strong, now stands before her looking...vulnerable.

“Thanks, Danvers, but I think im just gonna...go home, you know? This party is too full.”

“Okay,” she says, frowning. ”Um, I’ll see you around.”

Maggie nods, and makes her way back inside.

She watches her leave, and she isn’t sure why it feels like there’s a string connected to her, pulling her along.

 

 

 

 

She closes her door after herself, going through her mental list to make sure she isn't leaving anything behind.

She calls the elevator, and when the doors open she pulls her suitcase inside and straight into a warm body. She looks up with an apology on the tip of her tongue when she sees who it is. Maggie’s warm brown eyes stare back at her. Her hair is in a ponytail underneath a white baseball cap, and she’s wearing a sleeveless hoodie and black leggings, a light sheen of sweat coating her brow too. Alex can’t fathom running outside in this weather, but she knows Maggie is a health nut who also—for some odd reason—doesn’t mind winter. 

"Hey Danvers," she greets her, seemingly in better spirits than she was last night. "You heading to the airport?" she asks, nodding towards her bags.

"Yes," she says, putting her hand out to hold the doors so she can get her bag inside. Maggie helps her roll it in. 

"I just came back from there," she tells her. "Dropped off my aunt."

"Oh." Maggie didn't want to talk about that last night, and Alex doubts that will have changed, so she changes the subject even though she's curious. Is it her restaurant? She can't think of another reason that Gabriella would want to leave Maggie's side. "How's traffic?" she asks.

Maggie shrugs. "Don't know, we took the subway and then the AirTrain. You should try that some time," Maggie suggests, her tongue trapped between her teeth like it's a good joke. It is. Alex doesn't like the subway as is, she can't imagine dragging a suitcase after her. Maggie points towards her attire. "I actually got off a few stations away to get in some exercise. Almost knocked down a magazine stand by accident." 

A lightbulb goes off in Alex's head. 

“Oh my God, I'm so lucky I found you. I almost forgot." Maggie eyes her as she rummages in her messenger bag, finally pulling two items out.  Maggie's eyebrows shoot up when she sees they're her cover of Vogue. “I know it’s kind of weird, but could you sign this for me?" she asks, digging through her bag for a marker. "It's for my sister and her friend.”

"Kara Danvers likes my stuff?" Maggie asks, something Alex can't quite decipher in her voice.

"You got it," Alex says. "Please?"

Maggie smiles, seemingly amused. "Sure." She grabs the sharpie Alex is offering, and then signs both of the magazines. The elevator arrives to the first floor just in time for Alex to put them away and grab her suitcase.

“Do you need some help? Let me help you.” Maggie says. She carries her bag outside the building, and it's...nice. Really nice. Alex doesn't have friends like this, friends that make her feel so taken care of. "You waiting for a car?"

Alex nods. "You could keep me company," she offers, not feeling ready to say goodbye to Maggie for the foreseeable future just yet.

"I'd be happy to. So, what are you doing for the holidays?”

”Flying home to Malibu," Alex tells her. "Christmas with the family and all that. Thankfully Kara’s boyfriend isn't coming, so it'll be just us. What are you doing? Where are you going to?”

Maggie shrugs, her lips pressed into a thin line.

"I’m staying here. There’s just something about New York City during Christmas..." she trails off.

Alex crinkles her nose. It's even more crowded than usual, there's that. 

"Are your parents flying in?" she asks. "Your, uh, cousins?" She adds as an afterthought, remembering the bill in Maggie's trailer. She doesn't know much about Maggie's family.

"No, it's just me. And Gabriella is joining me for New Year's."

Alex nods. "That’s good. But your parents won't miss you?"

She can't imagine missing Christmas dinner with her family, even if she wanted to. Her mom would never allow it. 

"We’re not really close," Maggie says offhandedly. Alex suddenly wants to offer her own home, to ask Maggie to come back to LA with her for Christmas, but she doesn't think Maggie will want to fly, and either way, it's weird to ask.

"Right." Alex thinks for a moment. "When you said they didnt support your career I just thought...I don't know. That they would've gotten over that." She shrugs lightly. She can't image that anyone, anywhere, woudn't move heaven and earth to spend time with Maggie.  She doesn't understand how her fmaily wouldn't mind not spending Christmas with her. "I mean...you're amazing, Maggie."

Maggie half smiles, an elusive dimple showing itself for the first time today.

"Am I, Danvers?" 

Alex feels her cheeks warm but Maggie looks pensive, so she answers her rethorical question anyway.

"Yeah, you are," she tells her firmly. "What you've done...you're an amazing actress. And a good person. And the best fake girlfriend anyone could ask for." Maggie looks away, smiling now, and Alex pats herself on the back. "And hey, did you know I was going to be a doctor? I dropped out to act. My mom wasn't happy at first, but she came around. Your parents...it might be taking them longer, but they will, too." She tells Maggie, and then a thought occurs to her. "You know...we’re not that different."

Maggie gives her a look.

“You have no idea.”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex isn’t expecting them.

She’s dragging her luggage, her eyes on her cellphone as she texts J’onn, asking about the car he’d arranged for her. She knows it’s not his job, that she needs to hire an assistant soon, but he said he didn’t mind. But he doesn’t answers his texts, and so she stands in the middle of the airport, googling shuttle services that will take her to Malibu.

But then a familiar squeal pierces through the air, and Alex look up to see her sister holding a cardboard with her name on it, and her mother standing next to her, arms open for a hug. Her footsteps quicken and she meets them in the middle of the airport. 

Later, she huddles with Kara in the backseat, while her mother drives.

“I’ve missed you,” Kara tells her, squeezing her. “Wait ‘til you see what I have planned for tonight.”

“Before you start telling me,” she stops her sister, knowing how she can get. “I brought you something. It’s kind of silly but…” She shrugs, and gets one of the signed magazine’s out of her bag. “I thought your friend would appreciate this. And you.”

“You got it signed?!” Kara throws her arms around her again. “I just won a thousand best friend points,” Kara states, as she pulls out her cellphone and starts snapping a picture of the magazine, surely to send it to her friend.

Alex smiles as she sits backs, and she accidentally meets her mother’s eyes in the rearview mirror.

Her mom smiles at her. She looks...proud.

The buildings blur by outside the window as they make their way to her childhood home, to spend Christmas together like they used to. She wonders if her mom will make the mulled wine her dad used to make, that he swore was okay for the kids to have because the alcohol had been burned off, and if Kara will make the ugly, deformed sugar cookies she’s so fond of eating by the bucket.

Alex closes her eyes and leans onto her sister’s shoulder, relaxed enough to sleep until they get there.

A warmth that no alcohol could mimic descends in her chest, making her feel better than she has in years.

 

.

.

.

 

The Christmas lights hanging from Maggie’s largest bonsai twinkle faintly in the reflection of her window.

It’s dark in her apartment tonight. The night sky is clear and the moon is almost full so she didn’t see the point of wasting electricity. Her one allowance was her electric fireplace, and she sits on her couch, watching the flames dance and crackle over the glass at the bottom. She pulls the Macallan scotch bottle, a gift M’gann sent her for the holiday, closer to her and wraps her hands around it, resting her chin on the top of it. It feels too early for a drink.

She pulls out her phone to check the time, the bright fluorescent light illuminating her face in the darkness. It’s 6 PM. If she was back in LA with Gabriella they’d be settling down to eat right about now. Her aunt would be cutting the prime rib and doing her ridiculous happy dance at a job well done. Charlie Brown’s Christmas special would be playing in the background, and her stomach would start hurting 30 minutes into the meal because she ate too much. But she’s not home, and Gabriella isn’t here. Her aunt had flown back to California two days ago, and Maggie had insisted she didn’t need to fly all the way back out to the east coast just for Christmas since she’d be coming for the New Years anyway. She knew Gabriella was busy transitioning back into managing La Nuvola Bianca LA and her life there. One missed holiday wouldn’t make a difference, she’d argued.

As if her aunt could hear her thinking about her, the ding of a new message from her pops up. She opens it and is greeted with Gabriella’s smiling face hovering over the loaded dinner table. In the corner of the photo she can see a head of brown hair and a hand reaching for the bread—Chris, she assumes. She tears her eyes away from the happy photo to read her message, “ I miss you! Merry Christmas.”

She turns the phone screen off, the sound of it echoing in the emptiness of her apartment. She looks out the window. It’s started to snow again, big white flakes falling from the sky and sticking to the window panes. The city is blanketed in snow, and it’s somehow muted the usual vibrancy of New York. Or maybe she’s the muted one.

Later, she’ll heat up some of the homemade turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy that Gabriella insisted she make her before she left, because she needed to have a real Christmas dinner during Christmas. Later, she’ll turn the TV on and stuff herself with the food while watching some overplayed Hallmark Christmas movie.

But for now, Maggie curls up on the couch and pulls the throw resting on the armrest over herself. She gets 5 minutes to feel lonely. Just 5, and then she has to get up. (She can hardly believe she still remembers what she used to tell herself as a kid—it’s been so long since she’s used it.) But she does, and curls up further in the couch. It’s slightly chilly in the room, and her fake fire is too far away to offer much respite from the cold.

Maggie doesn’t think anything could, anyways.

Chapter Text

Ad astra per aspera : a rough road leads to the stars

 

.

.

.

 

She digs deep when she feels the board rise, her arms burning with the effort to move faster. She pulls them out of the water the next second, positioned below her chest so she can pop up to her feet.

And then....she’s free.

She feels the rush of water below her board as the wave carries her forward, bigger than any other she’s been able to catch today. The water is calm. It wasn’t a good day to go out surfing, but her time back home—and it does still feel like home—is coming to an end, and she can feel it. Soon enough she’ll be back in front of the photographers and the flashes of their cameras, the yearly nightmare that is award season rolling around like a crappy, un-surfable wave, and after that back to New York, back to set. And although she enjoys being on set these days, it’s still a far cry from the calm, peaceful days she gets out here.

The wave carries her as far as it can, before she jumps off her board and lands in knee-deep water. She pulls her board by the cable attached to her ankle and tucks it under her arm as she breaks off into a jog back home.

The beach is empty this morning, just like she likes it, and it takes her less than 5 minutes to reach the fence of her backyard. She leaves her board right inside, where she can comfortably stick it in the sand, and unzips the top of her wet suit, enjoying the breeze chilling her bare stomach. She hadn’t worn this bikini in years, but it’s nice to see it still fits. The practical, front zipped top and the simple bottoms make it a dozen times better than anything she has back in NYC, and she makes a mental note to take it with her as she enters through the backdoor, dripping water onto the wooden floors.

“Alexandra, take the wet suit off outside!”

She whips her head to the right, to see her mom with her hands on her hips standing in the kitchen.

“Water damages wood, sweetie. You know that.”

Alex looks down to the growing puddle beneath her feet. She sighs.

“Sorry,” she says under her breath, stepping out of the wetsuit and bundling it up in her hands as she makes her way towards the stairs. She shivers at the air conditioning, her bathing suit no match against the cold air, and she hates herself a little for not bringing a towel with her to the beach. Would have saved her the reprimand, if anything.

“You look so thin,” her mom suddenly mentions, and Alex stops at the bottom of the stairs. “Are you eating well? Are they working you too hard in New York?”

“I’m fine,” she says, pressing the wet suit tighter against herself. She thinks she looks better than fine, actually, kick boxing and weights putting muscle in places there weren’t any before. She feels good, she feels...strong.

Her mother hums.

“Do you have the name of your personal trainer? I’d like to see his credentials.”

“Mom, I’m fine!” She exclaims. Her mom raises her hands in a gesture meant to placate her, but that does the exact opposite. It only makes Alex feel like she’s the unreasonable one. “I’m gonna go shower,” she says finally.

She walks up the stairs, making her way towards her room. Before she gets there, Kara pops her head out of her own room. She’s clad in pajamas, her hair in a braid.

“What was that about?” she asks around a yawn.

“Me ruining our floors by dripping water everywhere.”

Kara giggles.

“She’s been telling you not to do that since we were little,” she mockingly reprimands. Alex grunts.

“She never told you anything,” she says under her breath.

Kara steps out of her room. “Alex-”

“I’m taking a shower,” she announces, and enters her room, closing the door after herself. She locks it, and then locks the bathroom door too, for good measure. She’s not in the mood.

She’s been home for 2 weeks and although the type of grievances her mom has had with her have been of the smaller type—miraculously they haven't gotten into any big fights, Kara has diffused those—it’s still annoying how her sister can do no wrong, but Alex is expected to be a paragon of perfection.

The endless nagging little things she does wrong are just as insidious as the big fights they have, and Kara doesn't get it. As a little kid, she would throw ice cream on the floor and their mom would take a picture instead of telling her to clean it up. (If water ruins wood, then what the hell does ice cream do?) When Alex got an earful every time she stepped inside the house wet. It’s a double standard that she feels petty bringing up, but that annoys her every time.

She steps into the shower, hoping the hot water will release her tense muscles.

It’s not even 8 AM yet. 

 

 

 

 

She’s scrolls through her messages, lying on her side on her bed as her hair dries.

J’onn wants her to hire a personal assistant. She should get on that, it’s not his job to arrange all her stuff. And he has news about the interview they talked about; he’ll get in contact with her when something is finalized. Alex feels...excited at the prospect. Not just because it’ll good for her career, but because she’s missed being in front of a camera. There’s something about the feeling of being under hot, bright lights and posing in ridiculous dresses that reminds her a little of her dad, running after her with an old Polaroid and snapping pictures so he could remember how she looked in any particular moment.

A knock on her door fractures the memory.

“I come bearing breakfast!” Kara says through the door, and Alex gets up to open the door for her sister, her earlier annoyance gone like dregs of foam down the drain.

“Come in,” she calls to Kara, who's already 3 steps inside, a tray in her hands.

“Eliza made us pancakes, and I made you some bacon.”

Alex takes one from the tray and moves her laptop from her nightstand so Kara can deposit the food there.

“You mean you made us some bacon,” She corrects her, and Kara smiles sheepishly, grabbing one from her plate as well.

Kara groans, flopping face down on the bed.

“She’s really into the vegetarian thing, and I want to try it, but I can’t. No more potstickers, Alex!”

She chuckles and grabs her plate from the tray.

“You could get veggie potstickers,” she suggests, taking a bite of the pancakes. “These...taste different,” she notes with a wrinkle of her nose.

“No eggs,” Kara says, raising her head off the bed.

Alex swallows the mouthful and puts it down, never to be picked up again. She takes a bite of her bacon instead.

“I thought you’d be into this healthy stuff,” she says.

“No way. This is too healthy. I already had to give up sticky buns Alex. Sticky buns!” Kara sits up fully on the bed and shakes Alex by the shoulders to punctuate her words.

“Well, you wanted to be a superhero. Wonder Woman doesn't do carbs.”

“Maybe Captain Marvel does,” Kara mumbles, picking up her plate.

“No crumbs on my bed,” Alex warns her, only half-joking. Kara sticks her tongue out at her and starts eating her breakfast.

It’s nice, to be like this again. She hadn’t been too fond of Kara when she first arrived, but those last few years of highschool, and before she left for college...they’d gotten closer. They’d had many a night where they stayed up talking, and plenty of mornings they’d slept in and tried to whip up breakfast while their mom was at work, only to end up at IHop...she’s missed it.

“How’s training going? I’ve heard you in the gym.” She’s taken her two weeks of vacation as just that—vacation time from work, which for her includes the elliptical time she’s supposed to do. Alex liked kickboxing and surfing just fine, but she draws the line at using contraptions usually bought through late night shopping channels by housewives.

But Kara- she’s been in their house’s gym, usually used by their mother only, every day before dinner.

“Oh my God, look at this!” She lets go of her bacon only so she can flex her arm and show Alex her bicep. She’s...impressed.

“When did that happen?” she asks.

“I talk to the director all the time, and we agreed we wanted her to be a real superhero, and so I had to get ripped, just like all the other boys, and I loved it! I had my doubts, and Mon-El said he didn't think it’d look good on a girl-”

“Mon-El is an idiot.”

“Alex...he’s-”

“I'm just saying, if you want to grow arms the size of my head for your movie, you should. It’s your body. It’s your movie! Your boyfriend shouldn't get a say in any of that. That’s not what mom taught us. Or...dad.” She takes a sip of her orange juice.

“I know,” Kara says quietly. “But!” She brightens up again. “He came around. He thinks it’s hot now-”

“Didn’t need to know that.”

Kara laughs.

“He must be excited to show up to the Globes with you,” Alex mentions, trying to be supportive. She doesn't need details of her little sister’s romantic life, but she can ask her this much. “And the Oscars.”

“Actually...I’m thinking about taking mom to the Oscars,” Kara says. Alex raises her eyebrows. “Do you remember when we were little,” Kara asks, “and we promised that mom and dad would be our dates when we were both nominated for an Oscar at the same time?”

“Yes. You were twelve.” That seems increasingly unlikely, at least for her.

“I know. And this isn't that but...it’s our first big award show. And you’re already going as Maggie’s date-”

“We don't know that.”

Kara ignores her. “I just thought it’d be nice if we were all there, you know? Maybe it's silly, but I like to think dad will be looking down on us.”

Alex looks away, outside the window. The waves are getting bigger now, on the beach below.

“I think it’s a good idea. Mom will really appreciate it,” she makes herself say, through a tight throat. She looks back at Kara. “You should take her next year, too. She should be there when you win that Oscar.”

“Alex! We don’t know if I’m ever going to be nominated.”

“You already have a Golden Globe nomination under your belt for Leah,” she tells her, naming her character from Highriders . “It’s only gonna get better for you. If not next year, then the year after that. I know it.”

Kara gives her a look. “I could say the same thing to you. You’re working again, and on Nightingale —you could film one of those mind game movies you like so much and get a nom too.”

“Psychological thrillers,” She corrects her sister. “And I don't know.”

It looks increasingly unlikely, to make a comeback that big. She stopped working for ages, women that do that don’t get to start making movies again and win Oscars. She has a reputation dragging her down, too. It’s not realistic. But her little sister has a future with the brightness of stars ahead of her.

“Maybe I was right when I was twelve,” Kara says. “We could still get nominated at the same time.”

Alex snorts, but her mood falls when she remembers the other half of Kara’s childhood dream.

“But dad won't be there.”

Kara drags her hand across the comforter to squeeze hers.

“All the more reason for us to try to be as good as he was, isn't it?” she says, more serious than Alex has ever seen her. Then again, she’s always known acting was important to Kara, and their dad’s legacy. She just forgets, sometimes. Alex picks up her orange juice, and passes her sister her own glass.

“To trying to be good,” she says, jokingly.

Kara shakes her head. “To the Danvers sisters,” she toasts. “One day, the Academy won't know what hit them.”

Alex smiles.

“To the Danvers sisters, we should come with a warning.”

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie wakes up to the glaring sun hitting her directly in the face.

She rubs the sleep out of her eyes, yawning, and peers out the airplane window at the bright blue sky, scattered with puffy, cotton candy clouds. They must be flying over the midwest right now given the amount of time that’s passed since she and Gabriella boarded. Her aunt had returned to New York City for the New Years as promised, and they’d watched the ball drop in Times Square, followed by their own private champagne party. It was nice, and her aunt had been in high spirits off of her first Christmas spent with Chris, which had only reassured Maggie that she’d made the right choice by staying in the city. It was a hassle to fly 5 hours for a single holiday, that was true, but letting them have their own special moment—especially when Gabriella had felt the need to hide her relationship for so long—only seemed fair.

She glances leftward for her aunt and is welcomed by an empty chair, but a few more seconds of being awake and the quiet noise of a movie playing wafts from the front of the plane. First class is more or less empty, and she gets up slowly from her seat to make her way towards the noise. She pauses mid step to listen more closely, something seeming familiar about the voice coming from the television, and then she realizes it’s her own.

Gabriella is watching The Informant (for the at least the 7th time she knows, Gabriella saw it at least 5 times when it was in theaters and then watched it again when it came out on DVD and Blu Ray). She can only smile and shake her head lightly as she joins her aunt in the seat beside her.

“Good movie?” She reaches over to grab some of the popcorn from the bag in her aunt’s lap.

“Oh yeah,” Gabriella’s voice is droll. “The lead is this kind of unknown actress, but my gut tells me she’s going places.”

It’s the penultimate scene in the film where Jude appears to allow the villain to live, walking away from him, only to whip around at the last moment and shoot him between the eyes just as his hand reached for his own hidden gun. There’s been talk of a sequel—or multiple depending on how the hypothetical second film performs—but Maggie is still undecided about it. Assuming the following films were as successful as the first, or even more, it’d be a steady source of income and give her a consistent box office presence, but being stuck in a multi-movie contract would limit her already sparse time eaten up by Nightingale. She has time to make her decision though, and right now she has more pressing issues to attend to, like the Golden Globes.

Maggie scoffs. “Really? I heard people say she was a one hit wonder after her first movie.”

“Twenty bucks says she’ll be winning a Golden Globe soon.” Gabriella cracks an impish smile and tosses a piece of popcorn Maggie’s way—which she catches midair.

Things between them are better, but not quite what they used to be.

She’s trying to shake off the last cobwebs of hurt and betrayal, but even without them Maggie can still feel a distance between them which she isn’t sure how to bridge. She wonders briefly if it isn’t distance at all, and simply the space occupied by another person—by the man who’s a part of Gabriella’s life now. She’s never had to share her like this before, she doesn’t know what that feels like.

Maybe it’s simply the organic progression of life. Most families don’t remain tightly knit after the family members reach a certain age—usually at whatever age they move out of the house or become financially independent. And Maggie has now accomplished both of those things. What’s happening now with Gabriella is only natural. Her aunt is 34, and she loves kids—she gives away dessert to the cute, well behaved ones all the time at her restaurant. It’s only normal she’d find someone to settle down with, to get married and have kids of her own—not keep looking after the teenager left at her doorstep.

They watch the final scene in silence, contrasting the loud noise of explosions and gunfire coming from the television.

Maggie pulls out her cellphone, even now, finding her ugly crying unbecoming to watch. She knows it got her a lot of praise, and that Jude’s boss has just died and she has to take over now—it’s the high point of the movie, but she doesn’t need to see her snot covered face.

She unlocks her phone. She and Alex did a split screen Instagram live the day before—at the request of Anthony of course. They hadn’t spent the holiday together, and he wanted them to kickstart the year by letting people know they were still going strong. It had gone well, great actually.

Alex has improved a lot from her early uncomfortable, awkward filled moments with her. She remembers their first selfie, when Alex had jumped away from her like she’d been electrocuted milliseconds after the photo was taken. Now...she’s pulling her in for kisses on ferry rides and not even being phased by Maggie’s drunken, spontaneous pecks.

She can’t help but cringe remembering that ill fated moment. She’s grateful that Alex didn’t make an issue of it, even though she could have.

She’d been drunk for most of the Christmas party, and she’d kissed Alex twice, once because she had to, because the contract demanded it of her, and once because...she’d been sad, and lonely, and nothing had ever made her feel as consoled as a beautiful woman—which was a terrible habit. And Alex was her friend, and she was so sweet that night, talking about never having had a mistletoe kiss before her...it made the knight in rusty armor living inside her come up to the surface. But that half kiss, innocent as it was, played at blurring lines that she should never cross, and neither of them need that.

Next time she thinks Alex deserves a better kiss, but she won't be the one giving it.

She shakes the memory off and starts scrolling through her Twitter to see the reaction to their New Year live stream. She’d been sleep deprived and tired because of it, but the fans didn’t seem to notice—or were too distracted by “Sanvers” as they were now called, which Maggie laughed at. It’s the first time one of her off screen relationships has been given a ship name, and it’s a bit odd, but she was definitely rooting for that name amongst the others Anthony told her he’d suggested to E!News. An endless list of tweets flashes before her eyes as she spares them each a few seconds long read over. She’s met with the usual enthusiastic all caps screaming and memes.

Maggie slows her Twitter scroll as she sees tweets about their Christmas party kiss and then quickly pulls her phone to her chest when Gabriella pops her head over trying to get a look at the screen.

“The last time you looked at my Twitter you were left horrified and complained about the comments for a week. Neither of us needs a repeat of that.” She raises an eyebrow with a look, which her aunt matches before relenting with a huff and rolled eyes, turning her attention back to the TV.  

The fan reaction to their kiss was...incoherent excitement. A few people felt guilty that they’d gotten a peek at a picture that was “never supposed to have been posted”, and a few others tag Anthony asking him to be more careful—exactly what he wanted. Sometimes Maggie is surprised at the way he can manipulate the narrative so well, make people believe what he wants them to so easily. Maggie hopes there’s never a day where that amount of power is turned against her.

The movie ends, and Maggie tucks her phone away along with thoughts of that night, watching the credits roll.

 

 

 

She hears Chris’s heavy footsteps before she sees him.

Gabriella had asked if it would be okay for him to come over as soon as they landed at LAX, and Maggie had only nodded and agreed. She'd managed to catch a couple hours of sleep on the plane, and while not exactly refreshed, she wasn't feeling like the living dead when they arrived to her house an hour ago. She's glad she's meeting Chris—properly—here. At least it's her turf.

His boots clank on the wooden floors, and Maggie eyes him from her place in the kitchen.

He immediately walks over to Gabriella to press a quick kiss to her lips, followed by a hug. He suddenly meets Maggie's eyes over Gabriella's shoulder, and Maggie looks away, feeling like a child caught looking where she wasn't supposed to. Out the corner of her eye, she sees him wave, even though his arms are laden with plastics bag filled with their breakfast. She knows it's senseless to dislike him without even knowing him, and that from what she does know he's a good guy—she can't help being distrustful. It's been just her and Gabriella for too long.

"Maggie! Hey!" He exclaims, and then, after Gabriella says something under her breath, he sombers up. Her aunt makes her way into the kitchen, Chris hot on her heels.

"Maggie," Gabriella says, smiling. "This is my boyfriend, Chris."

Maggie takes a breath and does what she does best—acts.

"Hi," she tells him, extending her hand. "Nice to meet you."

"Nice to officially meet you too," he says, shaking her hand firmly. "There was that whole thing at the hospital that didn't work so well," he mentions, and Maggie winces, remembering the sense of betrayal that had filled her back then. "Not the time for jokes about that yet, I got it. I brought breakfast!" he exclaims abruptly, lifting the bags in his hands for all to see. Gabriella ushers him along to the large breakfast island, and gives Maggie a look.

"Thank you," she mouths, and Maggie jokingly rolls her eyes at her aunt. 

Chris unpacks the breakfast burritos he's bought, along with the fruit and tea he got them—or did he make them? Maggie remembers that he's in Gabriella's business. Her thoughts seem to call him, because he looks up at her and brings her a single brown paperback. 

"Special delivery," he says, and Maggie raises an eyebrow as she grabs it. She opens the bag, and sees there's a cupcake inside. “A good luck gift for you,” he tells her as she pulls it out, grinning and giving her a thumbs up. He reminds Maggie of one of those Boy Scout Leaders.  

She looks down at the white frosting and the message in blue written upon it. ‘Break a leg!’

“I think that’s for theater,” she mentions, placing the cupcake beside her on the counter and looking back up at him, cursing his height as he towers over her seated position. Chris’s smile freezes on his face, and he awkwardly scratches his neck. “I really like it though,” she's quick to add, sure that Gabriella is intently watching their interaction. "Thank you."

"No problem," he says, returning to her aunt and the rest of their breakfast.    

There's still a certain tension palpable in the air, the jarring sense of being in your home but not feeling comfortable, and her phone luckily offers an escape as it starts ringing. She halfheartedly motions towards it and shrugs, leaving the room and the couple as she answers.

“Can you come down?” Winn sounds like he’s been running for 5 miles. Maggie can already see in her mind's eye the pit stains on the solid bright blue button up shirt he’s probably wearing. “I’m on the first floor and nobody will help me with the elevator. My hands are full, and I can’t put these boxes on the floor. They cost more than my own life.”

Maggie sighs for show. “On my way.”

The elevator doors open to Winn’s grateful face peeking out behind the stack of boxes in his arms. She grabs one of them and holds the door for him to enter. Her makeup artist, Patricia, and stylist, Ilana, arrive just as she and Winn are setting the boxes down on the dining room table.

They all proceed to carefully pull the thousands of dollars worth of sparkling jewelry out of the boxes onto the white table cloth—except for Chris, who’s standing in the corner trying to keep his 6 foot tall bulk out of the way of the commotion transpiring in the room. Apparently he’s smart enough to know when he’s not needed because out of the corner of her eye she sees him grab his coat from the back of the couch. Maggie breathes out a soft sigh of relief, glad that the elephant in the room is leaving—and yet feeling mildly guilty about it.

“Maggie,” she feels a large set of hands clap down onto her shoulders. “I’m heading out for a restaurant management conference in Denver for the weekend, but good luck at the award show! I'll be watching!”

“Mhm.” She tolerates his half hug and gives him a small wave. He says his goodbye to Gabriella next, and Maggie tries to ignore them, which proves difficult when her aunt is standing just to her left. She unfortunately swings her gaze around to Gabriella just as the two kiss, again. She wishes it didn't feel awkward for her, but Gabriella has been her parent in all the ways that count, and she can count on one hand the times she's seen her this smitten, with fingers to spare.

He leaves, and Gabriella quite literally slaps his ass out the door. Ugh.

After they sort the jewelry out, they quickly move onto the shoes, handbags, and makeup for the big night. At last, all the small orders of the day dealt with, they can advance to the main event. They move into the living room where her designer dress is laid out on the couch, the silver trees and pale pink flowers sewn into the black fabric sparkling under the lights. The dress came fresh off the runway, but Maggie obviously doesn’t have the body proportions of a runway model thus necessitating she stand for probably an hour or so while Ilana makes the necessary modifications.

She'd said something about sewing her into the dress.

Maggie starts stripping right in the living room, helped along by Ilana, not seeing the point of going to the bathroom. She is quickly reminded that Winn is still with them as she hears a high squeak from her assistant and looks over just in time to witness him squeeze his eyes shut comically and turn around.   

"I'm wearing pasties already!" she lets him know. She knew she'd be half naked for a good portion of her morning. Ilana pulls out her measuring tape, getting straight to work.

"Assistant, assist," Ilana demands a few moments later, waving for them to bring the dress to her. Winn tries to do so, his eyes resolutely on the floor and more than half-closed. "Isn't he gay?” Ilana asks her under breath, but Winn hears, because he's quick to pipe up.

“No, nope! Not gay. Just uncomfortable at my boss seminude.” 

It's probably terrible, but Maggie chuckles. 

Ilana, Winn and her aunt slip the dress over her head, the fabric feeling lighter than she expected. 

"Two inches...and one..." Ilana mumbles under her breath, and Maggie slips into her head as she lets her do her job. She's thinking about the speech she has to write, in case she wins, and that alone is so surreal that she actually loses sleep over the endeavor. What could she say, that was worth hearing?

After Ilana is done with her clothes, Patricia steps forward with an eye shadow palette and a black sheet that she wraps around her front.

“Can’t stain that proof God is real that you’re wearing,” she says, and gets to work trying out the makeup looks she’s been texting Winn for weeks. She’s lightning fast, as she’s only testing out colors, and Maggie notes how different makeup feels when it’s not being caked on to last 12 hours. She tries on a few lipstick colors, too, but in the end, Patricia ends up choosing a simple dark pink lip stain.

“You look much better when you’re natural,” she says, stepping back and removing the coverup. She puts her hands on her shoulders, and gently turns Maggie towards the mirror.

She looks like everything she’s ever dreamed.

 

.

.

.

 

Kara’s long, blonde locks whip into Alex’s face—carried by the wind rushing past them in her blue convertible—as she reaches to turn Britney Spears’ wailing off.

“Alex,” Kara whines, a piteous expression on her face as she looks over at her.  

“Eyes on the road,” Alex pushes her sister’s head frontward back to the road. “We don’t need you losing your license, too.”

They’re a little over a quarter into their drive back to LA, and Alex already misses the ocean.

The crashing waves lulling her to sleep, the salty tang of the water hitting her during early mornings spent surfing. Soon enough, the familiar congestion and smells of the city will invade her senses, but for now she enjoys the still fresh air, breathing in deeply.

It’s a beautiful January day, the cloudless blue skies seemingly stretching on forever. It’d be the perfect day for a motorcycle ride, if she was even allowed to drive it. But she’s not, and that’s why her little sister is stuck as her chauffeur. It’s frankly embarrassing for her to think about.

“When will you be getting your license back?” Kara asks, driving along a wide curve, the motion of it pushing Alex up against the side of her door.

“Less than a year to go now,” Alex averts her gaze to the passing scenery, trying to keep her voice light and free from any of the shame born from that fateful night that led to her license suspension.

“We should celebrate when that day comes,” Kara suggests. “We can invite mom, too, and make it a girls night.”

“Mom?” She cringes. “I don’t think she needs any reminders of my screw ups.”

Kara presses her lips together.

“It was...just a mistake. We all make them.” Her sister looks at her and quickly returns her eyes to the road ahead. “What’s important is that you moved on from it and got better.” Kara touches her shoulder reassuringly, and Alex can feel the sympathy dripping from her gesture. “Remember when I was little and I used to tell you you were my hero?” Kara asks. “I know I haven’t said it in a while, but you still are.”

Alex huffs out a breath. “A hell of a hero to have.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to act like it all the time, though,” Kara says. Alex frowns. “I know... you don't always let us see when things are hard for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“When we got the call about...what happened. Mom said it wasn't the first time that you’d done it. And Alex, I didn't even know you liked to drink. I’d never seen you drunk! And whenever I used to visit your apartment, everything looked perfect, and you looked fine and pretended like everything was okay. And I was...dumb, I believed it.”

Alex remembers the mornings she hurried around her apartment, throwing away empty beer bottles and stuffing her dirty clothes underneath her bed, throwing the piles of dirty plates in the sink straight in the trash.  

“You weren’t dumb,” Alex says. She’d just seen what she’d wanted her to see. “You were my little sister.”

“Your dumb little sister,” Kara says. Alex chuckles, and swallows through the tightness in her throat. Kara looks at her over the center console. “I'm not a little girl anymore, Alex. You don't have to pretend with me.”

Alex doesn’t know what’s worse. The realization that Kara knows the place she was in, even before she got fired, or that she’s asking now, like Alex is still struggling. Why does it feel like she is?

“I’m getting my act together, Kara,” she says. “You don’t have to worry about me.”

Kara gives her a look.

“I’m not worrying,” she tells her. “I just want to say -I’m proud of you.”

 

.

.

.

 

The days until the Golden Globes pass by in a blur, and before she knows it, Maggie is walking around her apartment now that she still can, getting a feel of how to move inside this dress. Tonight will be harder if she doesn’t get a handle on it. And she’d hate to be Jennifer Lawrence and fall.

It’s only going to get harder once she puts her shoes on—or rather, they help her put her shoes on. As it is, she drags the hem of the dress through her apartment, but it’s worth it if it helps her re-learn how to breathe.

“You’re going to open a hole in the ground,” Gabriella says, looking at her with the same awed shine in her eyes she’s had all afternoon, which has succeeded in making Maggie feel like she’s drank 3 glasses of scotch—raw and vulnerable, and too close to emotion for her own good.

“Come here, take a picture with me,” her aunt pleads. “Winn! Take a picture of us!”

Winn walks over with his cellphone already out, and Maggie chuckles. She stands next to Gabriella quickly, and smiles what she knows already will be the most genuine of the night, the pose the most natural too.

“Just like junior prom,” she jokes, and Gabriella laughs.

“But this is a much nicer dress,” she adds.

“I would love to see those pictures,” Winn pipes up, and Maggie raises her eyebrow with a pointed look. “And I would love to go check on our limo arrival time,” he adds, quickly exiting the room. “Time for the shoes!” he yells, popping his head back in through the doorway before moving along.

“You need a hand?” Gabriella asks, gesturing towards her shoes, and Maggie nods gratefully.

She can’t kneel at all, and she’s scared of sitting and ruining something, so she stands while Gabriella ties the sky high gold silver heels.

“I’ve been here before,” she says, from somewhere, obscured from view by the large skirt of her dress.

“You haven’t,” Maggie scoffs. Of all the things her aunt has done for her, putting on her shoes isn’t one.

“Yes,” Gabriella insists. “You were 4. And you had these pink light up velcro shoes. And a fondness for taking them off and chucking them everywhere-”

“I refuse to believe that.” She rolls her eyes, her aunt has a habit of exaggerating stories to make them more entertaining -for her, at least, as Maggie really isn’t fond of her aunt using that story of her getting dizzy and throwing up at Disneyland as an icebreaker.

“Lift,” Gabriella orders, and Maggie lifts her left foot. “The kicker is that you didn't know how to put them back on. And your folks were exhausted so you’d run up to my mom to ask. Or me. Of course, I was in high school, and I thought you were an idiot then.” Gabriella stands up, brushing off her knees. “I didn't know yet you'd be the best of the family.”

Maggie feels something burn behind her eyes.

“Let me look at you,” Gabriella grabs her by the shoulders and Maggie stands up straight. Nobody’s approval has meant more to her in her life. “You’re going to make me ruin my makeup,” Gabriella sniffs, and Maggie lets out something that suspiciously sounds like a sob, but she reels it back in. It’s just a gasp, an expulsion of air and emotion that she can’t afford to give into right now.

Gabriella dabs under her eyes and then beams. “When you’re out there, just know that win or lose, I’m always with you, okay?”

Maggie nods. Gabriella hugs her, tight, and then pulls away only to kiss her on both cheeks.

Maggie finally turns around to look at herself in the mirror.

Damn them, the shoes actually make the entire look come together. She looks taller, and stylized, and she’s no longer dragging the hem of the dress.  She barely recognizes the elegant woman staring back at her in the mirror. Gabriella steps up beside her, shorter than Maggie for a change.

Her aunt fixes a piece of her hair, tucking it behind her ear.

“I wish they could see you right now.”

Maggie’s stomach falls.

She tries to meet Gabriella’s eyes through the mirror, but Gabriella isn’t looking at her. She seems lost in thought.

“Franky should be here, she should get to see you like this. She’d be so proud...She’d look up to you.”

Maggie presses her lips together.

“And Sofia and Charles…”

“Don’t,“ she stops Gabriella.

When she thinks of Franky and...Sofia, too. All she feels is pain. Loss, acute and biting.

But...Charles...she’s empty. Disconnected. And it’s those feelings that make her anger flare up.

Because she only got a cursory glance at chubby cheeks and a gummy smile and tiny, tiny fingernails. And it makes her so, so angry that she didn’t know, that she never got to and will never get to hold hi-

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” It’s not Gabriella’s fault; she’s the person who’s least to blame in the entire situation.

Maggie takes a deep breath.

“I want Franky here. I want all of them here, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, if only so I could show them...but it’s not possible. And it’s going to drive me crazy to keep thinking about it. So let’s just...not talk about it tonight, okay?” Maggie’s let far too many big moments in her career be tinged by her past, trying to drag her down.

Tonight won’t be one of them.

Gabriella nods.

The moment is broken as Winn comes barreling through the door, breathless.

“The limo is here!”

 

.

.

.

 

“Oh, girls! You look gorgeous!” Their mom exclaims, and Alex can’t see her hands but she can picture them pressed together in delight. “Step closer to the screen, come on.”

She and Kara do, identical excited—and exasperated—smiles on their faces. Just like prom.

“Alex turn around, let me see that jacket.”

She obediently does, beginning to feel more comfortable in the quasi suit she wasn’t sure about at first.

“Oh that’s amazing. You remind me of your father so much. Can I take screenshots on this thing…?”

Kara laughs, and Alex chuckles through the sting in her eyes.

Thankfully, the doorbell rings before she can do something stupid like get emotional.

“Eliza, Mon-El is here!”

“Oh, I want to see him too!” Eliza says, and Alex slips away from the scene. Her sister and boyfriend leave a second later, with a promise to meet again before the show starts, and then Alex tells her mom to turn her TV on so she can catch Kara arriving on the red carpet. She’s only waiting for Maggie, anyways. Her mom disconnects the call.

It feels like only a few seconds have passed in the apartment, surrounded by Kara’s makeup girls and her assistant, when the doorbell rings again. The swirl of nerves start in her stomach at the thought of walking the red carpet, and she’s thinking about poses to do beforehand when she opens the door.

Her lungs stop working.

Or maybe her heart lurches inside her ribcage, or her trachea closes up; it feels like something fundamentally wrong in her insides when she sees Maggie look so incredibly different—painfully beautiful—and yet the same woman she knows.

Maggie raises her eyebrows.

“Danvers, you clean up well,” Maggie says, and Alex works to find her tongue so she can answer.

“You do too. With the dress and the shoes and the hair...” Alex feels her arm doing some awkward up and down sweeping motion towards Maggie and wills herself to stop. When did she lose control of her body? Why can’t she breathe ?

“Thanks,” Maggie says, her eyes trailing over her suit. “Shall we?” she asks, meeting Alex’s eyes once more, and offering her elbow for her to grab onto.

And Alex can only follow after her.

 

.

.

.

 

tweet45

tweet40

tweet44

tweet42

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

tweet43

.

.

.

 

Maggie walks down the few steps after her interview, her heart beating hard the way it always does after a microphone has been in front of her. She doesn’t think it’ll ever stop being nerve-wracking.

Winn helps her down the last step, before guiding her to where Alex is standing, waiting for her.

“How did that go?” she asks with a nervous smile, and Maggie wonders if her mood is contagious.

“Good. She asked if I had my speech written, just in case I won,” she tells Alex.

“Well, do you?” Alex asks. Maggie nods.

“Just in case.” Maybe the more she says it the less devastated she’ll feel if she doesn’t win. Simply getting nominated is an accomplishment in and of itself, but winning would be...everything. And she knows she worked her ass off, that inasmuch as you can qualify something as abstract as acting, she went above and beyond. She deserves it. It’s a sense of accomplishment that she’s never quite felt before.

She craves to have it acknowledged by her peers.

“Oh, Kara is over there!” Alex says suddenly beside her, before the cameramen take her attention. Maggie already went through the endless pictures and interviews herself, so she lets Alex be guided by Winn to one of the lines for whichever reporter, and looks for Kara Danvers in the crowd.

She’s wearing a long, white dress smattered with flowers, and she’s blindingly blonde, and so much taller than her—she can tell even from this distance. She looks nothing like Alex. She remembers the next second that the woman was adopted by the Danvers family, and guesses the difference in appearance makes sense. She’s never seen one of her movies that she can remember, but it’s Alex’s sister.

She should probably say hello, or wait for Alex to introduce her. She doesn’t approach, though, when an even taller man—God, Hollywood—steps close beside her, wrapping his arm around her waist. Must be the boyfriend. She’d heard Alex mention him once or twice. Manuel, or something. She certainly hasn’t seen anything of his.

Maggie isn’t one for snap judgements, or so she tells herself, and she maybe be influenced by Alex in this, but she can’t help but dislike the way he seems to cling to Kara Danver’s arms. She’s seen it before. Maggie’s met plenty of men who see women as decorations, or trophies to be shown off. Mon-El’s body language exudes, ‘This is my girlfriend, look at her, she’s nominated tonight’. Maggie wonders if he tells random passersby his girlfriend is famous.

“You’ve seen Mon-El,” Alex says from behind her, and her tone of voice makes her smile.

“Don’t like the boyfriend?” She asks, and Alex sputters.

“Who? Me? Mon-El? He’s..he’s fine. Kara really likes him.”

“Maybe she has bad taste,” Maggie says, turning around. She grabs Alex by the lapels of her jacket, seemingly straightening it up. The sound of camera flashes is instantaneous. “Good thing her sister is better.”

She winks and steps away.

They don’t make it five steps before the cameras are calling for Alex and Kara to take a picture together, and Maggie is content to fade into the background for a moment.

She observes the way Alex lights up around her sister, and the genuine smile she gives the cameras as she squeezes close to her for a picture. She’s seen Alex look that way once or twice before, and she’s glad she’s gotten to see Alex Danvers being herself, if that’s what it looks like.

Soon enough, the photographers are satisfied, and Maggie puts on a smile as the picture perfect entourage comes her way.

“Maggie Sawyer,” she says right away, extending her hand towards the younger Danvers, and the blonde takes it a firmer-than-she-expected grasp.

“I know! I’m Kara, Alex’s sister! But you know that.  Oh my Gosh, me and my mom loved Rosewood Street. We loved Maya and Leo. I cried when you died! Maya should’ve gotten to end up with Leo, honestly.”

Maggie tries not to wince. She still remembers the day she read the script in which her character’s boyfriend cheated on her with her sister. God, straight people.

“Ha, thank you.” She gives Kara a smile. “Danvers, you never told me you watched that show.”

“Oh, Alex didn’t, she was having a punk-rock phase at -”

“We should go in,” Alex intervenes, and Maggie chuckles out loud, but finally follows her date and her sister inside the building.

 

.

.

.

 

Tens of circular, pristinely set tables cover the room floor lit by the shimmering white lights hanging from the ceiling.

Alex can see a number of people have already taken their place at their assigned tables, and the stagehand leading their group—her, Kara, Mon-El, Maggie, M’gann, and some of the people from The Informant she’d recognized after google searching the film—weaves them in between the tables and people milling about to their table at the front.

Each person’s name in the group has a neat white name card placed behind their plates.

Alex settles into her seat in between Maggie and Kara, stomach queasy. She doesn’t want to think about why that is, but if come later in the night Kara does end up walking up to that stage, she suspects the queasiness will only increase. She picks up the menu for the show, trying to ignore her current thoughts, and inspects what they’ll be served tonight. The first course of the evening is something called Delicata, which she discovers from its caption is some sort of fancy vegetable dish with fresh basil, teardrop tomatoes, roasted butternut squash, garlic flowers, and purple sweet potatoes. The main course is fresh Mediterranean Chilean sea-bass served on top of a red beet risotto with baby beets, yellow squash, zucchini, and broccoli florets. Dessert is a white coffee liqueur biscuit served with a white chocolate coffee cream, Frangelico mascarpone, and a praline.

Well, she may not enjoy the show, but she will definitely enjoy the food.

Her perusal of the menu finished, Alex looks up from the table and is surprised to see the room practically full now. Black suits and thousand dollar dresses litter the space, and across from their own table she can see Meryl Streep and her husband. Being here is simultaneously a new and old feeling for Alex. She’s been to the Golden Globes before when Body of Medicine was on, and even further back then with her father. Lately—with everything—she hasn’t attended any award shows. Not much has changed since the last time she was in this room though, the same fancy food, decor, and people wearing rented designer outfits they’ll be returning in the morning.

She’s always thought of the entire award season experience as a Cinderella experience: a beautiful dress gifted by your fairy godstylist that would disappear come morning (when it had to be returned). 

“Oh my gosh!” Kara slaps her hand on Alex’s elbow, her grip tight and her long nails digging into Alex’s skin. “It’s Oprah. Look, but be discreet about it!”

 

Alex gently pries her hand off of her. “We literally met Oprah when we were younger, remember? Why the onset of starry eyes?”

“Because it’s Oprah,” Kara shoots her an incredulous look.

“I have to say,” Maggie pipes up from her right, and Alex quickly turns to look at her, and then just as quickly looks away upon realizing how close she is to her. “I agree with your sister on this one, Danvers.”

“I wasn’t saying she isn’t a big deal,” Alex protests. “She’s just not someone I’d get starstruck over.”

Maggie props her elbow up on the table, leaning closer to Alex—giving her a full face of the sweet perfume she’s wearing—and resting her chin in the palm of her hand. “So who’s worthy enough for the unflappable Alex Danvers to be starstruck over?”

Alex rolls her eyes as Kara erupts into giggles at her left.

“Oh! Oh, I know this one,” Kara’s claps her hands together, face lighting up. “Marie Curie, that scientist who died from radiation poisoning.”

Maggie laughs and lightly bumps Alex’s shoulder. “Or maybe Isaac Newton? Albert Einstein? Galileo?”

“Well, now you’re just listing off famous scientists,” she mutters, face lightly flushed as she picks at the napkin in her lap. Their teasing continues until the first course is served and the show begins, but Alex—despite her protests—finds she doesn’t mind it at all. The opposite actually. She’s glad Maggie and Kara seem to be getting along; Kara is the most important person in her life and Maggie is...she’s become a good friend, and a steady fixture in her life for months, now that she thinks about it.

She's by far the person Alex spends the most time with due to their jobs on and off the screen. And she’s genuinely nice and good and absolutely beautiful, especially tonight.

Alex can take a bit of good natured ribbing.

The show goes by fast between small talk with the rest of their table, the food, and the little moments where Kara and Maggie talk to each other, Alex getting stuck in the middle and not minding one bit.

It goes by so fast that before she knows it, Best Supporting Actress in Limited Series or Motion Picture is up, and Kara tenses up beside her.

Her sister smiles wide, her shining face up on the huge screens in front of them as one of the nominees, but Alex recognizes that smile. It’s the same one she wore during an oral presentation with one of their tutors, or waiting for their parents to tell her what they thought of her singing as a girl. She’s nervous, happy yet terrified.

Kara grabs her hand under the table, tight, and Alex jumps when her knuckles bump with Mon-El’s in Kara’s lap. She’d holding on to them both like her life depends on it, but nobody can tell.

Alex feels her own grip becoming progressively tenser the closer the presenters get to announcing the winner.

“And the winner is...Xenia Dvorak, American Horror Story: Ghost Town .”

Kara lets go of her hand, only so she can politely clap like Alex realizes she should be doing. She claps, while the winning actress makes her way to the stage, but she never takes her eyes of her sister. There are unshed tears in her eyes that she tries very hard to hide under a brilliant smile, but Alex knows her.

She hates that look on her face, and hates the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for not recognizing Kara’s work—that she deserved this—and she hates how she can’t protect her from the crushing disappointment she knows she’s feeling, as one of her dreams slips right through her fingers.

But most of all, Alex hates the relief that stealthily courses through her.

 

.

.

.

 

The night drags on forever.

Maggie curses the fact that her category isn’t announced until basically the end of the award show, the delicious, outrageously expensive fancy food that’s been served throughout the night has hardly helped pass the time. She can’t really eat, anyways, for fear of messing up her makeup or being caught in an unflattering mid-bite shot by the cameras for millions of people to see. Not to mention, the top part of her dress is skin tight, and see through.

The actual show itself is—as per usual—a collection of a few good moments (watching her fellow actors be awarded and tear up on stage) interspersed with the awkward comedy of the host and various presenters. Her company for the night hasn’t been much better. Their table has been suffocatingly subdued since Kara lost her nomination, which Maggie understands, but it’s affected everyone’s moods. Alex’s sister is still young and talented, she’s sure she’ll have plenty of more chances to win. The woman looks devastated though, and the same expression shadows Alex’s face along with a few others that she can’t place.

All together, the night’s festivities have been dampened. She remembers attending her first Golden Globes, back when Crush was nominated. The movie hadn’t won, and she wasn’t even nominated individually, but the novelty of her first Golden Globes had left her in a perpetual state of poorly concealed awe the whole time. She hadn’t been able to take a plus one back then, so Gabriella had stayed home, and texted Maggie every time she saw her on screen. (Three times, total, and one of those she was simply behind a nominee.)

Fast forward to the present day, and she has been recognized individually, but the novelty has worn off a bit. Jimmy Fallon delivers another subpar joke met by fake titters and then it cuts to commercial, but not before teasing the announcement for Maggie’s category coming up after the break. As soon as the cameras cut, Kara jerkily stands up, muttering ‘bathroom’, and leaves, Alex following after her. Maggie is left at the table with The Informant director and producers and some other Hollywood film producers—she’s honestly not sure who they are or what they do, there’s far more people at the awards that she doesn’t know than does.

M’gann left the table awhile ago to do what she does best, network with the other Hollywood elites—by the time she returns to the table she’ll probably have three new projects lined up for her Maggie thinks with a light chuckle. Her body is buzzing with the anticipation of what’s to come after the break, and she’s not sure whether she should get up and walk it off—but play it off as socializing with her fellow actors—or just sit and wait it out. Lucas Grones, one of The Informant producers makes her decision for her by starting up a conversation, and she’s stuck talking with him until Alex and Kara return, looking subdued, and M’gann slips back into her seat just as the signal the cameras will begin rolling again is given.

This is it. The moment she’s been dreaming of since she first started acting.

The presenters rattle off a few mandatory jokes, and then they start announcing the nominees. Maggie feels the camera on her as her name is announced after the first nominee’s, and she smiles broadly, hoping her nerves aren’t plain for everyone to see. The space between when the presenters finish announcing all the nominees and start opening the envelope with the winner’s name seems to stretch on for an infinity. Maggie can hear her heartbeat, feel her pulse in her ears. The man finally opens the envelope and she sees his mouth forming words.

His voice sounds like he’s underwater, the words coming through distorted and muffled.

And the Golden Globe goes to...Maggie Sawyer, The Informant.’

The room erupts into applause and Maggie’s body is frozen, stuck to her chair.

The world is shrunk down to this sliver of a moment, captured in time forever. But then she feels someone push her to a standing position—she thinks it might’ve been M’gann, although she’s not sure. Her legs are shaky as she stands, but when she finally does get her bearings the first thing she does is hug M’gann, hard. She manages to get out a dozen ‘thank yous’ in the crook of M’gann’s shoulder before she gently nudges her away and towards the stage. She gets a few pats on the back on her way there from the producers, and it’s all surreal, like she’s walking on air.

Maggie’s body goes into autopilot mode and carries her to the stage and to the microphone awaiting her big speech, and all that runs through her mind is to keep breathing.

When she reaches the stage she hugs the presenters and then feels a cold, heavy metal thrust into her hands: the Golden Globe.

Its weight is grounding, and her heartbeat slows down marginally, her stomach settling as well so she doesn’t feel a minute away from expelling the delicious dessert she ate onto the tables placed at the front of the large room. Maggie grips the award tighter and glances down at it, running a finger over her name engraved in the plaque. She takes another deep breath, knowing she needs to begin her speech. She only has a limited amount of time to give it, and she’s seen other actors’ speeches cut off because they didn’t finish when they were supposed to.

“I’d like to start off by thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for uh,” her voice wavers slightly as she stutters and pauses to swallow, which garners a laugh from the crowd. She smiles sheepishly and plows on, “For allowing me to be in this room filled with so many extraordinary people who also happen to be talented artists.” She chuckles nervously. “I actually do have a speech prepared,” she twists her upper body around as if to pull a slip of paper out of some fold of her dress, which produces more laughter and Maggie joins in, feeling more at ease.

“I’d like to also give a big thank you to Elizabeth McCue—the remarkable director who brought it all to life—David Weiss, Lucas Grones, and the entire cast and crew of The Informant for allowing me and helping me embody the role of Jude Fuery. Another big thank goes out to all the people who supported the movie and myself, to my fans, my manager over there, M’gann,” she points out to her in the audience before continuing down her list, “and to the person who’s supported me from my very first photoshoot when I was wearing overalls—I was actually fourteen at that time, by the way—to now, to...wow, this. The biggest thank you goes to my aunt Gabriella, and -and to my whole family too.” She adds that last line as an afterthought, realizing it wouldn’t do to only thank one member of her family when the public assumes she’s close with all of them. In her peripheral vision she can see the one minute signal and hurries to finish her speech.

“This award is for the young girl who sat in her tiny living room with her grandma watching the Golden Globes every year and dreaming of being on the very stage I’m standing on right now, accepting the same award in my hand. This is for the young girl with an impossible dream, that through some bizarre twist of the universe came true. And to all the young girls out there watching this with the same dreams I had as a child, I can’t wait to see you standing on this stage one day too.”

 

.

.

.

 

Alex watches Maggie disappear behind the stage, the sparkles from her dress visible even in the distance.

Their table takes a few minutes to return to normal, having exploded in celebration when Maggie’s name was announced, and she realizes her hands sting from how hard she’s been clapping for Maggie.

She looked amazing up there.

“Congratulations,” she tells Maggie as soon as she seats down, and she doesn’t quite know who starts it but then she’s holding Maggie between her arms, feeling her long hair tickling her neck as they hug.

On a whim, she presses a kiss to Maggie’s cheek afterward, and her stomach clenches with embarrassment as she notices the stain of lipstick she’s left  behind on her skin.

“Sorry...your face...” she rubs her thumb over the offending mark, ghosting over the deep dimples that don’t seem to disappear from Maggie’s face.

“It’s fine,” Maggie says, still smiling the widest Alex has ever seen her.

“You were amazing up there,” Alex tells her, verbalizing what she’s been thinking ever since Maggie won. She’s never seen her more beautiful, more luminous than in that moment, and it had nothing to do with the bright lights of the stage.

“Thank you,” Maggie tells her, before she’s whisked away by M’gann for another round of congratulations.

Over her manager’s shoulder, Maggie shares a smile with her.

 

.

.

.

 

The press room is hot and stuffy with the amount of reporters and photographers squeezed into one room. Maggie is herded in by the some of the crew onto the stage, the lone black microphone stand contrasting the blue of the background. The questions start coming in seconds after she adjusts the stand to fit her height so it’ll carry her voice across the crowd.  

“Maggie,” she casts her eyes around the whole room, trying to find the voice among the sea of bodies pressed together. Her eyes finally alight on the speaker and she nods for her to continue. “Congratulations on your win tonight, and what a great speech, especially the end. Can you speak a little more to how much winning this award means to you?”

“Oh boy,” she takes a deep breath. “It’s tangible payoff for all my hard work, and more importantly it’s recognition from my industry peers that the work I’m producing is worthy of praise. I’d do this job even without praise, but it’s always gratifying to receive any.” She swallows and looks back down at the golden award in her grasp, pondering the best way to answer the core of the reporter’s question. “I’ve given up a lot for my career over the years—relationships, normalcy, privacy, sleep, a large portion of my life really, it’s all gone towards acting. And I’ve never regretted that. I know the perks from her job far outweigh the benefits; I’m not trying to spin some sob story, but this industry can be difficult sometimes. It can leave you wondering why you even bother to act, or try. Moments like this,” she raises the award in her left hand, “are a reminder to keep moving forward, to never give up.”

“Maggie, hi.”

She waves back with a smile, “Hello. How are you doing?”

The reporter laughs. “Good, good. What’s more important right now is you though. The Informant has been such a notable success not only because it’s a female led action film, but also because your character, Jude Fuery, is gay too. You’ve played three LGBT roles so far, and of course, you’re openly out. How do you think the business is doing telling your community’s stories?”

“Better. But there’s definitely room for improvement. One of the things I loved about Jude was that her liking women was never something that had to be explained to the audience in the film, it was just another part of her. We need more media showing that, because we are more than our sexuality, we have personalities and stories outside of who we like to kiss that deserve to be told just as much as any coming out story.” A round of applause follows her reply, and she smiles triumphantly inside. The room is eating out of the palm of her hand. She’s had plenty of experience with the press, but this is her first press conference at a big awards show, which had made her slightly nervous. It looks like she’ll only be receiving soft ball questions tonight though, perhaps a courtesy to the winner.

“There’s been talk of possible sequels to The Informant . Are you open to continuing to play Jude and does tonight’s win for your portrayal of her bode well to future sequels of the movie?”

Maggie’s smile never falters as she strings together another measured response. It’s easier than she expected, the high of having won, the weight of the award in her hand, carrying her forward with a sort of ecstatic assurance she’s never quite felt before. She feels high on it, energized.

A few more minutes of the back and forth, and then she’s herded off to take portraits with her Golden Globe.

 

.

.

.

 

The entrance to the Netflix hosted after party is congested with cameras and reporters, all vying for their attention.

Alex feels like a sheep being herded through the field as the party attendants push through a clear path for them towards the red carpet. Once there, Maggie is shepherded off immediately for solo pictures, leaving Alex to face the photo hounds alone. She hadn’t realized just how comforting she’d come to find Maggie’s arm around her waist, her warm presence beside her as they stood shoulder to shoulder.

“Alex!”

“You look gorgeous, Alex, look this way!”

“To your right!”

“Smile again, beautiful!”

“The front please, Alex!”

The cacophony of their yells still makes Alex’s ears ring unpleasantly, even though she’s been subjected to them—for worse reasons than tonight’s—far more than she enjoys. But she grins and bears it, it’s just another part of the job.

She walks as soon as she’s able, only to be face to face with reporters, their microphones, cameras, and even cellphones at the ready.

“Alex! Here, please. How does it feel to have your little sister nominated for a Golden Globe?”

“I’m- I’m very proud of her.”

“She started acting after you did, no family drama?”

“Never,” she says firmly. “She deserved that nomination and in my opinion she deserved to win, too.”

“That’s good, thank you Alex.” The man nods, before his attention is swept away. “Deborah! Please, over here!”

Alex looks around, trying to see where exactly Maggie is, when her name is called again—her full name this time.

“Alexandra!”

She finds the source of the yell, a short, balding man that stands alone, holding his own camera.

“Just two years ago you were fired from Body of Medicine and this year you walked the Golden Globe red carpet,” he states, and Alex feels her blood sour like a tangible thing, feels the shift in her as he reminds her of one of her lowest points. “What can you tell us about that comeback?” He asks, clearly pleased he seems to have rattled her.

She tries to smile, and come up with a reasonable answer, one that corrects—his truthful assessment—that she’d been fired. But he’s not done.

“What do you think your father would think about your career right now?”

She sees red.

Rage bubbles up in her stomach, as she hears the question drip with the same judgment she has heard from her mother, and herself, far too many times to count.

Alex takes a step towards him, unsure what she’s going to do, but then feels a gentle hand circling her wrist, halting her.

Maggie.

“Who let paparazzi inside?” Maggie asks one of the bodyguards, and even though the man tries to show his name tag proving him as a TMZ photographer, he’s escorted away.

Maggie steps closer to Alex, whispering under her breath.

“This place is teeming with reporters waiting for the next big scandal and if it’s from the date of a winner? Even better for them,” Maggie says. “Don’t let it get to you.”

But all Alex hears is ‘the date of a winner’, and it does nothing to improve her worsening mood. It’s all she is right now, after all. She got fired, like that asshole said even though that’s not the story they spun for the public, and now she’s here with her fake date, trying to absorb some of Maggie’s good press.

She shakes off Maggie’s hand, and makes her way inside.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie can practically see a cloud forming over Alex’s head reflecting her impromptu mood change.   

She knows Alex’s past is not something she likes to think about, and Maggie hasn’t pried. She respects her co-workers, and she doesn’t ask about their private lives or their families unless they volunteer the information, because she likes having that privilege herself. So she doesn’t know the details, and she certainly doesn’t know if what that ass had said was the truth, and Alex had been fired from her last show, but her reaction all but confirms it.

It has nothing on the reaction the mention of her father brought out of her, and while Maggie knows he passed years ago, and she recognizes his name, she hasn’t pried. But she can’t help but wonder.

The mention follows them for the rest of the night.

Alex becomes withdrawn—sour—a version of herself she’s seen before and that she doesn’t exactly like. Maggie circles back to her after doing her rounds in the room greeting fellow actors and being congratulated at each turn, but it hasn’t changed. She sighs, and pulls out her phone. There’s a dozen new typo-filled texts from Gabriella that she spends a few minutes trying to decipher before admitting defeat. She’ll have to ask her what they meant when she sees her later tonight. She quickly texts her aunt that the after party is going great. She’d asked her to come, but Gabriella had opted to watch from the sidelines and-

“Maggie Sawyer!” Someone says, and she turns to meet—that’s the guy from Star Wars. She almost wants to turn around and find Alex. Space fighting sounds like just her thing.

“Congratulations,” he tells her, shaking her hand. “You’re so young, you’re going to do great things.”

She smiles, admittedly a bit starstruck, even though the man’s name is failing to come to mind at the moment. She’d seen the movie with Gabriella the day it came out. He waves as he leaves, and Maggie does the same. She chuckles to herself.

As she navigates her way back to her table, she can see Alex is sitting in the same morose position as before, but with 4 more champagne flutes decorating the space to her right.

“Maybe there should be an age minimum for winning a Golden Globe,” Alex is whispering under her breath when Maggie arrives at the table, and the drains the flute in her hand.

“You jealous, Danvers?” she asks as she sits down.

“Not of you,” Alex says right away, and Maggie reminds herself there was no way she could hear her previous conversation.

Maggie gives her a look, and Alex shakes her head. “It’s nothing.”

But it’s clearly something, and Maggie bets it’s about the mention of her father before, but she tries not to let it derail the rest of the night. She’ll ask her, tomorrow. She carefully sits down in the seat next to Alex, making sure her dress isn’t mangled in the process.

“If you say so.”

Alex’s mood doesn’t look like it’ll be improving anytime soon, and Maggie hears someone calling her name. Decision made of her next route of action, she turns back to Alex.

“I heard they’re serving a great red tonight too,” she nods towards the empty glasses, which produces a pointed look from Alex. “I heard someone call my name, I think, sorry -I’m just gonna,” she waves vaguely behind her.

“That ‘someone’ is Charlize Theron.”

“Well,” Maggie’s lips turn up. “I certainly can’t keep her waiting.” The last she sees of Alex she’s flagging down a waiter balancing a tray of various drinks.

Charlize Theron is absolutely stunning in person—stunning and slightly intimidating. The aura about her thrums with power and a measure of dignity. Maggie just wishes she could properly focus on the acting icon standing in front of her congratulating her and enthusing about how great it is too see fresh talent come up. But she can’t because her mind is stuck on another beautiful woman currently sitting alone. She responds to Charlize’s words with her own words of gratitude and compliments for the woman, and then politely extracts herself from the conversation. She pushes her way back to her table, trying to see around the crowd for a glimpse of Alex. The table is empty, but she sees a flash of auburn red hair and the sleeve of a black suit jacket slip outside the balcony through the large glass double door. Her heeled feet quickly carry her to the same vicinity, and she steps out onto the balcony, reflexively tensing in preparation for the cold, but it’s warm outside—of course—a reminder that winter seems to never touch this part of California.

The change in temperature aside, the scene in front of her prompts a sense of deja vu; it reminds her of that night at the Christmas party, except Alex is the one on shaky ground now.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks softly, looking around to make sure they are alone on the large balcony. They are.

“About what?”

“Whatever has you this upset,” she says. Alex doesn't say anything, just holds her elbows, looking smaller than she has all night in the tailored, feminine suit her stylist put her in. “It’s about your father, isn't it?”

Alex turns around. “It’s not.”

“Alex, I saw your reaction when that asshole prodded you like that, and you don't need to tell me, but...I'm here for you, okay? Let's go back to the party,” she tells her with a tentative smile. “We can find some ridiculously expensive appetizers to snack on. Let’s go-”

“I can't pretend to be happy right now. I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry but I don't want to go back inside.” Maggie frowns, and takes a step closer, but Alex isn’t done. “You're right, by the way. Great sleuthing skills. It was about my dad, and a dozen other things. Tonight has been a shitshow.”

Maggie takes a step back.

She just won a Golden Globe—it’s one of the happiest nights of her life. And Alex seemed to be having a good time up until that asshole’s questions, but maybe she just wasn’t paying close enough attention because of her own blinding, overpowering happiness. She feels a jolt of guilt run through her at that thought.

They’re supposed to be in this together.

“Chasing after my father’s shadow was enough but now I have to add Kara to that list, and then you show up looking like that and it makes me…” Alex shakes her head, and Maggie’s stomach swoops as she imagines the ending of that sentence. “I’m nothing but your arm candy.”

“Don’t say that,” she tells her quickly. “You’re my friend .”

“Not tonight. Right now I’m your fake date because I can't get back on my feet on my own-”

“Alex, lower your voice-”

“Everyone knows how much a fuck up I am either way-”

“You’re not the only one with issues!” Maggie blurts out, finally. “But you don’t hear me saying anything. Gabriella moved back to the other side of the country and I haven't complained to anyone, and certainly not you.” Maggie slowly expels a breath. “This was one night, Alex. My night.”

The drunken anger leaves Alex’s face, eyes going soft the way she knows them to.

“What happened with Gabriella?” She asks gently, but Maggie shakes her head. As if she’d tell her anything. It’s her own shit.

“Can we just finish out this party?” she pleads, and Alex nods.

 

.

.

.

GGsSanversRedCarpetDebutArticle

.

.

.

 

Alex gets to her apartment late that night.

She climbs the stairs, her heels in her hands, and thanks her lucky stars that the concierge remembers her enough to lend her a master key so she can go inside. She steps out of the stairway into the hallway, and then stops in surprise at an unexpected small figure sitting at her door, back leaning against the wood and head in her arms.

“Kara?”

Her sister looks up, grey tracks down her cheeks. She’s quick to wipe them away with her palms.

“Alex!” She stands up, fighting a little with her dress. “I didn’t know when you were getting back.”

“I thought you were with Mon-El,” she says, walking faster towards her. “Did he-”

“I asked him to go home, and had the driver drop me off here,” she says quickly. “Think we could have an impromptu sister night?”

Alex looks at her sister, at her eyes shining with tears, and she can see nothing but the girl who was afraid of everything, and couldn’t bear to shoulder thunder alone. Her heart constricts in her chest.

“Of course,” she tells her, and opens the door.

“Do you want to call mom?” she asks, once Kara is installed in her couch with ice cream and a blanket. Kara shakes her head. “Mon-El and I are gonna drive up to see her soon. I just want sister night right now.”

“More like sister early morning,” Alex says, trying to make her laugh. “It’s 3 AM.”

Kara chuckles, but it lacks its usual light.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks, pushing down everything that came crawling back up to the surface tonight to focus on her sister. Kara needs her.

Kara shrugs. “It’s just...for a moment there I really thought I was going to win,” she says, her voice small. “And it’s fine, I’m just…”

“You get to be sad, Kara,” Alex tells her squeezing her knee. Kara sidles up to her, offering Alex some ice cream. Alex grabs her spoon, but doesn’t dig in just yet. “You’re twenty-two,” Alex reminds her. “You have dozens and dozens of more opportunities to win that award. One day, you won’t know where to put them. You’ll give Meryl Streep a run for her money.” Kara cracks a smile. “And you know what?”

Kara looks at her.

“You get to pick the movie,” Alex tells her, and Kara grins as she gets the controller and logs into her Netflix account.

“Oh, I know what we should watch!” She pulls up The Informant on the screen. “You’ve seen it, right?” Kara asks, and Alex shakes her head.

“Alex! It’s Maggie’s film! It’s the role she won for tonight,” Kara says, as though she needs the reminder. Her sister’s face only falls marginally when she mentions the award Maggie received, and which slipped from her hands.

Alex lets Kara put on the film.

Halfway through the first scene, she hears a sniff by her side. When she turns, she sees there are tears in Kara's eyes.

"Oh, Kara-"

"I'm fine," she says, though it comes out like a sob. Alex wraps her arms around her sister, and lets her get it out. Her shoulders shake with the force of it, and Alex forces herself to be a rock, to be the immovable stone that her sister's tidal wave of grief may crash against. It doesn't take long for her to stop crying, but even then she doesn't pull away, and they watch the film pressed together, like they used to watch horror movies when they were young.

Maggie's isn't a horror movie. It's not bad at all. In fact, it’s good, really good. Alex likes the fast paced actions sequences, and the biting, badass dialogue, and it’s at once so easy and so hard to see the woman she’s come to know in the secret spy on her screen. Her hair is shorter, and her voice is deeper, somehow, than Maggie’s, but the way they carry themselves is the same, that overwhelming confidence that everyone around her can feel.

Kara falls asleep halfway through the movie. Alex doesn’t blame her, she’s seen it before and she’s exhausted from her day. She’s not even mad she’s done that thing again where she forces her to watch a film only to conk out halfway through. She’s just thankful she’s asleep. She covers her with the throw over their legs, and turns her attention back to the screen.

She might as well finish the movie. It’s really good, after all—not that she’ll tell Maggie that.

The next scene makes her fidget. A tall, pretty blonde brings a glass of alcohol to Maggie’s character, Jude, her hips swinging, her heels clicking on the floor. Alex can hear the sound reverberate through her apartment. Jude grabs her wrist before the woman can leave, and then takes off the hat she’s wearing, a black fedora that would look absolutely ridiculous on anyone else.

Everything happens fast. In the next scene, Jude is pushing the woman against the bar, and kissing her neck as she rips the back of her dress with her hands. The blonde moans and then grabs Jude’s hair, bringing her to her lips, and Alex watches, enthralled.

Oddly enough, she thinks that she knows what it feels like to kiss Maggie like that. Well, not exactly like that, as she sees the blonde’s tongue slip past her lips—but enough. She wonders if the way the actress playing opposite Maggie is moaning is genuine, if it’s even ethical to enjoy a sex scene you’re shooting for the cameras. Wonders what it means for herself then, that she hasn’t hated all her kisses with Maggie.

Or that she can’t stop thinking about the way she looked tonight.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie hasn’t even gotten her foot out of the car when she hears a loud whoop and sees Gabriella running down the pathway towards her. Her aunt pulls her the rest of the way out of the car—Maggie hopes she didn’t damage her dress in the process—and engulfs her in a tight hug.

“Piccola! I’m so proud of you.” Her arms still around Maggie, she rocks them both side to side, squeezing even tighter. “The neighbors yelled at me twice to keep it down, but I ignored them both times, and then yelled back to shut up because my niece had just won a fucking Golden Globe.”

Maggie pulls away, laughing. “Gabriella, the neighbors don’t even live that close by.”

She shrugs. “I have those middle aged white man at a sports game lungs on me, you know that—it’s a family trait.”

Maggie rolls her eyes and tugs her inside, laughing all the way. She kept dozing off on the ride back to her house, but now that her aunt is here a fresh surge of energy crashes through her, leaving her on a temporary high.

“Do you want some food or something? I can make food. And we need to get you out of that -”

“No to the food,” she cuts Gabriella off. “My stomach is still jittery so I’m not going to even risk eating anything. Also, it’s 3 AM, and we’re leaving for the airport in four hours. But yes to the dress, please and thank you.”

“Whatever you want.” Her aunt stands motionless, hands clasped at her chest just looking at Maggie with an awed expression. “You’re amazing, you know that right?” She cuts off the protests resting at the tip of Maggie’s tongue ready to be freed. “What you’ve accomplished is extraordinary. Maggie, you are extraordinary. You’re a...” Gabriella snaps her fingers in the air trying to come up with the word. Then her eyes light up and she performs a snap that finishes in a pointed finger at Maggie’s face. “You’re a real star.” She starts giggling at her own joke, and Maggie suspects she’s already had her celebratory drinks in honor of her win.  

“Let’s get you out of that dress,” Gabriella offers, and Maggie thankfully follows her inside her room.

 

 

 

Maggie sleeps the entire ride to the airport.

She feels bad that Gabriella doesn’t get the same chance to since she’s the driver, but her aunt had insisted in driving her herself. Secretly, she’s thankful. Maggie knows she’ll see her soon enough when she flies back for the Oscars, but it’s still time apart that she doesn’t like. Like the most diligent of Uber drivers, her aunt brushes off her concerns as she helps her unload her suitcase from the car onto the sidewalk.

“I’m not getting on a plane today; I can sleep after this.”

“That is true,” she admits. Trunk closed and bags taken out, they stand in silence on the sidewalk. “This is it then,” Maggie shrugs her left shoulder and tucks her hands in her back pocket, a now familiar sinking feeling in her stomach at leaving her aunt.

Gabriella pulls her close, her arms a safe haven around her. “I can make an impromptu visit to NYC if you want. Just call me.”

“What I want,” Maggie pulls back and reaches down to sling her backpack over her shoulders, “is for you to stop worrying about me. Stay in LA. I’ll be back for the Oscars in like a month anyways.”

“Children, they grow up so fast,” she clutches her heart with one hand and then throws the back of her other hand across her forehead for good measure.

“Geez, where’s your Golden Globe?” Maggie rolls her eyes and turns to leave. She turns back at the last minute, to drop a quick kiss to her cheek and get one last hug in. Gabriella laughs. “Love you, zia, I’ll call when I’m back at my apartment in NYC.”

“You better,” she tells her, and lets her go. "And Maggie!" she yells suddenly in her sports stadium voice. “I love you too, kid!”

Maggie winces at her volume and the people staring at them because of it. But she wouldn't change it for the world.

 

 

Alex is already in her matching seat in business class when Maggie boards the plane.

Thankfully, her seat is elsewhere, still close by, but at least in a different aisle. She considers greeting Alex, but ultimately decides against it, thoughts of that night quickly coming back to her. It's not that she's mad, and they ended the night on a civil note at least, but Maggie likes to give things their space. They can talk when they land.

Maggie settles into her seat, headphones on and phone out, and soon enough they’re taking off. She scrolls through the video screen for something to pass the time. She picks a TV Show about two LAPD detectives, and the dead wife angst coupled with the explosions is enough to keep her somewhere between entertained and bored. Halfway into her second episode, she chances a glance toward Alex and sees her asleep already, one of those scratchy blue blankets draped over her.

Her fingers itch. She doesn't want to be that person, but for God's sake, she already did it to Gabriella. She can't get worse than that.

Maggie pauses her show and unlocks her phone. Her movements are hesitant as she types in the Google search, “Jeremiah Danvers”, but she pushes forward. She wants to know what managed to put that look in Alex's face the previous night. It's the type of curiosity that she could never stop, that gets her in trouble. 

She reads the headlines, and it’s so much worse than she thought.

 

.

.

.

 

The flight feels shorter than usual, and Alex wakes up only 20 minutes before they land.

Maggie talks to her the minute they're outside the plane, asking about the flight and whether the terrible airplane blankets are comfortable, and it's suddenly like their argument of the night before has dissapeared. Alex has half a mind to ask her if King has sent them any indications about posing for photos as they leave the airport, but that doesn't seem to be the case. 

Maggie is just being...nice, nicer than she deserves, considering she decided that getting drunk last night—drunk and mean—was a good course of action. She wonders if she should bring it up, but she doesn't want to remind Maggie of what she'd almost said. She was drunk, and tries to ignore that even in the light of day she can't say it was a lie. Maggie showing up, dressed like that...Alex shakes her head to clear it.

They share a car on their way back to Manhattan, and Maggie sleeps this time.

.

.

.

 

Maggie's stomach rumbles as she watches the presenters announce the nominees for category after category.

She’d been far too nervous to eat when she woke up early thats morning after a restless night of sleep—her mind too over excited at what was coming the next day. If the Golden Globes were her biggest accomplishment, then the Oscars are her biggest dreams. It’s the craziest thing she ever imagined for herself, back when she got her first bit role in Law & Order SVU. Academy Award nominated actress Maggie Sawyer. Maybe even winner.

It’s the top of the mountain, the highest she can reach. And she can feel it, just at her fingertips.

God, she can’t wait to hear it. She can feel M’gann and Gabriella are just as jittery, even through the texts in their group chat. They're both at work, but Maggie knows the little TV inside La Nuvola Bianca’s kitchen is turned onto Good Morning America, and that M’gann is watching, too. Her last message had been directed towards Gabriella, telling her she would give her 15 minutes only to congratulate her when they announced it, and then it was her turn.

Finally, after what feels like forever, it’s time for the Best Actress nominees.

"Elle Fanning, All the Bright Places .“ Maggie squeezes the edge of her couch as they read name, after name. She know she's holding her breath, and consciously forces herself to breathe. "Brooklynn Prince, Princess."

There's only name left to be announced, and her heart lives in her throat as the presenters prepare to say it.

“And Meryl Streep for Come What May . Those are all our Best Actress nominees.”

Maggie swears she feels the sting in her skin as her heart falls and shatters, shards flying in every direction.

Her name is not there.

Chapter Text

Odero si potero, si non, invitus amabo : I will hate if I can, if not, I will love against my will

.

.

.

 

tweet48

tweet47

.

.

.

 

She breathes in, and out. In, and back out.

Maggie briefly thinks as much as her not getting nominated doesn’t seem fair, it’s not fair for her to feel as strongly as she does about it too. She’s been through so much worse, through so much shit. So why does this make her chest constrict and her lungs feel like they’re going to burst?

She decides she won’t cry over it.

It’d be pointless, senseless, if she shed a single tear because she didn’t get a nomination for an award. She gets to be disappointed, but she shouldn’t act like a little girl about this. She crosses her arms and presses them against herself, as tight as she can against her stomach, and keeps breathing methodically until the burn in her eyes passes.

She emerges to find the rest of the awards have been announced, and the current show is simply a recount of what they just stated. “Oscars 2018, Snubs and Surprises!” the news ticker reads, and Maggie turns off her TV. That’s what happened. She got ‘snubbed’. Or so M’gann would say, and Gabriella, and everyone who saw her arrive on set at the ass crack of dawn and leave late at night, almost every day for months... Maggie isn’t a proud person, she’s not conceited, but she is proud of her work. She busted her ass for The Informant. She thought she had this, at the very least the nomination, in the bag. She won her Golden Globe in the same category, she was convinced she had it. M’gann was too. And Gabriella had made her promise she’d get to be the first one to congratulate her already.

What went wrong? She swallows down the thickness in her throat, and rubs her hand over her face. It’s done, she’s not nominated, and it’s fine. It’s not the end of the goddamned world no matter how much it feels like it. Regardless of the bruises and the all-nighters and -the contract.

M’gann had wanted her to have a steady girlfriend so she’d look great during award season. And it had worked, she’d said it herself. The Golden Globes articles had been a gold mine, and M’gann was sure that even if the movie didn’t get a nod, she would. It only made sense. But it didn’t happen, and now she can’t help but wonder if it was all for nothing.

She was never going to get nominated, had she just been through the small almost-scandal with Emily a few years ago or had she been married to some women and had two kids. It was never about her image, or her values. It was about her choice of partner, it had to be, because it doesn’t make sense. Maggie isn’t one to assume that every person who’s ever treated her wrong did so out of homophobia or misogyny or misguided racism based on her Sicilian, toasted skin—but she can’t find a explanation that fits as much as that one. She would’ve been the first out lesbian nominated.

She would’ve been able to say she left the hellhole that was Blue Springs, Nebraska, and she was out and proud her entire career, and she worked her ass off and was nominated for an Oscar. But that isn’t happening now.

What was the point of everything with Alex? The initial fighting and awkwardness, the hit to their initial friendship and the learning to exist around each other both as women playing a role, playing at being in love in front of cameras and as friends, if it didn’t achieve what it was supposed to? It didn’t help her chances in the least.

She was supposed to think she could beat them at their own game. That she even had a shot.

She runs her fingers through her hair, down to her wet T-shirt—she’d left her shower in a hurry, and dressed without even drying her hair, because she wanted to be in front of the TV on time. The chill of the wet shirt sticking to her back combined with the air conditioning finally pulls her out of her frozen state, and she notices her cellphone is ringing nonstop.

Gabriella.

Maggie reaches for the phone.

“Do you want me to be there?” Is the first thing that her aunt says when she opens the call. “I can be on the next flight over.”

Maggie takes a deep breath, trying to control the desire to cry climbing up her throat. Those first few months with Gabriella, she’d forced herself to keep her emotions on lockdown. She’d gotten good at pretending like she was fine, at folding the pull out couch and showering before Gabriella was even awake because it wasn’t her responsibility to take care of her. She’d become practiced in the art of occupying the least amount of space possible. But then everything happened with Elisa and Gabriella showed her that it was okay to cry, to feel.

She forgets that lesson sometimes, with women she dates or friends she refuses to let closer to her than necessary, and every once in a while she still aids herself with alcohol to really let go...but she’s never forgotten that lesson with Gabriella.

Right now though, she can’t be that little girl crying into her aunt’s chest, and feeling for the first time in her whole life what she’d always hoped to feel with her own mother but never quite did.

“No, Gabriella. It’s fine. It’s just...it’s just an award.” She forces her voice to remain even. “It’s not like someone died.”

“I know,” Gabriella tells her, her voice concerned. “But you really wanted this. Oh, Maggie-”

“It’s fine,” she insists.

“You deserved this. Nobody deserved it more than you. I don’t know what they were thinking! No offense but that little girl is like eight! Who nominates an eight year old?!”

“Gabriella...it’s fine, really. I’m sure the kid deserved it too.”

“You’ll get a nomination, piccola. You’re going to get there, I know it. I’m sorry, I was so sure you’d get this...M’gann said-”

“I know. We all thought it was a given,” she says. That was her first mistake. “It’s fine, though. I’m fine. Actually, I’ll talk to you later, okay? I want to talk to M’gann about a few things, and I have lines to learn this afternoon.”

Gabriella is silent for a moment. Maggie can see her in her mind’s eye, frowning, the space between her eyebrows folding in the little divot that she called her only decent dimple. (“Because you got them all, kid.”)

“Okay,” Gabriella says, finally. “Of course. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

As soon as she closes the call, her phone is ringing again. It’s M’gann, and Maggie is still running through the words she’d said when they’d first chosen to go through with the contract, and ‘Oscar campaign’ stands out, and she doesn’t want to be angry with her manager, and friend, for something that isn’t her fault.

So she doesn’t answer.

Instead, she makes time by having a glass of orange juice for breakfast, trying to inject some normalcy into the fucking day, and when hurt has given way to anger that she was overlooked so clearly—and it loses its ability to swallow her whole—she makes her way down the stairs of the building.

Six flights of stairs is enough to get her heart rate up, and she goes down them so fast it keeps her attention occupied. Maggie think she should probably hit the gym.

She makes her way to the apartment mailboxes, intent on focusing on bills to be paid and checks to be made. That’s normal, and she needs to treat today with normalcy—as opposed to bending under the weight of the disappointment that threatens to crush her. She just needs to keep moving until the feeling that something she’s been working towards for a decade was ripped from her -was never hers in the first place. She just-

“Maggie!”

Maggie turns around only to meet Alex’s eyes, that look at her in much the same way she imagines Gabriella or M’gann’s would.

“Hey, Danvers.”

“Hi. I saw the nominations. That-”

“It’s fine-”

“That was fucking bullshit.”

Maggie’s eyes pop open, and her lips break out in a half smile against her own volition.

“Language,” she chides Alex, marvelling at how a few curses have already done more to lift her mood that running down 6 flights of stairs.

“How the hell could you not have gotten nominated?!” Alex exclaims. “You won the Globe, it’s almost a prerequisite at this point.” Maggie’s smiles fades. The reminder that they all thought she had it in the bag already is too raw.

“Well, the Academy didn’t think so.”

“That was bullshit,” Alex insists. Maggie is amused at how determined Alex looks, but at the end of the day, she’s a creature of habit, and her often-followed gut feeling is telling her she needs to be alone.

“I -huh. I have stuff to do at my apartment so…”

“Oh, sure. Sure.” Alex presses her lips together, and Maggie makes quick work of grabbing her mail.

“I’ll let you get back to your things,” she says, waving a hand at Alex’s outfit —she’s wearing running shoes and leggings. Alex nods, and Maggie turns around, quickly retreating back upstairs.

But before she can get very far, a warm hand hooks her wrist with one of her fingers, and Maggie nearly shudders at how delicate the touch is. She looks back, and meets Alex’s eyes. She feels breakable this morning, and Alex is touching her like she’s made of glass.

“You really deserved it, Maggie. Everyone knows that.”

“Thanks,” she says, and damns herself when the soft understanding im the dark hazel eyes of the person she’s come to consider her partner, in a way, for the past few months, makes her throat feel tight.

She climbs ups the stairs back to her apartment two at a time.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex’s feet pound out a steady rhythm on the running trail, matching her heartbeat.

Her lungs seem to work overtime to absorb more oxygen, and she can almost feel her heart rate increase in turn to pump that oxygen through her blood. This is what running does for her. It grounds her. She never feels as in control of her body, apart from maybe when she’s acting, in the thick of an emotional scene. Her breath comes out at a measured pace as sweat rolls down her neck, drenching the short hairs at the base of her neck.

It’s a cloudy, cold day—made even more so by the tree branches hanging over the path and filtering out the sky—but she stopped feeling the cold during her 4th lap around the Reservoir Loop, and she’s clocked three more laps since then.

Tchaikovsky’s Overture 1812, Op. 49 rings in her ears as the flourishing climax of the song reaches its peaks and the cannons go off in the background.

People always do a double take when she tells them she likes exercising to orchestra music and original movie scores. It’s not information that many are privy too, but the little clique of girls who had adopted her back in LA seemed to think it was strange. It is a bit unorthodox, she supposes, a full orchestra blaring in your ears. But she thinks it can be just as motivational as whatever it is other people listen to. Like the top 100 stuff that Natalie and her other ‘friends’ back in LA liked. The music currently blaring in her ears is what she grew up listening to too, and it reminds her of her dad.

As a filmmaker, he’d always had an added appreciation for movie scores—often performed by a philharmonic orchestra—that he passed down to her. She can still clearly recall many a ‘the floor is lava’ games played in their living room set to the Star Wars theme wherein she was transformed from a 5-year-old enthusiastically jumping from furniture to furniture into a rebel pilot dodging enemy fire from the Empire. She’s older now, and the floor isn’t lava—although in her career she has had instances where it felt like she was tightrope walking over a lava pit all the same—but her choice of music hasn’t changed.

In her 8th lap, Alex starts slowing down, beginning her cool down period.

She hadn’t particularly wanted to jog this morning, but Matt insisted she needed to make sure she was back in tip top form now that shooting resumed, and it wasn’t like she’d actually gone to the gym during their break. Nightingale is in the back half of the season now, and Claire—as her naivete slowly wears off in the remaining episodes—will be in more action scenes, which Alex loves. It’s why she was excited to sign up for the show in the first place, to play the badass with big guns. Claire’s big scenes are still with Blake, of course, but the prospect of practicing fight choreography with Maggie is actually a bonus.

She hasn’t gotten her boxing match with Maggie just yet, but a choreographed side-by-side fight should be almost as fun. If it was any other way, she’d take advantage of having found Maggie out of her apartment to pitch the idea -but Maggie probably isn’t in the mood to box right now. That is, unless some of the Academy members are on the other side. At least that’s what Alex would feel like doing if she was in her place.  

She’s not sure about Maggie. Especially since she didn’t even seem to be angry this morning at the mailboxes, she just seemed sad—and resigned. Alex felt a stab of hurt at seeing her like that, and it fueled her own unexpectedly fiery anger at the award committee for doing that to her, for painting that small, quiet expression on a face made for smiling. They’d snubbed her, plain and simple. Kara had woken her up with a barrage of texts saying just that.

Alex had managed to get one half smile out of Maggie this morning—with a small dimple in her left cheek that had somehow looked more sad than anything—but it’d faded as quickly as it’d come after Alex’s outburst. Maggie was probably just smiling at her big mouth, prone to blurting out things she shouldn’t—a trait she still hasn’t fully broken despite her decade plus in a business where that type of thing could end her career. She’d bulldozed on after that, taking the upturn of lips as a good sign, only to watch it fade at her reminder that it was practically unheard of for an actor to be nominated for Golden Globe, but then skipped over for the Oscar in the same category.

It really is bullshit; her own dad was nominated for and won the Golden Globe for Best Director, and then went on to do the same with the Oscars. Maggie deserved that too.

She’s by far the best actor Alex has had the privilege of going toe to toe with, and Alex can see how her own acting is elevated in scenes with her. She’s had a front row seat to how hard she works on Nightingale too , and Alex is sure she worked even harder in The Informant . The whole thing was bullshit.

Maggie hadn’t looked any better as she’d gone back up to her apartment—her presence diminished and that innate air of confidence she exuded gone—and the lingering last look she’d given Alex stayed with her through her run, pushing its way to the forefront of her mind.

Maggie was usually so tough, and now she looked so...vulnerable.

And Alex can’t stop thinking about what to do.

 

.

.

.

 

She doesn’t know what to distract herself with anymore.

If Maggie has something she hates about herself, and she has a few things, it’s the fact that she can’t let things go. She needs to chase something down until its inevitable end, needs to know why things happen, especially when it concerns herself and why she wasn’t good enough for something. As a kid, she used to ask herself why her parents hadn’t...just loved her enough, and as an actress she’d only traded the familiar thorn filled sentence towards every project where she wasn’t chosen, every casting where she didn’t get a callback.

Awards that everyone was so sure she’d be nominated for, that she never got anywhere close to.

She doesn’t want to think about any of it now.

She hates herself a little for the way her brain knows exactly how to distract her, how to keep her neurons busy and engaged and firing away so she doesn’t think about her own shit. She gravitates towards her laptop.

As she pulls up Google, she feels just as dirty as she did when she was 15 and discovered porn for the first time. Her eyes unable to look away or stop watching as she found something that held her attention, part curiosity and part taboo. This is some of both. She already invaded Gabriella’s privacy (and her aunt doesn't know about that one yet) and this isn't different. She's aware of it.

She has a fucking problem because it doesn't make her stop.

She scrolls down the page to an article she hasn't read, written a few days after Jeremiah Danvers' death, the morning of his funeral. Paparazzi pics of a younger Alex dressed in black stare back at her—and that's too much. Maggie exits the page. And then looks for another one, without pictures.

She can't imagine going through something like what Alex did and never talking about it. It’s some level of fucked up that she found out without giving Alex the chance to tell her herself.

 

.

.

.

D6543E14-5043-41B7-90A0-0905E7D7DFD2

.

.

.

 

Her legs settle into walk as her jog comes to an end, and she finds now that she’s glad she took the run, if only because it cleared her mind, and gave her an idea. She should do something to cheer Maggie up. That’s what friends do, and she certainly counts Maggie as her friend now—and hopes the feeling is mutual.

She gives it some thought as she briskly walks through the cold streets in the direction of their apartment building. She quickly goes over things she knows Maggie likes doing in her head. She likes taking care of her bonsai, but that’s not really a group activity and Alex can’t see it being especially fun either. Knowing her luck, too, she’d be liable to ruin the miniature tree, which would just make Maggie feel worse. She enjoys a good scotch, but a strong scotch doesn’t seem like the best route to take after a disappointment, and it’d only have a temporary effect that would fade quickly come the harsh light of morning. She has plenty of experience with that. Maggie absolutely loves her aunt’s tiramisu. At their first meeting at La Nuvola Bianca last year (and Alex’s steps falter for a millisecond at the startling realization that it’s been 6 months since then) she’d taken her time savoring each bite with a small sigh or moan of appreciation afterwards, that had embarrassed Alex at the time. But her aunt isn’t in New York City anymore, which she hadn’t even known until Maggie told her, so bringing her tiramisu might just remind her of that fact. Maggie likes the color pink, despite her continued insistence that the pink apparel and accessories she sports are, in fact, magenta (which is...pink). Alex could buy her something pink from Victoria’s Secret, but she immediately cringes at the mental image of herself walking into the store, surrounded by lingerie, to buy a gift for her co-star, and the option is quickly shelved. She probably likes the theater, and they are in the home of broadway, but snagging good last minute tickets the day of the show might not be doable, even given her celebrity status. And she wants to do something today to cheer her up, not in three weeks.

That leaves...well, Alex isn’t sure. She still knows far less about Maggie than she’d like, but she respects her right to privacy—Alex is already intruding enough as it is with the contract, though Maggie did agree to the intrusion. Her list of things she knows Maggie likes at an end, Alex moves onto the next best thing: a generic list of fun activities.

There’s bowling at Chelsea Pier, which would be fun if only to see which of them would win. Karaoke, that’s another thing people like to do, and there are karaoke places liberally littered throughout the city—her singing skills are a bit rusty, but she knows she could still belt out a great rendition of “Breathe 2 AM,” though it’s such an old song by now she’s not even sure it’d be an option. She passed a pinball bar one day while on her morning coffee run, that could be fun. She also knows there’s a vibrant paintball industry in NYC, which she’s actually been dying to partake in herself, but she just hasn’t had the time. It seems a bit more aggressive than what Alex is aiming for though, however, the idea is good—she stores it away for future use. Maggie might not feel like going out, Alex thinks suddenly, and that leaves only the tried and true method of eating your feelings away with some nice, greasy junk food. Pizza.

Pizza and beer could be good. She could just...show up at Maggie’s with the food, and then move on from there. To what, she doesn’t know. Her plan isn’t as solid as she’d like.

But if it eased that expression on Maggie’s face, at least it’d be a good a start.

 

.

.

.

 

Her phone rings, and Maggie jumps.

She grabs it and slides the green icon across her screen by rote, before she remembers she’s trying to avoid a conversation with M’gann. It only pushes the Oscar nominations of that morning all the more painfully to the forefront of her mind. And with those, the same thoughts she's been trying to avoid. What was all this for? She's not nominated so what was her stupid campaign and insane PR contract for? She’d never wanted to lie, but she did so convinced there’d be a huge payoff, the nomination or even win she’d always been chasing after.

“Maggie, I can hear you. I know you’re there.”

She sighs. “Hey, M’gann”

“How’re you holding up?”

“I’m fine.”

“You don't sound fine.”

“Well, what do you want me to sound like? I just wasted a half a year of my life on the contract, all the work in the movie was for nothing-”

“Maggie.” M’gann sounds empathetic, but firm. The exact same reasons Maggie had chose her when she was just starting out. Because she looked at her and didn't see a fragile little girl with stars on her eyes, but a hard working woman ready to give whatever it took. M'gann was ready to demand it. Maggie can hear her do it now. “Are you hearing yourself?”

Maggie shakes her head. “What was the contract for? You wanted it for my Oscars campaign, and I’m not nominated.”

“I wanted it for award season, and yeah, the Oscars were a part of that, but Maggie, this has been amazing for your public image. Even without a nomination, you’ve never had as much positive news at the same time on as many different publications.”

“And Anthony paid for most of them.”

“He certainly didn’t pay for the twitter trends, nor did he pay for the uptick in viewers for the show. I know you feel terrible, but don’t kick yourself down further and kid yourself into thinking you’ve wasted anything. You made a damn good movie, too. And I don’t know a Maggie Sawyer that feels bad about working hard.”

“I don’t,” Maggie admits. Award or no award, she had given The Informant her all. It was—it is—her first film as a lead. She still remembers the night of the premiere, and no- nothing could have topped it.

“Thought so,” Mg’ann tells her, and then hums. “Have you talked to Gabriella?”

“Yes, of course,” Maggie says, frowning at the tone of M’gann’’ voice. “What does it matter?”

“I know your M.O. Maggie,” she says simply. “You close up and lock it away and -”

“I dont need a therapy session, M’gann,” she says firmly, and instantly feels guilty about her outburst. M’gann is in her corner. She always has been. She’s just on edge. “I’m sorry. I just…”

Mgann sighs. Maggie hears the resigned little sound over the line, and feels like a scolded child without her ever saying a word. She’s acting like one all the same.

“Get some rest, eat something,” Mgann tells her finally. “Feel better.” It’s so genuine that it makes her feel even worse than a second ago. M’gann is disappointed too, Maggie has to remember that. They were both banking on her being nominated, and it would’ve been big for M’gann’s own career too.

“Call me when you do, okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Maggie replies, tone softer.

“Goodbye.”

Maggie sits back down in her couch, her eyes trailing over the images from the crash that were so readily available on Google images.

She hates that she can’t stop looking, and she can only imagine how hard it must be for Alex to know that those exist. She went through some shit as a kid, nothing as bad as this, but she at least has the comfort that there are no photos.

Alex isn’t that luck-

“Maggie?!”

She slams her laptop closed. A few knocks follow the initial exclamation, and hot guilt floods her at being caught red handed, even if Alex didn't know she was more or less looking into her. (More, definitely more.)

She gets up from her couch and covers the distance between it and her front door.

She looks into the peephole. “Danvers?”

“The one and only.” Alex’s smiling face looks back up at her, and Maggie opens the door. “Brought pizza,” Alex says simply, holding up two boxes and a six-pack of beer.

Maggie frowns, even as a small smile sneaks onto her face.

”Pizza and beer?” she asks. “Did you get your wires crossed, Danvers? I don't really have anything to celebrate today.”

“No,” Alex says, at her rebuttal. “I just thought we could...hang out.”

Maggie hums.

“Break both of our diets you mean,” she points out, thinking of her next gym session already. She was proud of how strong her body was. And she wasn’t opposed to eating crap every once in a while, but she’d certainly developed a taste for the clean, vegan options LA had offered her in high school and college.

“That, too. One of these is all veggies and fake cheese. I know you’re a vegan.”

Maggie smiles, and grabs the beer as she ushers Alex inside.

“I’m not actually,” she corrects the other woman.

The expression on her face makes Maggie smile to herself.

“Then why do they keep giving us vegan ice cream on set? They said you asked for it…”

Maggie shrugs. “I like the taste.”

Alex stares.

“That’s...really fucking weird, Sawyer.”

Maggie laughs.

She looks for a pair of plates in her kitchen as Alex opens the pizza boxes, letting her know that she’s stuck with the vegan pizza anyways. Maybe this is what she needs.

Maybe it’s time she change her M.O.

 

.

.

.

 

“Wanna talk about it?” Alex asks, when their plates are clean save for the pizza borders littering Maggie’s plate. Apparently, it wasn’t worth eating them since they had nothing on top, according to the woman.

“Huh?” Maggie looks up, her face open and calm and Alex feels bad for bringing it up. Realization dawns on her face. "The Oscars, you mean.”

Alex nods.

Maggie shakes her head, and takes a drink of her beer. They like the same kind.

“It’s done. It’s...whatever.”

“Well...if you ever want to talk, I’m here. I’m right downstairs, actually.” That gets Maggie to smile.

“I feel l’m climbing the walls at this point, Danvers. My aunt is worried about me, my manager is giving me space. And I’m…” Maggie shrugs, and Alex wonders if the woman ever spells out how she feels, if she ever puts a name to those feelings like Kara so easily does. She wants to hug Maggie, because she can imagine the disappointment she’s feeling, has felt similarly a dozen times over. But she can’t.

“Let’s go out,” Alex says, because that’s something she can do.

Maggie gives her a look.

“Where?”

Alex is at a loss. There’s a thousand and one places in this city, but she doesn’t know where she’d take Maggie now that she’s half been given the chance. Maggie seems to notice, and she raises her eyebrow in a challenging smirk.

“Actually, I think I know a place.”

 

 

 

They take the subway there.

Maggie doesn't tell her where they’re going, but she tells Alex to bundle up, and 20 minutes later as they walk towards the subway station together, she understands why. They walk to the nearest station through slushy sidewalks, and they ride the subway to Brooklyn.

Alex must admit that she’d never been to the city. It sounded slightly dangerous to her ears, a place where someone who was obviously a tourist might get mugged. But Maggie, her blue beanie pulled low over her forehead and her hands deep inside a black winter coat, looks as comfortable as any New Yorker. Alex trusts her.

That trust wavers just a tad when Maggie guides them into a lonely, graffitied part of town, leaving behind the cobblestone streets and the brick houses, and exchanging them for a small place with a metal door, and tattooed men loitering outside.

“Dollywood,” Maggie says, when a metal slab is pulled in the door and a pair of dark eyes look out. Alex raises her eyebrows. The door opens a second later.

“A speakeasy, almost, isn't it?” Maggie asks, turning around.

“Alcohol is legal,” Alex says, matter of fact. Maggie chuckles.

They leave their coats on a booth at the back, and no sooner is her coat is down than Maggie challenges her to a game of darts. Alex readily accepts. Maggie wipes the floor with her. In Alex’s defense—she’d had two beers earlier, and the cold must have somehow exacerbated the effects of the alcohol, because she’s usually a great aim. Maggie sticks her tongue out in concentration every time she throws, and Alex looks away.

“Pool, next?” she offers, and Maggie turns back at her with a twinkle in her eyes.

It’s Alex’s game.

She takes off her sweater, standing in the warm bar in only a tank top, and she cracks her knuckles in a way the she knows she can afford. She won’t be losing tonight. Maggie laughs, until she sinks the first 2 balls. Then her tongue comes out again in concentration, but it doesn’t help her any. She’s not bad, exactly. Alex is just excellent, and Maggie is...not.

But she’s fun when she gets exasperated, and the minute she takes out a $20 dollar bill and offers Alex to place bets on it, the game actually gets started. With her so called “encouragement” on the table, she improves marginally, but she’s not match for Alex.

4 games later and $80 dollars richer, Alex finally walks back to their table with two beers, and a crick in her back that she wouldn’t change for the world.

“Where did you learn to play like that?” Maggie asks, and Alex smiles wistfully.

“We had a pool table in the basement. My dad liked it. He taught me how to play. He taught Kara, too, but much like you-” she takes a sip of her beer for effect, “she was hopeless.”

“Low blow, Danvers. And after you’ve left me in the street, too.”

Alex snorts. “I’ve seen your loft, you’ll be fine.”

Maggie laughs. It dims after a minute, and Alex is determined not to let that smile slip off her face, so she changes the subject.

“Wanna order something?” she asks. “What do they serve here?”

“That’s a great question,” Maggie says. “I’ve only seen the cocktails menu, so… Wanna try this out?”

“If I get food poisoning and have to miss work you’re taking the blame.”

“Cross my heart,” Maggie promises, before getting up and getting them both menus.

They end up ordering something called ‘The Mushroom Monstrosity’, and Maggie looks entirely too excited to try for someone who’d initially balked at the offer of pizza.

It’s a damn good burger. Alex is already thinking about inviting Kara here so she can demolish one on her own, or maybe bring J’onn the next time he visits her. Maybe Maggie could tag along. She takes another big greasy bite, her mouth overflowing with mushrooms, bacon, lettuce, and fried onion rings, not to mention the thick meat the burger boasts off.  She realizes if her mother was there she’d chide her for eating the way she is, but Maggie isn’t any better, and Alex...embraces it. Nobody is pointing a camera at her. Nobody in this seedy bar in the far side of Brooklyn cares about her, or about Maggie, and she has no reason to pretend here.

She notes Maggie’s eyes wander off outside halfway through the meal, her face taking on the same expression she had that morning by the mailboxes, and Alex takes out her cellphone on a whim.

She types but a few words, before the barrage of articles start to appear.

“Behold Maggie Sawyer , leaping, swinging, and punching her way through The Informant , the spy movie that has topped quite a few Bond ones, if you’re man enough to admit it,” she reads out loud.

Maggie looks up at her at once, with a curious frown on her face.

Alex clicks elsewhere.

“Italian-american actress and model Maggie Sawyer is somehow the perfect blend of superbabe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness.” Alex looks up. “Okay, that one is kind of weird.”

Maggie smiles. “What are you doing?”

“I’m just showing you, that regardless of what a bunch of old men were thinking—although they clearly weren’t thinking when they didn’t nominate you—people love you. They love your work.”

Maggie’s smile softens, and she looks at Alex in a way that makes her look down and click on another article.

“Maggie Sawyer’s emotional, raw performance as a girl living in a psych ward is nothing short of amazing, this critic is very seldom awed but she is now.”

She thinks she sees a blush tint Maggie’s cheeks, but she doesn’t stop. Even if it embarrasses her, even if she’s not used to or doesn’t like people praising her success to her face—she deserves it.

“Maggie Sawyer, Rosewood Street ,” she reads. “Her lack of experience doesn’t show on screen. Her character adds a fresh, magnetic energy to the show.” Alex laughs. “What is this picture?”

“Let me see,” Maggie demands, and Alex turns her phone over. Maggie groans. Alex only chuckles louder at the ridiculous pose.

“Hey, it’s fine you were like twelve in this picture. We all have bad childhood photos.”

Maggie meets her eyes. “I was eighteen.”

“Oh.” Alex frowns for a beat. “Well, you’ll look amazing when you’re thirty-seven.”

Maggie acknowledges her words with a fry thrown her way, and between chuckles they go back to her meals.

And if they accidentally chew with their mouths open, it’s because they know nobody is watching.

 

.

.

.

 

TVLinearticle

 

.

.

.

 

The streets of Manhattan are freezing in the dead of night, the corners of the sidewalks stacked with tiny mountains of brown snow and ice. Alex tucked her scarf over her nose and mouth a while ago, but Maggie breaths in the freezing air, nothing to protect her face but a blue beanie pulled over her forehead. Her nose has gone red, but apart from her hands shoved deep inside her pockets, she doesn’t seem to be bothered.

Alex makes a mental note to find out just how cold Nebraska gets in the winter, because she can’t fathom anyone who would enjoy this weather, regardless of where they grew up.

She forces herself to speed up when she’s left seeing the back of Maggie’s head, brown waves bouncing with her steps. She falls into step beside her.

“Can’t keep up, Danvers?” Maggie asks, her breath coming out in white puffs.

Alex shakes her head. She’d dignify her words with an answer, but she doesn’t want to take the scarf away.

They turn on their street, and everything goes even quieter, calmer. There are no cars, somehow, something she’s never seen in Manhattan. A taxi speeds by as if to shut her up, and Alex chuckles inwards. She’ll never forget the city she’s in.

“Wanna go up for a nightcap?” Maggie asks, and Alex realizes they’re in front of their building. They walk up the few steps toward the front door.

“I think we live in the same building,” Alex says, ducking her head and walking inside when Maggie holds the door open for her. The air is gloriously warm inside.

“You know what I mean, want to come up to my loft?” Maggie asks. “Hmm. I like saying that. My loft. The loft.”

Alex smiles as she stares at Maggie. The couple of beers they had at the bar seem to have had some effect on her, and she’s as loose and mellow as Alex has ever seen her. It’s lovely to watch.

“I’d love to,” she tells her.

They climb the stairs quietly, and it’s only 6 floors, but it never occurred to Alex to call for the elevator. She’s had more fun with Maggie tonight than she can ever remember having with anyone apart from Kara, in ages. Maybe since the earlier, better days of college. She doesn’t want the night to end just yet.

They pass Alex’s floor, and she follows Maggie as she climbs the steps to the last floor of the building—technically. There are 7 floors, but that’s only because the apartments on the sixth floor have two levels. (And Alex remembers the stab of bitterness she felt when she was told one of those lofts wouldn’t be hers.)

“My lovely agent sent me a bottle of whisky for my last birthday,” Maggie informs her, as she opens the door. “I’ve been looking for a good occasion to open it.” Her voice taking on a hint of wistfulness, and Alex wonders if she’d wanted to open it when she got nominated for an Oscar.

She follows Maggie into the large apartment.

She looks around while she retrieves the bottle of alcohol, staring up at the long beams and the high ceiling in the middle of the step. The second floor is almost one large inside balcony, and Alex is curious about the space. She takes a seat on the wide breakfast island separating the kitchen from the living room.

Maggie walks back to her, a black box in her hands.

When she’s close enough, Alex reads it. This is not a Luxury Whisky, the box reads. Maggie pulls out a dark caramel bottle from it.

Maggie stares at the box.

“79% Glen Ord sherry butt,” she reads. “17% grain Whisky…100% expensive.”

Alex snorts, the words sounding far funnier to her ears than they probably actually are.

Maggie serves them both two fingers, and Alex gets up from her place at the breakfast island and walks around her apartment, eyeing the high ceilings and the second floor balcony on three sides of the room. The fourth, is the wall facing the main street, although calling it a wall is being generous. It’s just floor to ceiling windows, one after the other.

Alex wonders how Maggie can live like that. She has curtains in her own apartment.

“Isn’t it weird how anybody can stare into your apartment and see what you’re doing?” she asks, and then takes a sip of the whisky. It’s good, heady, the perfect mix between bitter and sweet.

“One way glass, Danvers,” Maggie says. Alex can hear the smile in her voice, can imagine the dimple playing on her cheeks. “I can stare at them all day, but they can't look back at me.”

Maggie goes quiet for a moment, now beside her, staring out into the streets below, and Alex thinks about what she just said. It seems lonely, somehow, being able to watch the world pass by without it knowing you’re there.

The quiet is broken with Maggie’s snort. “I’m not an exhibitionist.”  

Alex smiles, but she doesn’t let go of her words just yet. She’s known Maggie for months now, and she hasn’t heard her talk about her friends. Alex hasn’t talked about hers, either. She wonders briefly if that’s because they’re even more similar to each other than she thought, and they both just...don’t have any. Any worthwhile ones, at least.

Alex wonders if maybe they could be that for each other.

“Should I refill that?” Maggie asks, breaking Alex out of her head, and Alex nods. Maggie refills her glass, and Alex takes a thoughtful sip as her mind zones in on something.

They had fun tonight, a lot of fun.

And for the first time, it’s not going to be on the papers the next day.

Alex could get used to that.

 

.

.

.

 

January turns into February without much fanfare.

The weather remains in the freezing range, the skies overcast and cloudy with the sun trying to fight its way through. The wind still blows bitterly, exacerbating the chilled air and battering the people below as they commute through the city. Even Maggie begins to be slightly bothered by the length of the winter, if only for the scenes she has to film where she can’t afford to be wearing appropriate clothing.  

The city hums along regardless of the passage of time.

Shooting for Nightingale resumed last week, and it’s taken until their second week for the crew and cast to acclimate to set life—for the show to return to a well oiled machine. Maggie’s body definitely protested upon returning to her regular 4:45 AM mornings, but it’s nice to see everybody regularly again too. Mary and Louise had outrageous holiday stories featuring their ridiculously large families they’d regaled her with her first day back. Jeff had pictures of his grandkids to show her, his face filled with pride as he showed off his daughter’s newest baby girl. Gabriel greeted her with cries of ‘golden girl’ and double cheek kisses, twice. She and Alex settled back into their rhythm before the break, but with a new feeling to their friendship now.

Maggie feels like they’ve finally built a new, solid foundation in their near constantly shifting, cautious pas de deux—which she attributes to their outing after the Oscar announcements -or lack thereof. She’s actively kept her mind off of that topic, opting to throw herself headfirst into Blake with renewed vigor.

And as the days have passed, the sting has lessened more and more.

Being back at work also means fully resuming the contract duties again. Anthony had been positively ecstatic about their display at the Golden Globes and every article written that mentioned Maggie’s win and who her date for the evening was. His unabated glee capturing all his attention, he’d even allowed them a brief breather their first week back, but as Monday rolled around he returned to his normal, self interested self, somehow even more overbearing. Maggie knows why though. A very important holiday is coming up—one that Anthony put in all caps in the subject of the email he sent this morning: Valentine’s Day.

Maggie’s never had a particular affinity for the manufactured holiday that practically required couples to commit ostentatious public acts to their significant others to prove how much they loved each other. It’s not Maggie’s style, but she’s dated plenty of women who do love it—the dressing up, the fancy dinner, the rented out ballroom filed with rose petals and champagne. She always tried to give the woman she was with the perfect Valentine’s Day, when the cookie cutter holiday came around. And when she hadn’t, the relationship ended shortly after with her girlfriend citing reasons such as emotional unavailability—and often physical, too, with her long hours on set—uncaring, workaholic, player. Sometimes she’d even get a borderline  sociopath thrown over the shoulder as the door slammed shut.

This year, she’s not expecting the holiday to be any better than previous years.

For one, there’s the added component of her being legally forced to celebrate it for the world to see. Then there’s the hyper romanticized nature of the holiday itself, and who she’ll be spending it with. She moved past dreading spending time with her co-star months ago. And dread is not the word she’d use to describe the tug in her chest present when she thinks about spending February 14th with Alex, but Valentine’s Day is a big deal. It’ll be their first date truly dripping with built in romanticism and a gravitas exaggerated by corporate America.

In his email, Anthony gave her a list of locations available for the big day. Only one option on the list popped out to her. They would start the night with a dinner at 30 Rockefeller’s Rainbow Room, situated on the 65th floor. Maggie had never been, but she’d read the reviews. A stunning view of the city as you dined—or so google had informed her. Afterwards, and that was the part that caught Maggie’s attention, they would take a limo to the Empire State Building to finish off the night.

She doesn’t possess any strong feelings for or against the Rainbow Room, although it does have rave reviews so she assumes it’s a great establishment, but visiting the Empire State is definitely something she’d actually enjoy, and it certainly checks all the boxes off for Valentine’s Day.

Although the place is the quintessential—and in this case unoriginal—romantic location made for a When Harry Met Sally moment, there is something to be said for a good old fashioned classic. The Empire State Building is as classic Valentine’s Day and New York as one could get. And it’s beautiful at night from the observatory deck. She’d visited once a few years ago while shooting in the city.

It’d been a punishingly hot August day, her clothes glued to her skin with sweat. She’d had a cold then too, somehow caught in the summer, that combined with the heat left her feeling miserable. As the afternoon had worn on, she’d wandered the city, browsing street markets, popping into smalls shops when she could for a respite from the sun, and ended her day standing in front of the imposing, towering Empire State Building. She’d spontaneously decided to follow the stream of people entering and bought tickets, squeezing her way into the crowded elevator up to the 86th floor. When she’d exited, she was greeted by almost the entire city landscape laid out before her glowing in a variety of shimmering hues, lit up by the rays of the dying sun and set against the tinted sky swirling with purple and pink clouds. She’d maneuvered her way through the crowd of bodies until she was pressed up against the metal barrier, hands clinging to the metal bars as she looked at the view. And that’s how she stayed as the last vestiges of sunlight disappeared at the line of the horizon and the inky dark of night took over.

At night, the city had shone in a different way, lit up this time by the artificial yellow and white lights of the buildings. It was still magical.

It was in that moment Maggie fell in love with New York City. It’s a fond memory of hers, and it’s one she’d enjoy sharing with Alex. Considering the woman hadn’t even been on the Staten Island Ferry before Maggie took her, there’s a good chance she hasn’t lived the full Empire State experience either. Although Alex certainly grew up with the means to do so. When she was there that first time, she saw lots of smiling parents and their children. She could easily see Alex as a young girl with her family visiting, probably rattling off the history of the building’s construction. She was definitely one of those precocious kids—which hasn’t changed—but Maggie wonders how much of her younger self can still be seen today. If what happened...changed Alex. The same way what happened to her with her parents changed her.

She sighs and pushes the mindless train of thought away for another day. She might as well start planning for Valentine’s Day seeing as how it’s Saturday, meaning she has the free time to do so. Maggie knows what Anthony would want for the big day, the most over the top gag that’d probably make both her and Alex puke at its tackiness. But she’s not sure what Alex would enjoy, and she would like to make sure Alex enjoys the night too. Something in Maggie’s gut tells her she hasn’t had many, if any, great—hell, even decent—February 14ths with a special someone. Her dating history is pretty bare, Maxwell Lord being the only significant guy she can recognize, and he’s a known asshole.

This seems like it will be another first for Alex, and Maggie finds herself trying to strike the right balance between what Anthony wants and what Alex would like.

She grabs her phone from the counter, unplugging it from the charger, and hits the first number in her favorites.

“Maggie! What’s up? This is a good call, right? Not an ‘oh shit, I accidentally killed someone’ call?” Gabriella pauses to laugh at her own comment, and Maggie can hear the sounds of a restaurant in the background. “I am fully equipped to handle either, but if it is the latter, I’ll have to get back to you later this evening with my full escape to Antarctica with a new identity plan.”

She gives her aunt’s little joke a short laugh—to be polite. Her humor is starting to sound more and more like Chris’.

“Are you working today? I can call back later if you are, it’s not that important.”

“I was working, but someone,” Gabriella coughs lightly, and Maggie knows who she’s talking about, “forced me to take the day off because it’s not healthy to work on the weekends, apparently.”

“Hm,” Maggie hums. Chris still isn’t her favorite person, but she is glad he’s getting Gabriella to spend more time outside of her job. When La Nuvola Bianca was just starting up, it was necessary for her to be there at least 6 days out of the week, but by now she could probably switch to part time only.

“And that was my short way of saying I’m free, spill the beans, kid.”

“What makes you think there are beans to spill in the first place?” she scoffs.

“Oh Maggie,” Gabriella chuckles. “You have that tone of voice that screams ‘this is important to me, but I’m going to pretend like it’s not just in case it inconveniences the other person.’”

Maggie raises her eyebrows slightly, not enjoying her aunt’s accurate assessment and elects to ignore it. “Anyways. Anthony wants a big extravaganza for Valentine’s Day -“

Gabriella’s low whistle interrupts her. “And you need my help planning out the big day for your special lady friend.”

“I wouldn’t phrase the last part of your sentence that way, but essentially, yes.” She refills her mug with more tea and moves to the dining room table towards her laptop.

“First things first, location?”

“7 PM dinner at the Rainbow Room followed by a trip to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.”

“Damn, can I come too? A friend of mine went and said the charcuterie was tongue meltingly delicious.”

“Sure,” Maggie replies drily. “You can third wheel the entire night; I’m sure neither Anthony nor Alex will mind and the public will think it’s normal for me to take my aunt on my romantic Valentine’s Day date.”

“Okay, okay, message received,” Maggie swears she can hear Gabriella’s eyes rolling through the phone. “Moving onto the next item on the list, things Alex likes?”

That gives Maggie pause.

The first thing that pops to mind is a good scotch and coffee, but after that it becomes more difficult. Alex likes spending time with her sister, but that’s not relevant to a romantic holiday. In the mornings, sometimes Maggie will see Alex covertly—to any eye but Maggie’s own—take two blueberry muffins to eat with her daily cup of coffee. The day after it’s rained, Alex will intermittently inhale deeply throughout the day, breathing in the fresh, sharp scent that rain brings. She enjoys physics, Maggie thinks, because only someone who liked the subject would voluntarily choose to read a science magazine, placed as decoration, before the morning table read began. Maggie can’t think of any way the information she’s learned about Alex will help her plan a good Valentine's Day though.

She knows what Alex doesn’t like, which could also be a starting point. She doesn’t like winter and all that comes with it, early mornings, healthy food, or big public romantic gestures—which is exactly what Anthony has planned.

“Uh, my mind is blanking at the moment, sorry,” she settles for.

“Blanking.” Gabriella sounds skeptical, but thankfully she doesn’t dwell on it. “Flowers. Everybody enjoys those. Show up at the beginning of the date with a bouquet?”

Maggie winces slightly. “That’s pretty cliche. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it happen a million times on TV. Anthony might even ask me to do that anyways.”

“It is cliche yes,” Gabriella sighs exaggeratedly, “but you’re not giving me much to work with here, Maggie.”

“Sorry.” She matches her aunt’s sigh, but hers is genuine in nature. “I don’t know enough tangible things Alex likes, especially in regards to the romance department. Not that this would have to be that, of course. It’d be a...friendly date, for us. While we act out Anthony’s date.” Gabriella hums, and Maggie keeps going. “She doesn’t actually like big overt gestures—but because of the contract I have to do it—which is why I want to do my best to make the day still somewhat enjoyable for her at least. I know it sounds stupid-”

“It’s not stupid, it’s sweet. But, may I ask,” Gabriella pauses, and the silence lengthens to the point where Maggie is considering asking if she’s still there, but a moment later her aunt’s voice comes through the phone again. “It sounds like King has the night planned, why call me? Just follow what’s written—eat dinner, go to the Empire State—you don’t need to do anything extra. It’s not like you’re actually dating.”

The questions makes Maggie squirm, legs shifting beneath her on the couch, the leather pulling at her bare legs.

That night, at the Christmas party, she hadn’t expected to be Alex’s first mistletoe kiss, but she was, and it got her thinking. Maggie is now fully aware of the weight on her shoulders of being responsible for someone’s big first moments—even if they are only happening because of a PR deal—and she doesn’t want to screw it up. Her first impression of Alex was that she was a prickly, awkward person, but if you managed to get beyond her hard edges, she was a good person.

A person who shows up at her door with pizza and beer to cheer her up because she noticed you were down. A friend who buys little gifts as part of a ridiculous gift war and indulges scattered, disjointed late night/early morning ramblings in between takes. She can err on the side of impulsiveness, to her own detriment, and she’s been on the receiving end of her misdirected anger, but she’s also funny (unintentionally at times), sweet, and sincere in everything she does—she can’t help it.

Maggie isn’t sure how to articulate that all to Gabriella, and oddly enough, she doesn’t even want to. It feels too private, too between her and Alex. But her aunt is still waiting for a response.

“I just want…” Maggie picks at a loose thread on her sock, buying time to formulate the best answer, “a friend to have a good Valentine’s Day, down to every detail. I get the feeling she hasn’t had many.”

“A nice gesture for a friend.” Gabriella hums again on the other line, and Maggie thinks she can hear Chris’s voice in the background. “That simple huh?”

“Mhm, yeah.” Maggie pulls her legs up close to her body and wraps her free arm around her knees. “Simple.”

 

.

.

.

 

A drop of sweat rolls down her neck.

Alex quickly swipes it away, looking over at Maggie in the process and wondering how she’s remained sweat free. Maybe her skin also includes sweat preventative measures because the universe decided not only should her skin be down feather soft, smell amazing all the time, and glow when the sun hits it, it should also remain unmarred by rivulets of sweat in the heat too.

Red balloons seem to cover every corner of the pier, the color—a staple of Valentine’s day—only making it feel hotter than it is.

Maggie must feel her gaze glued to her because her eyes swivel over to meet Alex’s, bright and warm as ever. “Something on your mind, Alex?”

“You,” she tells her honestly, her eyes roving over the jean shorts she’s wearing, tight and cut off just below her ass.

“And what are you thinking about me?” Maggie asks cheekily, and Alex grabs her by the waist and pulls her closer to her body.

“How fucking amazing you look right now,” she tells her roughly, not recognizing her tone of voice. Maggie makes her feel like this, so overwhelmed, so...consumed. Alex doesn’t have a care in the world for everyone around them, the faceless strangers going about their day looking like nothing but blurs around them.

“Remember what King told us,” Maggie whispers, stepping closer to her, and Alex nods. What King told them. She brings Maggie closer by the lapel of her leather jacket and then she’s kissing her, taking Maggie’s lips between her own.

King’s orders.

She has to kiss Maggie. She has to...feel how small yet strong her lithe body is beneath her palms, the leather jacket doing nothing to hide how delicate the curve of her small waist is, and how good her hips feel when she lays her hands over them, her thumbs brushing her hip bones. Maggie sighs against her, pressing herself even closer, her tongue entering her mouth.

Alex opens her mouth, trying to devour her, feeling her tongue tickle and play with her own, wet and hot, so, so hot inside her mouth.

Alex lets her fingers trail downwards, over the curve of Maggie’s ass, and thanks God or the devil or whoever is listening that the weather is so warm, and Maggie is wearing jean shorts that cut off just below her ass. It’s so easy to let her hands trail downwards, so good to just let her fingers sneak below the hem of her pants when Maggie moans her assent against her mouth and then dip beneath her underwe-

Alex wakes up to a knocking in her door.

She’s sweating, the heater blasting hot air throughout the room, and Alex curses New York’s weather for changing so swiftly while she was asleep.

A quick look at her alarm clock let's her know it’s 10am. Maybe it’s on her.

She’s not one to sleep in, and she finds she hates it this morning, as her heart still beats fast and hard with the remnants of a dream that has all but faded from her conscience. Her entire body seems to...pulsate with it, though, and she doesn’t like the hot rush over every inch of her skin. She needs to turn her heater down.

There’s another knock on her door, and Alex realizes what woke her up in the first place.

She throws on a robe and makes her way towards the door. She opens it only to find a delivery guy, holding a humongous bouquet of red roses. She knows they’re from ‘Maggie’, King had given her orders regarding those already last night.

She signs for the cheesy bouquet and then she’s quick to bring it inside, and lay it on her table, taking a quick picture. The sooner she’s done with it, the sooner she can take a shower and wash the bothersome sweat off herself.

She post the picture, and drops her robe on the way towards the bathroom.

 

.

.

.

 

alexinstapost1

 

.

.

.

 

Apparently, King thinks Valentine’s Day is so important that both she and Maggie get the day off.

It’s a day she would normally spend working from dawn to sunset, and then afterwards returning home to melt into the couch. As it is, she doesn’t have anything planned to occupy the 11 or so hours until her dinner with Maggie.

The shower shocked her out of any remnants of sleepiness—she’s taken to starting her showers off cold to wake her up in the mornings, and then turning the knob around to hot once sufficiently alert—and once clear, her mind had turned to the dinner tonight.

Alex isn’t a fan of Valentine’s Day.

She’s never had a good one, or even been on a date for it. She doesn’t count the little chocolates her parents gave her as a little kid, or the outings they planned as a family once Kara came. Valentine’s day was supposed to be about love, romantic love, and Alex had never had that on the date. The closest she came to it was with her college boyfriend, but they broke up two weeks before the holiday. There was one other time she hooked up with a man she can’t remember now, an extra from Body of Medicine who had listened to her talk about her lines instead of asking for a selfie. It was as unsatisfying as it sounded. She’d felt dirty once he left, like a conquest, like something he would brag about having to his friends—and the clearest memory she has of the night is accidentally falling asleep in the bathtub afterwards.

As far back as she can remember, most of of her February 14ths were spent studying when she was still in school, and then working after she left school. It’s never been a special day for her. Unlike Kara, she doesn’t attach unrealistic visions of romance and dashing men sweeping her off her feet to it. It’s simply...just another passing day. But this year it isn’t.

It’s one of the most important dates for the contract, as King has been keen to remind them as he’d fluttered around them all week like a fucking mosquito.

Dinner at the Rainbow Room followed by the Empire State Building—neither of which she’s actually been to, but she’s heard of them both. Alex has just spent most of her 26 years on the west coast. Stanford was there, and all her acting roles had been shot in California, too. She knows from old photos that she visited New York with her parents to see a Broadway show back when she was little, and it was just the three of them. But beyond the recollections of the cold weather and accidentally stepping in a large puddle—ruining her cotton blue tights—the memory of it is vague. And since then, she has visited a few more times, keyword being visited ; she never stayed long.

Years later, finding herself living here has been a bit of a culture shock. But Nightingale has left her either too busy or tired to engage in much sightseeing in NYC beyond checking out the nearby coffee shops. Actually, now that she thinks about it, her introduction to the city has been largely at Maggie’s hands, or besides her.

Skating at Rockefeller—sober—riding the Staten Island Ferry, and now their impending Empire State excursion. (Technically, King had a hand in it too given that all of those activities were due to the contract, but she doesn’t want to give him any credit.) It’s been...nice to see New York through Maggie’s eyes. Her rose tinted view of the city has managed to bleed into Alex’s periphery, making her notice and appreciate small things that never registered in her brain before.

People don’t try to make small talk with her here, unlike in LA, they go about their business briskly and with a purpose, which Alex appreciates. As an extension of that, they don’t make awkward eye contact either. The other day she passed an old couple, in their pajamas, having a heated fight in the middle of the street and no one had even given them a second glance. New Yorkers mind their own business (largely because they don’t care about other people’s shit, she supposes). But still, it’s nice.

The prospect of experiencing more of the city isn’t disagreeable. The fact that she’ll be spending it with Maggie makes it something to look forward to—which catches her off guard.

Alex is actually excited to celebrate the holiday with Maggie, even if it’s only for the contract. She thinks it might be fun. She and Maggie have been making the best of their scheduled outings, to a point where Alex barely notices the cameras, and spending Valentine’s Day with Maggie—with a friend—although not the purpose of the holiday, could shape up to be one the best ones yet.

But the dinner is still hours away.

Her temporarily forgotten coffee is cold as she sips it, eyes wandering her apartment for something to do. She could clean. Her mantle is a bit dusty, and the counter could use a good scrub.

J’onn put together a list of potential assistants for her that he’d already personally interviewed, she should probably get around to picking one. Inviting someone unknown into her life who’d be privy to intimate knowledge about herself isn’t something Alex seeks, but it is necessary, especially now that her career does appear to be recovering.

She grabs her phone, unlocking it and opening PDF attachment J’onn sent her of names, and walks towards her couch. She settles into the cushions and grabs a nearby notebook—she was a notorious note taker in college, or doodler depending on how interesting the subject was.

The hum of the television and the monotony of names scrolling past her eyes helps quiet her mind, but she can still feel thoughts of tonight’s dinner trying to push their way to the forefront.

 

 

 

Alex waits just inside the door, saving herself from the cold outside.

The short dress she’s wearing has a cutout on the middle of her breast bone, and she doesn’t need to be exposed to the New York winter dressed like this.

Her watch lets her know it’s 6:30 PM. Maggie said a car should be arriving for her just about now. Alex checks her message again, short and sweet—like the woman herself. A police siren goes off in the distance, and the sidewalk outside the building is a steady stream of people rushing home, or perhaps off to fancy Valentine’s dates like she is.

It’s a normal Thursday, except it’s not. It’s Valentine’s day, and the excitement she felt earlier in the day has mixed with a fluttery nervousness now, making her restless.

She shifts slightly from her position leaned against the wall, the blue fabric of her dress rising slightly on her leg. Alex gives herself another once over. Maggie just told her to wear something nice, but she’s not sure if her version of that word matches what Maggie wants. The dress was one she’d had sent over from LA, and it’s one of the few pieces of her wardrobe not tainted by alcohol and sweaty clubs. She didn’t want tonight tinged negatively in any way. For some reason, it’s important to her that this outing be a success—for both of them, for their relationship -their fake relationship.

Shiny polished shoes enter her vision, and she looks up.

“Miss Danvers,” the man bows slightly and gestures towards the entrance, “your car awaits.”

The ride feels short, and as the driver pulls into the block he asks whether she’d prefer to be dropped off on Fifth Avenue or right at the Rainbow Room entrance. She chooses the latter, but a split second later changes her mind as she suddenly feels she could use the fresh air—maybe it’ll calm down the fluttering in her stomach.

Rockefeller Center towers over her as she steps out of the car, its large presence immediately filling her view.

She takes a moment to appreciate the architecture of it, of New York City in general. It has a long, significant history that makes Los Angeles pale in comparison, Alex will give the city that. It’s got character, as Maggie would probably say. She didn’t get a good chance to admire the skyscraper last time she was here, their impending first kiss occupying every corner of her mind—leaving no room for ruminations over the grandness and history behind the impressive building.

Alex’s heels click on the sidewalk as she briskly walks past the ice rink below, sparing it only a short glance.

Her feelings surrounding that night are...mixed. There’s the embarrassment of falling on her ass so many times and telegraphing her nervous so much so that Maggie didn’t even kiss her properly because of it. But there’s also the remnants of fun when she did manage to get the hang of it, and the warm pressure of Maggie’s hand in her own.

She feels a buzz in her coat pocket and pulls out her phone to see another message from Maggie, smiling at the words.

On your way, Danvers?’

Alex pockets the device, her smile growing as she quickens her pace, no point in responding when she’s almost there. The elevator ride up to the Rainbow Room is as long as to be expected—made even longer by the stops on numerous floors along the way—but finally the 65th floor button lights up and the doors open.

The restaurant is gorgeous.

Floor to ceiling windows line the walls of the circular room, and a large, dazzling chandelier hangs in the center of the the space. A soft pink light surrounds the ceiling where the chandelier is placed, creating a perfect Valentine’s Day atmosphere.

She only has the chance to take a few steps out onto the carpeted dark floor, before a man in a white suit greets her with a smile.

“Madam, your table is this way.” He smiles over his shoulder as he weaves them between tables in the circular room. “I must say, your date looks beautiful tonight too. You’re quite the lucky lady.”

“Mhm,” Alex raises her eyebrows, wholly unsurprised that Maggie’s looks charming yet another individual. And if it’s not her looks, it’s her personality, her laugh, or maybe just her dimples, that draw people in like bees to honey—or like Kara to potstickers. She almost bumps into the man when he abruptly stops with a flourish of his hand and a nod of his head.

“Your table, Miss Danvers. Enjoy your dinner and your date.”

Alex turns to thank the man, but her eyes catch Maggie’s figure at the table, and suddenly she can’t breathe. The background noise of the restaurant diminishes until all she can hear is a ringing in her ears. The entire world narrows to one focal point. All she can see is Maggie. She fills her every sense, and Alex’s neurons fire off faster than she can comprehend, sending her brain haywire.

She’s beautiful.

Alex has always known that. From the moment she laid eyes on her while watching her old roles, she had enough visual acuity to assess that Maggie Sawyer was an objectively beautiful person. She had nice bone structure, a pleasing even distance between her facial features, and besides her height, her body was up to the Hollywood standard.

And it’s not like Alex hasn’t seen Maggie dressed up before. Their first dinner at La Grenouille she was wearing a black lacy dress. She’d gotten an up close view of the gorgeous designer dress she wore during the Golden Globes. Last summer, when they were still on uneven ground and cautiously trying to suss the other out, she’d seen Maggie dressed up for their photoshoot. But tonight, she looks different, or maybe Alex’s perception is what’s changed. Perhaps, the world infinitesimally shifted when she wasn’t paying attention, and now she’s in an alternate universe where everything is just slightly off, but enough for her to notice.

“Danvers!” Maggie stands up, dimples in full force. “You made it, I was starting to think you might not show,” she jokes.

Alex’s tongue feels heavy in her mouth, like she’d just gone to the dentist and they’d shot her up with novocaine.

“Sorry uh,” she swallows a few times, her suddenly burdensome tongue getting in the way. “The elevator ride took forever. People just getting on and off…” she half waves her arm to the side and scratches the back of her neck, averting her eyes and hoping to god she isn’t blushing.

Maggie tilts her head, her eyes gleaming with a warm sparkle that Alex has noticed often makes an appearance around her.

“I have heard that’s what people do on elevators,” her smile is impish now, and Alex can only roll her eyes, but she feels more in equilibrium now. Maggie has a way of doing that; she’s often the one who throws her off center to begin with, but she also has the ability to right her. “Well,” Maggie walks around the table, pulling out the chair opposite her own. “Your seat awaits.”

“Aren’t you the gentlewoman,” Alex smirks gently as she takes her seat, pulling down the napkin onto her lap.

“I try,” she shrugs. “You need to take a look at this menu, it’s pretty fancy fare. Though my aunt did say she heard good things about the charcuterie.”

Alex follows suit, opening up her menu. It is a nice selection of food, and she looks up to ask Maggie what she’s thinking of getting, but the vision in front of her causes her words to catch halfway in her throat.

The candles on the table illuminate Maggie’s face, burnishing it in a warm, flickering yellow light and highlighting her bronzed skin and full lips pursed in thought. Alex gulps, eyes flying back down to her menu. Her nostrils flare slightly as she breathes in and out slowly. The window at her left offers her some much needed distraction, and her breath halts for a whole other reason.

The city is gorgeous laid out in all its expansive, bustling glory in front of her eyes, the skyscrapers gleaming and proud—the cars whizzing below creating a light show. She can appreciate New York even more at this angle. She can even see the Empire State building lit up in pink for the holiday.

It’s cheesy, but Alex smiles all the same.

“It’s a beautiful city, isn’t it?” Maggie disrupts her thoughts, and she slides her gaze towards the woman. Her chin is propped in her hand, eyes looking out the window.

“Yeah, beautiful.” Her tone must sound off because Maggie’s eyes lock onto hers, and Alex has the urge to look away, but she wills herself to keep eye contact, and it’s Maggie that breaks their locked gaze.

“You know, Danvers, I was thinking earlier today that...”

Alex feels her body lean forward, stomach pushing into the edge of the table, in anticipation of her next words. But it’s in that moment the waiter arrives, and Maggie’s words, whatever they might have been, remain unspoken.  

 

.

.

.

 

“Let’s share a dessert,” Maggie lets the menu fall onto the table and glances up at Alex just in time to see her rolling her eyes, but the small smile at the corner of her mouth belies her mock annoyance.

“Could that be any more cliche?”

“Okay, Chandler,”  Maggie scoffs “I just thought that since we had a big dinner, we could both share a dessert. Our trainers would probably thank us for it.” And Anthony , she wants to add, but she doesn’t want to break the atmosphere. She and Alex had fun tonight during dinner, and even though she knows it’s not real, in most senses of the word—that they’re here under contract—she doesn’t see the point in mentioning it.

Make it look good ,’ Anthony ha’d texted her. ‘It cost me an arm and a leg to get reservations.’ But Maggie thought that was his problem, not hers, and she wasn’t about to work even on Valentine’s day. They were here, that was enough. She could have fun with Alex without thinking of the cameras capturing their every move.

“Mhm,” Alex’s fingers drum against the back of the menu for a second before she places the menu on the table atop Maggie’s own. “Kaffir Lime Cheesecake Brulee. How about it, Sawyer?”

“I was actually thinking of the liquid mango ravioli,” she crosses her arms and smirks. (She’s fine with anything to be honest, but it’s fun to see the twist of mild disgust that crosses Alex’s face.)

“Mango and pasta should not be together, ever.”

Maggie throws her head back, a laugh erupting forth. “Oh my god, you think it’s literally mango wrapped in pasta.”

Alex glowers at her across the table, a light pink dusting her face, and Maggie takes pity on her. Not everybody grew up in a restaurant or around food all the time like she did.

“It’s a mango puree served in a spherical shape, which the chefs achieve by submerging it with sodium alginate and letting it sit in a bath of calcium.” Alex’s face immediately perks up at the sound of some form of chemistry, and Maggie inwardly smiles. “And no, I don’t know the exact chemistry behind it. My aunt tried to explain it once, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t know either.”

“Not a fan of science?” Disappointment flashes over Alex’s face, and Maggie shakes her head. She hasn’t been that forthcoming with her interests, she supposes, and she doesn’t take offense solely because she knows Alex and her have been in the same boat. So many people look at a pretty face and see nothing beyond it.

“I am, actually. It was my thing in high school. But there’s a big difference between mango science and the kind of science you studied in college.” Maggie gives her a look. “That we both did, actually. Botany is a science. And Psychology-”

“Is not psychiatry. Where’s the science behind treating serial cheaters or giving people couple’s therapy?”

“An elitist, are you?” Maggie teases her. “It’s the highest form of science!” Alex outright rolls her eyes, twice, at that, but Maggie continues on. “The human brain is an entire world, Danvers. There’s a universe inside every head around you.”

“Including the plants, miss botany major?”

“Don’t start.” She rests her forearms on the table and leans closer to Alex, making sure she’s fully in her line of vision.  “Nerd.”

 

 

 

The street lights flicker by on Alex’s face through the slightly dirty car window, and Maggie has a flashback to another car ride taken not too long ago, but with a far different atmosphere. Alex is smiling now for one, and Maggie can read the happiness on her face like a book.

The cab has a distinct smell of alcohol in it, an individual with too much to drink probably just rode the same cab, and part of the carpeted seat beneath her thigh is stiff, meaning she’s probably sitting on a stain. But it’s nice, mostly because of her company.

“Anthony wanted a limo, but I put my foot down,” she tells Alex.

Alex wrinkles her nose at the smell. “I don’t agree with King very often, but maybe he was right.”

“That’s not very nice of you, sweetheart,” the driver suddenly says, and Maggie chuckles as Alex slinks back in her seat.

"Come on, Danvers. It's part of the experience."

 

 

 

The elevator doors ding open to reveal a nearly full deck. Couples stand together on every corner of the observatory deck, taking pictures of the view-and of each other. Alex looks over at her with a curious expression, and Maggie raises an eyebrow, giving her the signal to ask whatever is clearly on her mind.

“Aren’t you afraid of heights? I know there’s glass on the 102nd floor, but -”

“It’s sweet that you care, Danvers,” she nudges her shoulder against Alex’s, bringing their bodies leaned up against the back of the elevator closer together. “But I can manage.” She hopes. Where she’s actually planning to take Alex doesn’t have any glass.

It barely has any barrier to stop people from the at least 1250 foot drop off of the Empire State Building onto the streets of New York.  

They go out to the deck, and not two minutes later a young girl comes up to them and asks for a photo. It unleashes at least half a dozen people taking a break from their celebrations to take selfies, even if they don’t know who they are—as demonstrated by the older man asking if Alex played softball—and as soon as it’s over they make their way back inside, away from the cold and most of the crowd.

She’s sure it was Anthony’s plan all along.

But Anthony hadn’t specified which floor they needed go to. He wanted their Empire State excursion more as a nice bonus gift the press could tack on at the end, is the impression Maggie gets. The pictures they took just now serve as proof and evidence enough. So she thinks she should be free.

“Want to take a break?” she asks Alex, who gives her a look.

“You mean leaving?”

“Not exactly. Just... a break away from their cameras.”

Alex frowns, but she finally nods, and Maggie leads the way.

 

 

 

“Wow,” Alex sighs as they step out into the observatory deck of the 103rd floor.

Maggie keeps her distance from the waist-high edge, and when looking down at the buildings becomes too much, she stares resolutely at her shoes. Alex has no qualms about leaning over the barrier, her eyes bright, and Maggie tugs uselessly at her dress.

“Danvers, be careful,” she tells her. “I’d hate to have to recast Claire.”

Alex laughs, but when she turns around it fades slightly.

“You are scared,” she mentions, and Maggie rolls her eyes even as she takes another small step backwards.

“I’m cautious,” she corrects Alex. She looks amused.

“Come here.” She offers her hand, and Maggie takes a breath and takes it, if only because she wouldn't be able to live with the teasing if she hadn’t.

“The view is amazing from up here,” Alex whispers softly, her breath blowing out in white puffs of air. Maggie squeezes Alex’s hand tighter, and looks down at the buildings and the lights, at the black river in the distance.

“It’s something else,” she admits, and lets herself take a long look before she lets go of Alex’s hand and takes a step back into the apparent safety of being inside. Alex continues to stare out, her short hair blowing in the wind. Maggie has half a mind to pull her back, scared the wind will blow her away.

Alex turns around.

“You planned this,” she says accusingly. “I’m sure people can’t just come up here because they want to.”

Maggie shrugs with one shoulder. “I...might have pulled a few strings.”

Alex stares at her. “Why?”

Maggie takes a moment to answer. She doesn’t know how to word it, in a way that won’t offend Alex, nor make her sound like a fool.

“I just wanted at least one part of tonight to be real, you know? We deserve a good Valentine’s day, don’t we?”

Alex smiles softly. “I think this was my best one yet. Not that- not that I never dated someone around this time of year or anything, it’s just...my relationships...The picture perfect Valentine’s day dinner. It just never...”

“Never happened?”

Alex nods.

Maggie does too.

“I can relate to that. I don’t think I’ve been single during Valentine’s day that much since I was a teenager, actually, but it just wasn’t my thing. Everything on February 14th feels...just a little bit forced.”

“This doesn’t,” Alex says.

Maggie swallows, then nods. “You’re right, this doesn't.” Maggie looks out into the distance, the buildings not seem quite so imposing from here.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Alex.”

 

.

.

.

 

They take their heels off at the bottom of the stairs.

Maggie can walk in them just fine, but she doesn’t actively like wearing them, She has an appreciation for a good 3 inch heeled boot, but stilettos are more trouble than they’re worth. So she takes them off, and Alex follows along, laughing.

They climb the stairs to Alex’s floor, bouncing between comfortable silence and small talk about the Rainbow Room’s food. Finally, they arrive at Alex’s door.

“Thank you for a great night,” Alex tells her, turning around before she opens her door.

“Thank you for coming,” Maggie answers.

Alex tilts her head. “I think I was legally contracted to,” she points out, and Maggie chuckles.

“You know what i mean.”

“I do.”

It’s the best she’s felt with anyone who isn’t her aunt in she can’t remember how long. Maybe ever. And she knows one thing that will make the night better.

“Can you come upstairs for a second?” she asks Alex.

The other woman frowns, but nods. “Sure.”

They climb the stairs for the two remaining floors before reaching her loft, and then Maggie runs inside her apartment, leaving an amused Alex outside, after being ordered to stay put. She grabs what she needs, and then exits just as fast.

She hides it behind her back.

“It’s technically the 15th now, but I got you something. For real.” She brings her arms around from behind her back, and shows the stuffed animal to Alex. “Happy Valentine’s day.”

Alex smiles, and grabs it.

“I can’t believe you got me a-”

“I know,” she tells her, preening. Alex shakes her head, but then smiles.

“Thank you.” She looks down at the toy in her hands, and then back at Maggie. “I, huh...I didn’t get you anything.”

“I guess that means I’m winning the gift war now, then.”

Alex looks up at her, incredulous.

Maggie turns around to enter her apartment. “Goodnight, Danvers,” she throws over her shoulder.

“Night.”

“Oh, and Danvers?” she asks, before closing the door. Alex meets her eyes. “Press his paw when you’re alone.”

Maggie disappears inside her apartment, something like contentment filling up her chest.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex holds her heels in one hand and the stuffed animal in the other as she enters her apartment.

Her feet ache, and she’s tired, but it’s the good kind. She hadn’t felt in a while, not since the last time she got to surf back in Malibu, before the Globes. She drops her shoes somewhere between the living room and dining room, and she climbs the few steps to her bed before sitting down on it.

She feels ridiculous for being so excited to see what Maggie meant, but there’s no changing that now.

She presses the animal’s paw, and for a second, nothing happens.

Then, a very distinctive roar fills the silence -Maggie’s voice.

Alex laughs out loud, the sound bouncing off the walls of her empty apartment. She gets a rush that she doesn’t often feel, to take a picture and share it with anyone who may want to look. It’s the first time she wants the world to know something about her and Maggie, and it’s exactly because of that that it feels good to keep it to herself.

She takes out her cellphone, takes a picture, and then sends a text to her sister before she’s able to go on with her night. It’s somewhere between washing her makeup off and putting on her pajamas that she realizes something that makes an already perfect night even better.

Maggie had called her ‘Alex’.

 

.

.

.

 

NTExNjIz

 

.

.

.

 

Light tries to make its way through Alex’s closed eyelids.

She groans—half asleep—rolling away from the window to resume her sleep, and she almost achieves it, but a loud ping somewhere near one of her pillows jolts her fully awake. She must have forgotten to charge her phone last night, early this morning technically, and left it on her bed. She half-heartedly flings her left arm out, groping around for it. Her hand falls on something small and hairy, and the smile that spreads across her face is instantaneous. It’s the lion Maggie gave her. She left it in her bed too last night. But the one object she’s looking doesn’t appear to be where she thought it was.

Alex sits up and forces her eyelids to open, blinking for a few moments in her mostly dim bedroom, half lit by the shaft of light streaming through the room from the window. She turns around, yawning in the process, to look for her phone. It’s hidden beneath a pillow in the far corner, and Alex grabs it, wondering who is waking her up at this time in the morning.

It’s J’onn. Multiple messages from him actually.

She slides open her phone to and frowns as her eyes scan over the 5 messages sent. She quickly jabs her finger at the link he sent, and the seconds it takes to load seem like a century. Finally, though, the page loads, and what she sees makes her frown deepen and her stomach curdle.

Photos. Pictures from their moment up on the 103rd floor, the supposed break from the cameras that Maggie had offered her, out of the kindness of her heart, Alex had originally thought. But looking at the article now, reading the words detailing a fair deal of their time up there, from when Alex pulled Maggie up beside her to peer over the edge to Maggie’s subsequent retreat, it’s all there for everyone to see.

She feels a tendril of anger start creeping up her spine, but its warring with another feeling—embarrassment—and the latter is winning. She’s so stupid. She thought their moment last night had been genuine. She’d opened up to Maggie, and for once, Maggie had done the same to her. It just felt...real. But that was Maggie’s job wasn’t it? To portray a false front so truthfully and naturally that it felt real to the audience. And maybe some of the emotion Maggie showed her in the moment was real, most actors draw on at least a semblance of their own experiences and emotions for roles, but she’d wielded it with the precision and grace her mom possessed during her surgeries.

It was just for the contract. It didn’t mean anything beyond the piece of paper binding them together. Alex was the only one last night who’d imbued the moment with a sense of gravitas.

She thought they were...being actual friends to each other, and instead for some reason Alex has been thrown out of the loop. Was she that bad an actress that King needed Maggie to fool her into thinking there were no cameras so she’d let her guard now? They’d been doing a decent enough job, or so she thought.

She stews the entire ride to set, and her makeup girl has to ask her to stop frowning twice before she can manage it.

Alex hates feeling like she's not on solid ground. She hates not knowing what's going on.

It’s just her luck that her first scene that morning is with Maggie, exactly the person to blame for her mood this morning. And King. But she doesn't have to see King every day.

“You okay?” Maggie asks, halfway through a scene, and Alex shrugs it off. But when the director asks if they want to take 5, Alex jumps at the chance. And she can't help but look at Maggie before she takes off in the direction of her trailer.

“We deserve a break, right?” she says, echoing Maggie's words at the Empire State building last night.

“Yeah…?”

She almost sputters at how nonchalant Maggie is, as embarrassment burns hot on her cheeks.

She walks away.

 

.

.

.

 

After her initial scene with Alex, the rest of Maggie’s morning flies by, perhaps because her mind is more occupied with Alex than her lines.

Alex seems to be in a mood, and Maggie doesn't understand the reason why. She guesses something could have happened with her sister or her mom, and she’s intruded enough—it’s not her place to ask. But she’s still curious.

She’s thinking about asking her directly, how Alex had asked when she’d been down about the Oscars, but she doesn’t get a chance to leave her trailer because her phone starts to ring.

“M’gann, hi.” She wonders briefly what’s the reason behind her manager’s call this morning.

“Hi, Maggie.”

“What's with the tone?”

“Well, we got huh,” M’gann pauses, and she can hear her exhale her breath slowly through the phone. “An offer came in this morning. For you to present at the Oscars.”

Maggie’s stomach drops.

She’d dreamed about being on that stage in wildly different circumstances, and she can’t imagine getting to do it for the first time just to hand over an award to someone else. But she doesn't think she has a choice.

“It’d be bad form not to do it, wouldn't it be?” She asks M’gann, already knowing her answer.

“Yeah,” M’gann tells her. "It’s the Oscars. It’s an honor to present.”

“Feels more like a slap to the face,” she confesses.

“I know. Should I give them an answer?”

“Surprising you haven’t already.”

“Maggie. You know you always have a choice. But this is important.”

“I get it. Let’s do it.”

"Good. In other, happier, news I saw the pictures of you and Alex up on the 103rd floor-”

Maggie cuts her off, confusion flooding her brain. “The what?”

“The pictures?”

“We were up there alone. It wasn't -it wasn't for the contract. I just wanted to show Alex…” realization dawns on her as she runs through Alex’s behavior just earlier. “That’s why she’s mad,” she thinks out loud.

“Who is mad? Maggie?”

“I’ll call you back, okay?”

Maggie dials a number that she sadly has come to know by heart.

“Hello my leading lady! To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Did you get your paps to follow us to the 103rd floor?” She asks right away, she doesn’t have time for his antics.

“I didn't.” He replies, but his voice is gleeful. “I commend you on it though. A genius move Sawyer, you’re a natural.”

Maggie is quick to correct him, “They weren't supposed to be there. I didn’t mean to-”

“Then why go up there with her alone?”

His tone isn’t even malicious, only curious, but he isn’t entitled to know her reasoning. “I have to go on set,” she hangs up without another word.

 

.

.

.

 

The spread at craft services doesn’t look particularly appealing today, but Alex’s eyes roam for some blueberry muffins, hoping they’ll at least have those available. She spots one at the back of the table and is about to reach for it when a voice startles her, stopping her movement.

It’s Maggie. Alex steels her spine and sets her face, not wanting to blow up again at her, at least not on set—it isn’t professional.

“About last night,” Maggie’s face is conciliatory, her tone soft. “I didn't -”

Alex interrupts whatever excuse was about to come out of her mouth. She doesn’t want to deal with it right now. “I just don't understand why you couldn't just tell me we were going to take pictures. Why let me make an ass of myself and start talking about -”

“Wait, you think I knew?” Maggie asks, and the steam goes out of her

“I -”

“I didn't know, Alex,” Maggie tells her, her eyes sincere if not slightly insulted. “Why would I pretend it was just the two of us?”

“I don't know. For the contract? If King told you -”

“We signed that contract together,” Maggie fires back.

Alex is just as quick to respond, “Like he doesn’t tell you information I’m not privy to. You're his shining star of the show. I feel like half the time I hear about our dates through you before I even hear from him.”

“I’m not on Anthony’s side. We signed that contract together,” she insists. “I’m not here to make a fool out of you, Alex. We’re on the same team.” Maggie reaches out tentatively, touching her arm. “Remember?”

Alex doesnt know what to believe. But in that moment, she chooses to believe in Maggie

 

.

.

.

 

dailymail

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

Twitter Post Mockup 2017

.

.

.

 

Alex does a lot of thinking on the ride home that evening. 

She thinks about Maggie telling her for all intents and purposes that she’s on her side, and she thinks about the contract itself and what it means that they’re finally on the same page about it.

But most of all, she thinks about their Valentine’s day. About Maggie’s eyes sparkling in the Rainbow Room, and the way she laughed and called her a nerd. And their moment up on the 103rd floor and how she felt like she could demolish skyscrapers with her bare hands when Maggie trusted her enough to hold her hand and not to let her fall.

Her mind keeps racing in circles, round and round, over every little detail from that night. Maggie’s warmth as they stood side by side in the elevator. Maggie laughing while trying to steal some of Alex’s portion of their shared dessert. Maggie handing her the stuffed animal lion, and that last look she threw over her shoulder suffused with more warmth than Alex even knew could exist.

The car jolts forward as the signal turns green, and it’s as if the movement slides a piece of herself into place that she wasn't aware was missing. 

The realization hits her full force, taking her breath away. 

She wanted it all to be real.

Chapter Text

In vinculis e tiam audax : in chains yet still bold

 

.

.

.

 

“Action!”

 

“Came to say I told you?” Blake asks, her voice rough.

Something in Claire’s chest hurts seeing her like this. She was there when they asked her to hand in her badge and gun, and she would’ve never been able to imagine the mighty Blake Davenport so beaten down. She thinks she might have heard her voice crack, like it does now.

“No. I brought you a drink,” she says, handing her the bottle of water. She’s brought in enough perps to know that waiting to be interrogated is the worst part for them, and none of them make an effort to make it easier. But she does, because Blake is not a perp.

She might make her life a living hell sometimes, and she might be the reason Claire is saddled with so much paperwork, but the woman in front of her?

She’s her partner.

“Thanks,” Blake says, voice still uncharacteristically small.

“He’s guilty as sin and everyone knows it,” Claire tells her. Blake smile lightly.

“Guilty as sin,” she repeats. “Who speaks like that?”

Claire smiles. She welcomes the usually annoying teasing.

“I’m sorry,” Blake apologizes, and Claire frowns.

“For what?”

Blake looks up. “They’re gonna put on me leave. Maybe even take my badge. I was supposed to be your partner and show you the reigns, but I’m gonna get sacked and you’re gonna get something else.”

Claire shakes her head.

“They won’t,” Claire tells her, sitting down in front of her. She extends her hands over the table, trying to lessen the space between them somehow. “They’re going to see that you made a mistake -”

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Too many of them.”

“You’re a good cop. They’re going to see that and give you your badge back. And if they don’t -”

“I have nothing else.” Blake shrugs. “The force is my life. I’m married to my job. Those guys out there...I’m sure half of them hate me, but they’re my only family.” Blake eyes fill with tears, and a single one rolls down her face. Claire has never seen her cry. Blake Davenport was always larger than life itself. But now she seems so small. “And you...This is it for me, Claire. It always was.”

The door slams open, and Captain Ellis walks through, his face twisted in a disappointed frown.

“Lawson, out. Davenport and I need to talk.”

 

“Cut!”

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie dabs under her eyes, erasing the remains of tears, and what she’s sure must be mascara and runny eye liner.

Her makeup girls never thought to give her heavy waterproof makeup. Blake Davenport doesn’t cry, as a rule. She drags her chair back and gets up without looking. She runs into someone, and she knows by the light, barely fragrant scent behind her who it is before she even turns around. Not one of the camera guys, then.

“Danvers-“

Alex rapidly takes a large step back. She seems to realize just how large at the same time it registers in Maggie’s brain, because she steps slightly closer towards her.

“Small room.” She shrugs.

“Hm, is that right?” She smiles, and a matching smile slips onto Alex’s own face. Maggie is pleased, too. That was a scene well done.

Alex seems to think so, too. She looks happy, kind of like on Valentine’s day. The overly bright lights of the police precinct set reflect off of her hair, lighting up the stray fly always framing her face. It’s a good look for her.

“I uh,” she breaks their intertwined gaze, stuffing her hands in her back pockets and shifting her weight into her heels. “Just wanted to tell you good work, Sawyer.”

“You think I’m good, Danvers?” Maggie steps closer—fingers hooked in her belt loop—looking up at Alex with a teasing smirk.

“I think you're great,” Alex chuckles. “A great actress!”

Maggie tilts her head, amused. “You gettin’ soft on me?”

“Me?” Alex’s eyes widen as she presses the tips of her fingers to her chest. “Pft. No! Nope,” Red curls sway back and forth as she shakes her head emphatically.

Maggie’s opens her mouth to respond with another teasing quip, but she hears her voice being called by a PA. “Sorry, Danvers, gotta run.”

She’s a few steps away when she abruptly remembers her earlier Oscar thoughts this morning. She and Alex will need to coordinate looks again, and she’s not even sure if Alex has thought about what she’ll be wearing. Maggie swivels back around, a question resting on the tip of her tongue for Alex, but the space before her is empty.

“Makeup,” the PA tells her, and she nods.

 

 

 

Maggie closes her eyes at Mary’s request, letting her touch up her makeup—the powder brush tickling her nose as she stifles a nose twitch.

It’s a surprisingly mild February day, and she hopes it’s a sign of winter falling away to spring. She loves winter more than most, but even she’s ready for sunny days and clear sidewalks. She’d like to walk outside without the frigid wind numbing her nose and doing its best to pierce through her oversized winter jacket. New York winters have made her appreciate the near constant 70s weather in LA at this time.

Mary tilts her face slightly upward, and Maggie relishes in the warmth of the sun hitting her cheekbone. “You’re in an awfully good mood for a Saturday on set.” Mary rolls her eyes, “I swear King is trying to work you to death with all these weekend shoots.”

“I’m just ecstatic that I get to see you an extra day of the week, Mary,” she jokes, shrugging and cracking a smile—which earns her a light swat on the shoulder and a fond, exasperated utterance to stay still. “The sun is shining, for once, and I’m being paid to do what I love. What’s not to be happy about it?”

“That’s nice to hear, honey. Some of us were just,” she pauses for a moment, “worried, that the Oscars snub was still getting you down.”

Maggie swallows. She thought she’d done a good job hiding her feelings about that, but maybe not.

Mary’s words serve as reminder of what she’s agreed to do, and she feels March 3rd loom ever closer. She’ll need to start looking at dresses for the award show soon. Originally, when she’d naively thought she would be nominated—and even had a shot at winning—she’d been eying a floor length, clean white dress with the back cut out, only a single corded rope connecting the spaghetti straps that would’ve rested at her shoulders to the lower half of the dress. It would’ve been a showstopper, a dress made for a winner. But she won’t be needing it now, something simpler will be more appropriate. It’ll be a more somber affair than she’d envisioned months ago, but perhaps—she thinks suddenly—her company will lessen the blow.

Alex will be her date. Anthony hasn’t sent her any message with orders for the night for the two of them like he did with Valentine’s day, but it’s the Oscars—of course they’ll be attending together. They hardly need instructions from him anymore either, as the 6 month mark of their relationship is creeping up. They’re pros at the contract by now, and February 14th was probably the biggest milestone they needed to ace, which they did (disregarding the miscommunication between them the following morning—which had veered into the territory of their early stages together—as Alex jumped to the worst conclusion about her, but Maggie had managed to smooth it over quickly).

“Done.” Mary’s voice pulls her out of her distracted thoughts.

“Thanks,” Maggie smiles fully now that she’s able to without disrupting her makeup touch up. “And I’m fine, really. You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Well,” Mary lowers her head conspiratorially, “Louise was the one who wanted to know. She can be so nosy,” she shakes her head disapprovingly, and Maggie has to use all of her restraint not to laugh at the woman’s unintentional irony. As if both of her makeup women aren’t known by everyone on set as the generally good hearted, but extremely chatty gossipers. Not to mention, Maggie knows she’s included in that gossip herself.

Maggie winks, deciding to indulge Mary’s deflection.

“Right, well convey my message to Louise then?” Mary nods in assent, leaving her with a relaxed wave of her hand. Once she’s out of earshot, Maggie lets out the chuckle built up in her throat, turning to walk to her next scene.

It’s a good day to work.

 

.

.

.

 

The slam of the door echos in her trailer as Alex lays back against the solid surface, breathing out slowly.

Thoughts of Valentine’s day crash over her, like the waves that would knock her off her surfboard back in Malibu and drag her into the salty, eerily muted world below. Alex feels like that now. Oddly freed due to the weightlessness of the water, and yet lost, uncomfortable without knowing where the surface is. The feeling had seeped into her during those first early morning moments today—after her unexpected realization the night before—and then stayed with her through filming. They’re still lodged in her chest now.

She’d woken up exhausted this morning, which she’d fully attributed to a certain individual.

Last night, after she’d gotten home, her body had gone through the motions of preparing for bed, but her thoughts had been elsewhere—floating in some incorporeal plane of existence. Scenes from the past few months had flashed through her mind with the velocity of a film reel set at hyperspeed, blurring by as if she’d been sitting in a train car watching the outside world rush past her in a blend of dappled colors. And she, the lone passenger, was frozen in her seat. A being trapped in stasis.

By the time she’d deposited herself into bed, the maelstrom pounding against her skull had settled into a static noise, drowning out any coherent thought. She’d spent the night slipping in and out of an uneasy, fitful sleep broken up by periods of tossing and turning. Finally, just as she could blearily see the rays of sun creep into the sky, she’d fallen asleep out of pure fatigue. Two hours later she’d woken up, and the bedside alarm clock had informed her she’d needed to get up in 30 minutes. Still groggy and eyes hurting from a lack of sleep, she’d swung her legs off the bed, displacing her crumpled sheets, and stood up, just as the impact of her epiphany—warded off by shock, perhaps—slammed into her chest. Its impact had reverberated throughout her body. It hadn’t stopped.

Alex groans, head dropping into her hands.

Somewhere along the way, her dread and anxiety of their contract obligations had been replaced by a warm flicker at dimpled smile aimed her way. It’d dissipated in the face of soft, brown eyes—depthless in their understanding and kindness. Maggie Sawyer had walked, strolled even—with that easy gait of hers usually only reserved for people of a certain, taller height—past her carefully constructed defenses. She hadn’t torn them down, she didn’t need to (it probably wasn’t her style anyways).

If she learned anything during her brief time in college studying biochemistry, it was to look at the facts. The facts are these: Maggie has quietly become an important part of her life, a friend, her closest outside of Kara. Alex looks forward to the time she spends with her now, on and off set. None of that is a bad thing. In fact, her mother would be ecstatic that Alex finally found a friend in an industry sorely lacking any. The only difficulty—one that Alex never foresaw—was that by allowing Maggie to slip into the crevices of her life, it’d set off a domino effect.

Perhaps it was only the inevitable result of that warm June day when their orbits first brushed past each other.

For so long, Alex has successfully quelled that...part of herself. She knew it was there, and J’onn knew too—her conversation back when she first was offered the contract is still with her. But she’d always pushed it down. Down and away. It’d been simple to brush it off in lieu of focusing on more important things like school—at first—and then her career. When she’d found herself without either of those, it was all too easy to indulge full time in alcohol and partying. But now she’s sober.

The world is in sharp focus once again, and the thoughts she’d shoved into the recesses of her soul, stifled by the darkness, have resurfaced. A small part of her momentarily resents Maggie for so casually upsetting her carefully constructed reality.

She’s toppled years of meticulous avoidance and willful ignorance, but Alex doubts she’ll ever realize it. And she certainly won’t be informing her of it any time soon, or at all, period. Maggie can remain blissfully unaware of the seismic shift that’s occurred, of the chaos brewing inside her, but Alex no longer has that option. She cannot ignore the flutter in her chest when she thinks of Maggie smiling at her this morning—looking far too beautiful and refreshed than anybody had a right to before the sun even rose. Now it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to the uptick of her heart whenever Maggie is particularly close to her, filling all of her senses. She definitely can’t ignore the prickle and flush of her skin, hot and slightly uncomfortable—if only due to the infrequency with which she’s ever felt this way—born from simply examining the effect Maggie has on her.

She doesn’t want to just be Maggie’s friend or fake girlfriend, she doesn’t want the false shroud of the contract on their relationship. She wants it to be real. Alex wants Maggie to be her real girlfriend who takes her up to the secret top floor of one of the tallest buildings even though she herself is afraid of heights. She has a crush on her co-star—a woman. It’s as simple and complicated as that. Alex briefly considers that it might not have anything to do with who she is, or her sexu- or the other thing.

It’s...Maggie. How could she not like her?

She’s tough and she’s smart and she’s just -she’s so beautiful. Inside and out, cliche as that may sound. Her eyes shine with warmth and genuine kindness, even when she’s exhausted and it’s 3 AM and they still have another scene to finish. She makes people feel welcomed, like they matter. She holds the door open for crew members and waits on the stairs for Alex to finish saying her goodbyes so they can walk back to their trailers together. When she smiles, it only magnifies the effects of her eyes. The dimples appear—sometimes large as a crater, other times just a small depression in her cheek—and Alex swears the world brightens just a little bit each time. The birds seem to chirp louder, the sun pierces through the clouds to warm the ground below, and the atmosphere feels lighter, as if the universe is transforming itself into something more brilliant and beautiful to match Maggie’s smile.

And she can’t fucking believe she’s been so blind that she didn’t notice she was crushing on Maggie until it had already happened.

A knock on the door she’s laying against startles her, and she jumps, as if the person on the other side could hear her thoughts.

“Five minutes,” a PA says, and Alex takes a deep breath before she stands tall again. She has work to do, and working is exactly what she’d like to do now, to keep her brain occupied. Everything with Maggie still feels raw, and with the Oscars looming closer, she just- she doesn’t think she can do it.

“Miss Danvers?”

“Got it!” she tells the person on the other side of her trailer door, and then hears him walk away.

The world won’t stop for her.

 

.

.

.

 

She saunters up to Alex during their break, catching her unaware as she gets lunch from one of the catering servers.

“That looks good,” she mentions, smiling at the girl serving the vegetable soup, and she gets a smile back. “I’ll have a plate,” she says, before nudging Alex with her hip.

“Hey,” Alex greets her, grabbing her plate. She waits to the side until Maggie has hers, and then they sit on one of the free spots to take their lunch. Maggie smiles at how right it feels. It took them some time to get here, but this is exactly the feeling of partnership she was after when they were looking for a co-star.

“Have you seen your dress?” She asks, before taking a sip of the soup. It’s warm, just like she likes it—too hot and it frustrates her not being able to eat. But the soup is citrusy and shock full of crunchy vegetables—just like she likes them—it takes her a minute and a couple of spoonfuls to realize that Alex hasn’t answered her question.

She looks up at her.

“I don’t think I’m going.”

“To the Oscars?” It’s incomprehensible that Alex won’t go, that she can even make that choice. If it was up to Maggie she wouldn’t be presenting, but she is, because that’s how this works.

Alex shrugs.

“What? Why? Alex, you’re my date.” The words surprise her for how sincere they are. She’d just assumed she’d be taking Alex, because award season was a big part of their contract. And she’d already accepted it in her head, made herself feel better with the fact that Alex would be there and Maggie could just...try to have fun on a night that would be absolutely shitty otherwise. The image of Alex by her side, that she wouldn’t have to do it alone, had already given her a semblance of comfort.

“I just don’t...Look, it’s personal. But I can’t go. I’m going to talk to J’onn about it, and I’ll talk to you later, okay?” She stands up, throwing her legs over the bench, and then she’s off. Her abrupt exit leaves Maggie dumbfounded.

Alex’s plate sits untouched at the spot across her.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex gets home at 3 PM that afternoon.

She’s not used to leaving set when it’s still light out, but it’s supposed to snow that night, and production was moved to the following day. Alex wishes it hadn’t been. Her brain is buzzing, the familiar uncomfortable itch she’s grown used to permeating every inch of her skin.

When Alex was a kid, she didn’t see her grandparents much. Her mom wasn’t close to hers, and her dad’s lived on the other side of the country. But she remembers clearly one trip they took to visit them, and how her grandfather had told her a story about there being two wolves inside every person, a good one and a bad one. Alex had ignored the moral of the fable, arguing that it was literally impossible for an animal to live inside a person, unless it was a parasite, and wouldn’t the story be more realistic if it was about intestinal worms? (She’d been a weird kid, too smart for her age, always trying to fit in.) She remembers the story now.

She can clearly feel two sides of her at war, each fighting with the strength and fierceness of wolves.

There’s the side that argues that this.. .feeling is born from their forced close proximity and fake dates. Alex has been pretending to date Maggie for a while now, and she hasn’t been with anyone for even longer; and so with every kiss and every hand hold, reality just became blurred, confused with fiction. The same side insists that kissing Maggie feels good because kissing feels good, period, and it has nothing to do with the woman herself. That side tells her vehemently that she doesn’t need for the world to analyze her under a microscope even after the contract is over. That she might feel something for Maggie, but it’ll pass, and it doesn't mean anything in the long run, she’s not like that —one day she’ll find the right man.

And then there’s the other side, that wants her to acknowledge what she’s pushed down for years. That wants her to remember Vicky, and how much she placed in their friendship, and how much she liked when they’d fall asleep together on her bed watching a movie in the dark. The brightness of the screen had always made her eyes hurt, but she hadn’t minded. Not when Vicky’s body pressed at her side spread a warmth deep inside her. This side tells her that J’onn already knows, that he knew without her saying a word. That she’ll be fine, that the comments that will follow will be long forgotten after she finally embraces the way she feels.

The two wolves clash, viciously ripping at each other.

Her grandpa had told her that the wolf that wins is the wolf that she feeds, but Alex can’t think about anything but needing a drink herself.

And it’s not just that, not just the Maggie side of it, that has her on edge.

Sure, she wants to miss the Oscars because taking pictures kissing Maggie and wondering if everyone who sees those pictures can see the way she feels painted in her face sounds like a nightmare. She’s pretended to be... attracted to Maggie, for months, but it’s different now that she thinks she might be, for real. (And that word—attraction— sends a shudder down her spine.) But that’s not the bigger reasons.

It’s the Oscars themselves.

They’ve always been tied to her dad, and so she’s always avoided this time of year, and she never had the opportunity to come so it was easy, to hole herself up somewhere and let the event pass.

She’d made a promise to her dad, when she was nothing but a kid. And she made the same promise to herself after she quit school to take up acting again.

She’d be breaking it if she went.

She’s thinking about the pros and cons of getting two fingers of scotch to process, when her cellphone rings, and her plan is shot to hell when she sees it’s J’onn. She takes a breath before answering. He’s the person who knows the most about her, probably more than Kara, if she’s counting...that. She can’t saddle him with more of her crap, but he’s her manager. Of all people, he should know she’s decided not to show up.

“Hey-”

“What’s this about you missing the Oscars?”

“Who- How?” She stutters. Nothing for her to tell if her already knows.

“Maggie told M’gann, who told me.”

“You talk to M’gann?” Alex asks.

“That’s not important,” J’onn tells her. “What’s important is that you can’t miss this.”

She sits down on her bed, sighing.

“So King will be mad -big deal.” She could care less about the guy. They did more than enough for Valentine’s day, and for the Globes.

“This isn’t even about King,” J’onn tells her. “Yes, he’ll be angry, and if he was angry enough he could pursue legal action because you signed a contract. But as your manager -as your friend ….Alex, it’s insane not to attend the oscars. The exposure alone will be great for your career.”

Alex closes her eyes against his logic. She knows.

“Why now, why this?” J’onn asks. “Talk to me.”

Alex shakes her head.

“I just...I wanted to be there because of me .”

“Oh.”

“Not as someone’s plus one, not because of Maggie or because of Kara.” She’d promised her dad, when she was just a kid. That she’d follow in his footsteps. That he’d be proud of her one day. “I wanted it to be me .”

J’onn is silent for a moment, but Alex can still hear him on the other side of the phone, can almost feel his presence. It’s calming. She misses him.

“I understand,” he says finally. “But I have to insist. You can’t let this huge opportunity go to waste because of your pride.” Alex swallows to wet her dry throat. She doesn’t correct him. “Not to mention,” J’onn tells her. “King isn’t the understanding type. Even if we wanted to get you out of this...There’s not a way, Alex.”

She has to reluctantly agree.

“Okay,” she says finally, accepting his words with all the somberness of a soldier accepting to go into battle.

“Do you have a second? I was meaning to tell you that I set up that interview we were looking at two weeks from now. Elle Magazine. I’ll visit you soon so we can talk about it, but I just wanted to tell you…”

She’s not sold on attending the Oscars and dredging up her past, but J’onn words are a balm that she clings to.

 

.

.

.

 

“Boss, is it safe for me to open my eyes?”

Winn’s voice comes from somewhere behind her, and she turns around to look for him. His eyes are squeezed shut, arms crossed as he bounces on the balls of his feet. Maggie rolls her eyes.

“I’m not trying on dresses yet,” she tells hims. “You’re early, no one’s arrived yet. I was just looking at makeup ideas.”

Winn’s eyes pop open and he bounds over to her; if she squints she can see a tail wagging enthusiastically in his trail.

“I can help with the makeup.” He skids to a stop before her. “Warm tones suit you best, and the no makeup makeup look is definitely the way to accentuate your natural beauty. It worked great for that shoot last year. I’d also suggest-“

“Winn,” he jolts slightly at Gabriella’s voice, voice drying up with a squeak, as she enters the room. “I think you’ve been spending too much time around Maggie.” She comes up behind her to peer over her shoulder, “But you’re not wrong,” she turns to wink at him, “for once.”

“Well, since you two are the makeup experts,” Maggie tells them, “why don’t you pick out something to compliment blue.” She stands up from the makeup chair and flops onto the nearby couch. “At least until Jocelyn arrives.”

Gabriella taps her foot in thought, as if to ponder the proposal, before shaking her head and joining Maggie on the couch—as Maggie knew she would. “It’s all yours, tinker boy,” Gabriella delivers her words with a grand flourish at the array of makeup products scattered near the lit up mirror.

He rolls his eyes, but immediately stops upon catching sight of Gabriella’s mock glare. “Yessir!”

“So,” Gabriella turns to her, throwing an arm around her shoulders. “How’s it going? I feel like I haven’t seen you in person in ages. And I had to work this morning and you were out like a rock when I left so we didn’t even get a chance to talk.”

Maggie sinks into her embrace.

“We text almost every day,” she reminds her aunt.

It’s been tough to adjust to not having Gabriella a short car ride away, as she knew it would be. Maggie had flown out of JFK airport as soon as she’d gotten off work yesterday, in LAX late last night. Gabriella had picked her up from the airport—greeting her with a tight, achingly familiar hug that Maggie had missed more than she’d like to admit. The car ride back to Gabriella’s apartment had been excruciatingly long, the typical Friday night traffic in LA slowing them down, and Maggie had dozed on and off throughout.  She’d only woken up long enough to get out of the car once they’d arrived and prepare for bed.

The puffy white comforter of her bed (technically, it was the guest bed, but Maggie had spent so many nights in it, it was practically hers) had been a welcome relief, and she’d fallen into it shortly after.

Sunday morning had dawned on her far too soon, and now half the day had already passed. She’s leaving for New York in 8 hours. Taking the redeye back to Manhattan so she can be on set tomorrow morning. She wishes she could stay longer, just like this, settled into Gabriella’s side while Winn mutters to himself in the corner. It feels like old times, before Nightingale , blockbuster movies, and Oscar snubs. The only person missing from the picture is Alex, and then it’d be perfect.

Her last thought startles her. She’s not sure when Alex became part of her ideal day, but she supposes it’s only natural that the woman has woven herself into Maggie’s life given the amount of time they spend together. Their fake relationship, as of this month, has officially lasted almost as long as her longest real relationship did, which is laughable, but also a depressing indicator of her love life. It’s not like she’s had trouble finding women to date—she hadn’t gained that womanizer reputation M’gann hated so much for nothing—but she’s never connected with a woman enough for it to last. Or maybe, she just hasn’t found anyone she’s willing to put before her career.

“So?” Gabriella nudges into her, and pulls her attention away from ruminations over her lackluster love life.

Maggie shrugs. “Not much to report. The show keeps me busy as usual, and when I’m not on set I’m doing contract stuff.”

“Everything is,” Gabriella’s tone is tentative, “good then?” Maggie can hear the unspoken message beneath her words. The Oscars. She wants to know if she’s actually fine with it. It seems to be on everybody’s mind nowadays, including her own unfortunately.

Her eyes land on the floor, tracing the patterns in the carpet. If anybody else were asking, Maggie would deliver her rote diplomatic response with a smile, but it’s Gabriella.

“In about two weeks, everything will be great. But as of now,” she lifts her shoulder and drops it with a sigh, “I’m dealing with it.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I wrote a very critical message on the Oscars website,” Gabriella tilts her head to peer into her eyes, and her own small smile causes one to break out on Maggie’s face.

She sits up straighter, pulling her leg beneath her, and turning to face her aunt. “Please tell me you didn’t put your real information into the boxes?”

“Of course not,” Gabriella scoffs with an offended frown. “Don’t be silly, I used Chris’s information,” her face turns into a positively evil smirk. Maggie rolls her eyes. Looks like even love—or whatever it is they share—hasn’t completely softened Gabriella.

“Speaking of Chris,” she’s proud of herself for managing to get his name out in a completely neutral tone, “how’s he doing? I didn’t see him last night or today.”

“Great. He’s been busy with job interviews actually. The restaurant he worked for is closing and he’s looking for a new job. He’s getting offers left and right,” Gabriella says, with the same tone she’d talked about Maggie getting good grades back in the say. She’s proud. “One even in Argentina.”

Gabriella chuckles, but Maggie can’t tell if that’s a good or bad sign. Argentina is pretty far away, putting it lightly. And if he does take it, would that mean Gabriella would move with him? The thought instantly makes her uncomfortable, her stomach queasy. Maggie thought having her aunt on the other coast was bad enough, she can't imagine her in another country.

She takes a small breath, making sure her body language is carefully blank as her next words come out. “Argentina, huh? What happens if he gets it?”

“We’d try long distance,” the smile slips off of Gabriella’s face as she shrugs softly. “I guess.”

Privately, Maggie doesn’t see long distance working—in her experience it rarely does, in fact, it had been a mess with Emily—but she keeps the thought to herself and presses into Gabriella’s side more. They both watch in silence as Winn rifles through the makeup and periodically checks his phone.

She can’t wait until award season is over.

 

.

.

.

  

maggieoscarsmakeupinstapost

 

.

.

.

 

Oscar day rolls around, and finds Alex woefully unprepared.

The fact that her sister is picking her up later makes her feel marginally better, but she still has nerves eating her up from the inside out. She spent the entire night awake, tossing and turning, trying to make sense of this thing that’s gotten so large and complicated as to consume her every waking thought. She doesn’t want to talk to Kara about it. It’s too soon and she hasn’t figured it out for herself, let alone for other people, she doesn’t know what she’d tell her. And J’onn isn’t available right now. And Maggie...Alex can’t approach Maggie about this. It’d be too close to admitting she feels...something, for her, and she cannot do that.

So she walks around her old apartment and lets it fester.

It grows and merges with her other worries.

Her dad was a staple at the Oscars. Her parents had gone every year they could since he’d won. If possible, Alex was an Oscars brat. She knew the ins and outs of the show, and her parents regaled her and Kara with countless stories when they came back. Her dad had offered to take her one year, the last year he went, and she’d volunteered to stay with Kara instead. They could go together next year. And they never did.e

She knows people will ask about him tonight. She’ll take pictures with Maggie and with Kara, and her career will be compared to his, and her accomplishments will be held up against her sister’s in the worst game of compare and contrast.

It has Alex, for lack of a better term, antsy as shit. She plops down on her bed, rubbing her temples. It’s sharp and sudden, the thought that she knows how to get rid of it.

She did it in college, when she was frustrated because of her grades and then even more frustrated because of the bad sex she subjected herself to. Most times it worked and sometimes it didn’t, and she’s a grown woman, she’s not ashamed of it.

Her mind made up, she makes her way to the bathroom.

She sits down on the toilet, dropping her pants and underwear to her ankles. She’s doing this for one reason only, and she doesn’t see the point in pretending she isn’t. One of her old friends used to call it having solo sex, but the idea seems laughable to Alex. People can never be as comfortable with a partner as they are with themselves, for starters.

She thoughtfully wets her forefinger on her tongue, and then slips her hand down her stomach, between her legs.

If she had some more time she’d try to read some erotica beforehand, but she really just wants to relax, to banish her anxiety with a well placed orgasm. She can’t be buzzing like this for the rest of the afternoon.

Her usual fantasy plays out in her head.

Some faceless man has her on her back, and she feels him touch her ankles, then the back of her knees. Climbing up and up her body. She’s single-minded in her focus, repeating to herself that it feels good like a mantra. She rubs faster, eager for that spark that signals she’s on the right path to getting what she wants. Until then, it feels like nothing.

The faceless person reaches her belly button, and she imagines hot breath on her stomach.

She’d tried to love it as much as she was supposed to, the one time she’d had this done to her, but it hadn’t been that special. Her fantasy is so much better, when it works.

She rubs a little faster, but then her mind gets distracted, she loses focus.

Dimples and brown eyes invade her mind, and she has her hand between her legs -this is a terrible moment to think about Maggie Sawyer. Alex squirms. Just don’t think about her, she tells herself, trying to go back to what she was thinking, to the tried and true fantasy she’s always used. But it doesn’t work.

She refuses to give up, somehow feeling like walking out of her bathroom, slightly sweaty and with nothing to show for it would be even worse.

And then there’s a change.

And the faceless man she imagines has a face. And it’s not a man anymore.

It’s Maggie.

Maggie looking up at her with half lidded bedroom eyes, holding her thighs open with the strong hands that have held Alex’s so many time. Alex shudders, and has half a mind to stop, to get out of her bathroom and stop being so fucking weird, but she can’t. She feels herself grow wet, and then wetter, and she suddenly won’t need to spit on her finger anymore to be wet enough to finish (she refuses to taste herself), because her finger briefly dips into her entrance and she’s so, so wet.

She slides over her clit faster, finally feeling that spark that makes her thighs clench and her legs open wider.

She groans from the back of her throat, as the Maggie in her head finally puts her mouth on her, her tongue. Alex’s hips lurch forward, and she tries to keep the noise to a minimum as she moves. Fantasy Maggie kisses her stomach, her hand making a trail from Alex’s hip to her center, and Alex bites her lip, but it’s useless-

“Maggie!”

An explosion erupts in her entire body, overwhelming in its intensity. Her mind blanks out, and for a few incredible seconds there’s nothing but white hot pleasure pulsating, radiating from her center—and surprisingly, down to her legs. Her toes curl of their own volition.

She catches her breath when it’s over, clenching her legs together as a few aftershocks still allow themselves to be felt.

Her eyelids open to stare at the tiled wall in front of her.

She hadn’t realized she’d closed her eyes. She melts against the back of the seat, feeling like she just took a giant dose of Prozac. Like she'd just exorcized every ounce of stress from her body. Her muscles feel made of putty, useless and limp. It’s never...she’s never felt like that, never had one that... strong .

And fuck, had she really called out Maggie’s name just as she’d c-

“Alex! Alex, it’s Kara! I’m here! Are you ready?”

 

.

.

.

 

“There,” Jocelyn steps back, her sharp eyes scrutinizing Maggie.

Maggie resists the urge to squirm under her intense gaze. The makeup artist Winn hired is apparently one of the best in the business, probably because, as she quickly found out, she’s a perfectionist. Maggie can appreciate that, but she’s not the biggest fan of the extra time it takes the woman to finish her face.

Jocelyn gives a sharp nod, satisfied with the finished product, and begins methodically clearing the area around them.

“I’m gonna grab a quick bite to eat downstairs, but I’ll be back in time to do any touch ups before you leave.”

“Thanks.” Maggie smiles at her. “Winn was right, you do great work.” Jocelyn rolls her eyes at the mention of her assistant, but she smiles in return.

The door closes quietly behind her as she leaves. Maggie stands to survey the hotel room she’s rented. She figured it’d be easier to prepare for the night here, closer to the Dolby Theatre. And it’ll be less she has to clean up were she to get ready at her house. She walks over to the half open closest, a flash of blue peering out of it. Her dress. Her Zuhair Murad dress straight from this season’s collection. It wasn’t her first choice, but it is stunning, with its shimmering deep blue fabric and deep V at the front. The way it drapes reminds her of waterfall. An expensive, glossy waterfall. She’s just waiting until Ashley, her stylist for the event, arrives to help her into the dress.

Maggie turns, walking toward the large bay window. The sun is still high in the sky. The red carpet won’t be for another few hours, but her dread, thick and potent, has already begun. She swears she can feel it filling up her lungs, weighing them down and making it harder to breathe. But now isn’t the time to freak out.

The cool glass of the window in front of her looks inviting; she has the urge to rest her forehead against it and take a moment to breathe, but Jocelyn would kill her if she messed up her hard work.

Maggie straightens up, shoulders back. Alex and Kara should be arriving soon, and she can’t be the gracious host she offered to be and have an internal freak out at the same time.

Once M’gann had called her to confirm that Alex was attending the show with her, she’d invited her and Kara—to be polite—to make use of the rented hotel room she’d be using for the night. She’s still not sure why Alex was against going to the Oscars, and it’d been obvious Alex wouldn’t appreciate her asking, so she’d let it go. But she’d thought inviting her to prepare with her would be a nice olive branch, or show of support.

She looks at her reflection in the window pane and forces a smile. Familiar twin dimples reflect back to her in the glass. She looks happy, to anybody who doesn’t know her well enough to spot the difference, but it’ll have to do for tonight.

A rapid knock on the hotel door breaks the silence of the room.

She’s only halfway across the room when she hears Kara’s loud voice through the door.

“Hi! It’s us!"

Maggie shakes her head, and lets them in.

 

.

.

.

 

Alex winces slightly at the volume of Kara and Elliot’s conversation over her head.

Her scalp hurts from the tight rollers encasing her hair, and their spirited exchange isn’t helping the growing headache at the base of her head. Elliot has been doing their hair for years now, and he and Kara struck up a good friendship. She likes the man too, even if he is a bit too loud for her taste. It’s not surprising he gets along with her sister though, they both share a love for pop culture and bad reality TV shows.

“Alex!” Elliot claps his hand on her shoulder, body shaking with laughter. “Do you remember that?”

She’s lost. She stopped following their conversation 10 minutes ago, but she smiles and nods nevertheless in agreement.

“God, how long have I been doing your two’s hair?”

Alex thinks back, doing the math quickly. She first met him on set of one of her dad’s films. He was part of the crew then, and a year later when she’d needed a hair stylist for a movie premiere, her dad had suggested him. Ever since, he’s the person she’d call for big events like this. And it was only natural that he’d start doing Kara’s hair too, when she got into the business. He’s the family stylist now, so to speak.

“Eight years now,” she tells him.

He steps back, perhaps to admire his work, and beams—clapping his hands together.

“Eight years. And hey!” He puts his hands on Alex’s shoulders. “You’re part of the team now!”

Alex frowns, not catching his meaning.

“Your girl in the bathroom…? I gotta say, I wasn’t surprised, but then again it takes one to know one.”

“Oh! Oh.”

Kara giggles. “Elliot, no, Alex is-”

“Happy to join the team,” she says succinctly, and Elliot laughs again.

“Okay Alex, we’ll leave the rollers in for another half hour. I’m going to step out for a moment to give Theo a call, he always bugs me if I don’t.”

Kara turns toward her the minute he’s out of earshot. “Why didn’t you tell him the truth?”

Alex shrugs, an uncomfortable weight in her stomach.

“I can’t,” she excuses herself. “He’d have to sign a NDA like you and mom did. It’s not worth it we see him like twice a year.”

“Oh, right, the NDA. Sorry.”

Alex feels guilty for accepting her apology. It’s not exactly why. She just...wanted to know what it felt like, to tell someone that, even if it was a lie. “No problem.”

“Your turn for the hair, Kara!” Elliot calls out as he comes back inside, and Kara jumps on the bed, awaiting the stylist. Alex watches her and Maggie get their long hair done, and not for the first time she’s thankful for the haircut Nightingale gave her.

She just hopes the show doesn't make her cut it any shorter. She’s not fond of the soccer mom hairstyle.

 

 

 

She and Kara sit on the bed, while their makeup artist gets her things ready on the vanity on the other side of the room. The rollers are finally out of her head; she just has to get her makeup done and she’ll be ready to step into her dress. Faint nerves tingle at the pit of her stomach, but Alex squashes them down like a soldier preparing to step into a minefield. Tonight’s a mission, like any other.

She looks to her side at Kara, who sports a wide smile on her face.

“Why are you smiling like that, pray tell?”

Kara snorts. “Like what?”

“Exactly like that!”

Her little sister shrugs, picking at the edge of the old hoodie she’s wearing.

“This is nice, that’s all,” she tells her. “We’re getting ready for the Oscars together...the Oscars, Alex! And we’re both going and we both have dates that we love, it’s awesome.”

Alex swallows, hard. “My date is fake, remember?” she reminds her.

“Oh, you know what I mean! Maggie and you are friends now!” A mischievous look descends upon Kara’s face, and Alex instantly dreads what her sister is about to do. She’s seen that expression over the years more than she’d like, and she knows that what follows after rarely turns out well for her. “Hey, Maggie!” Kara calls out—hands cupped around her mouth to amplify her voice over the music. Alex throws herself across the covers to cover her mouth. Kara is stronger than her, and Alex isn’t quite sure when that happened. But she’s not invulnerable. Alex knows her kryptonite.

“Stop, or I’ll tickle you until you cry,” she warns her menacingly, hands hovering over her stomach.

Maggie pops her head out of the bathroom, a slight frown on her face.

She’s wearing a bathrobe instead of the sweatpants and t-shirt she was sporting earlier, and Alex tries to keep her eyes on her face.

“You called?” Maggie asks. Alex pokes Kara’s back, reminding her of the threat, and her sister gives in.

“Nope, no,” her sister smiles, pretty unconvincingly Alex thinks to herself. “I was just...talking about Maggie Smith. She deserves another Oscar, right?”

Maggie smiles strangely. “Yeah. Just for Harry Potter alone.”

She disappears back into the bathroom, and Alex tickles Kara, once. Just to retaliate.

“You said you wouldn’t,” Kara laughs breathlessly, sitting up straight.

“Never said that,” she argues, and then breaks out into a smile. “Just said I would if you didn’t take it back. Turns out I would either way.” Kara sticks her tongue out at her. Alex has missed this. These bright spots of happiness that she took for granted with Kara when they were still just kids, and that they lost for a while there after everything with their dad. He’d want them to be closer. And Alex wants that too.

She’d tried to hide her mess from her sister, when she had already known. There’s nothing stopping her now from stepping up and being the sister Kara deserves. Brunch with their mother every two months and odd visits here and there won’t do anymore.

If the wistful look Kara gets is anything to go by, she agrees.

“I know you’ve been busy with work and the contract and everything,” Kara mentions. “And I’ve been busy too, with the new movie...but I’ve really missed you, Alex.”

Alex scoots over over on the bed, throwing her arms around Kara—imbuing a silent apology in her hug. Her sister returns the hug with superhuman strength, snuggling in her arms.  

“I’ve missed you too.”

 

.

.

.

 

The hotel room looks like a mini hurricane went through it.

Clothes are strewn on the floor, couch, bed, over chairs, and some even under the coffee table. But far from being the work of mother nature, it’s only what’s left in the wake of the Danvers sisters, a force to be reckoned with in their own right. In the past hour since they swept into the hotel room—Kara charging into the room with Alex trailing after her—they’d turned the once pristine room into a hair sprayed locker room of shoes, clothes, and a number of other assorted scents. Taylor Swift blares in the background, Kara apparently being a big fan.

Maggie picks her way around the wreckage of the room, wondering if the two of them are always this messy. She thinks maybe their parents allowed it when they were younger and the behavior carried over into their older years.

Maggie knows if she ever pulled a stunt like this when she was living with her parents, her mom would’ve grounded her for a week. If she’d done it while living with Gabriella, it would have only made their lives more difficult, considering the limited space in their apartment. Even worse, Gabriella would have probably made her watch The Brady Bunch reruns while they cleaned up. The cheesiness might make her aunt laugh, but it just makes Maggie cringe.

A loud laugh comes from the bathroom, and she’s surprised she recognizes it as Alex’s.

A minute later she steps out, her sister in tow, wearing a gorgeous red lace dress. She’s breathtaking. Maggie must be staring because Alex looks up at her a moment later, a light flush to her face, and Kara giggles beside her. Maggie averts her eyes, coughing slightly to clear her throat. “You both look really nice.”

“Thanks!” Kara enthuses brightly, and Alex smiles softly.

Alex detaches herself from Kara’s grip and maneuvers her way around the mess on the floor towards her handbag. “When do I -uh we,” she bends over to grab the purse, “get to see you in your dress?”

“My stylist should be over soon to help me in it.” Maggie pulls her robe a little tighter, feeling under dressed with both of the Danvers looking straight out of a catalog.

Kara pipes in, “So what’s the plan of action tonight ladies?”

“We leave the hotel, get in a fancy car, and then walk on a red carpet while hundreds of sweaty men shout at us,” Alex delivers drily, and Maggie has to stifle a laugh.

Kara only rolls her eyes exasperatedly. “You know what I meant Alex.”

“We’ll walk together,” Maggie declares.

And suddenly the Oscars don’t sound half bad.

 

.

.

.

 

tweet52

tweet53

 

.

.

.

 

Alex isn't paying attention to the most important night in Hollywood.

The crème de la crème of the industry is all around her, exchanging small talk during commercial breaks and buzzing with excitement before each winner is called. She doesn’t even know who won Best Supporting Actress until the blond girl from the bird film Kara liked so much walks to the stage to pick up her award. She’s too busy thinking of Maggie.

It was easy when she remained ignorant to how she felt, but now that she’s let herself accept what’s happening, it’s made it all the more real. Her thoughts buzz as fast as race cars on the last mile of Formula One. There’s Maggie’s chaste kiss on her cheek earlier that night, on the red carpet, and her smile when she left an imprint on her skin, her dimples popping. And deep down, she’s also thinking about Maggie’s legs in her dress and Fantasy Maggie’s face between her own legs, and that’s the one that makes her stop, and force herself to look around, if only to get out of her own head. She’s never done...that, to the thought of anyone. She’s never felt like this.

It feels like molten lava is running through her veins, climbing up her throat and making her flushed.

Maggie is so warm beside her, her bare arms brushing against her own every time she claps for a winner, and it’s a particular hell that Alex has never imagined for herself. It’s a relief when Maggie leaves her side to present.

Only a minute passes after Maggie leaves before she’s approached by a producer who claims to have worked with her father.

He enthusiastically shakes her hand and sings praises of her father, in particular the film that won him his Oscar. Alex swears she can physically feel the temperature around her drop at the mention of her dad’s film. It triggers memories of that night, of the exuberation and the excitement, and her parents letting her stay up late to celebrate. Of how the name of said film had come by her dad in the first place.

By the time the man leaves, her mood has worsened exponentially. She shifts in her seat uncomfortably, desperately wanting to stand and do something, but the commercial break ends in 2 minutes. Instead, she’s forced to remain in her seat—her broken promise hanging over her like a guillotine. She’s not who she’d wanted to be. Most importantly, she’s not the person her father would’ve wanted her to be.

Alex Danvers. Daughter of famous late director Jeremiah Danvers. Sister of newly rising star Kara Danvers. And Maggie Sawyer’s plus one.

She needs a drink.

 

.

.

.

 

Maggie spends most of the evening dreading having to present.

Years ago, when she and Gabriella were still living in a one bedroom apartment in Crenshaw, they would make an evening out of it. The week before, they’d try to go to the movies and watch some of the nominees, and download the others. Then the day of the show, they’d get some popcorn and chocolates and takeout, that they normally didn’t treat themselves to, and watch the award show. Gabriella and her would place bets on which actor or actress would win, and her aunt would tease Maggie about the day she’d be on that stage.

Then she’d graduated to actually coming to the award show with Gabriella as her date, and they’d watched wide-eyed as everything unfolded right before their eyes. Gabriella hadn’t let up teasing Maggie about the day she’d be up there, but quieter so Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, sitting in front of them, wouldn’t hear.

She’s supposed to get on that stage tonight, but it’s not exactly under the circumstances she would have liked. Either way, there’s no getting out of it, and when they finally call her to get backstage, Maggie’s ready.

Or she hopes she is.

She’s ushered into the crowded backstage area, people in black tie affair stoically standing around wearing headsets, and directed to sit in a director’s chair with presenter in big, bold white letters on the back of it. This is her first time backstage at the Oscars, and while she was hoping her first time here would be after exiting the stage, her Oscar in hand, it still is pretty exciting to be in the thick of it. She swivels her upper body to look behind her at the large, plastic Oscar statues lined up. In front of her are 3 televisions broadcasting different angles of the show, and below those is a long table draped in black and covered in food. On the left side of the room are the Oscar awards, one after the other in longs rows standing in the glass shelved display. A bright yellow light serves as a backdrop to the gleaming, golden awards, which only further embellishes the gravitas and distinction the award carries.

She’d really thought one of those might have belonged to her.

Her co-presenter arrives shortly after, and all Maggie can think is that Alex would love to meet him. Fifteen minutes later and they’re given the go ahead signal.

She walks out, squinting briefly at the sudden lights, her hand tucked into Diego Luna’s elbow. She’s never met the man, and they’ve never so much as practiced the script they were sent together (Maggie couldn’t make it to the Oscar rehearsal due to shooting conflicts), but she trusts that they both learned their lines well enough to not be embarrassing.

They make it to the microphone, and Maggie takes a deep breath, controlling her nerves so her voice won’t shake.

“Good evening. Maggie and I are here to present best foreign film,” Luna starts. “Which is fitting, considering my mother was born in England.”

“Really?” Maggie asks, acting with practiced ease. “My mother was born in Italy.” The sentence is easy to utter, after years of pretending she still has parents.

“My father was born in Mexico,” Luna says in kind. “Maggie and I can attest that it is not an individual’s country of origin that makes them remarkable, but rather their qualities. It’s the same with films.”

She tips her head up towards the microphone.

“No matter what language they are in, movies speak to the shared humanity in all of us,” she says.

“Contending for best foreign language film tonight, movies are from: Spain, Japan, Italy, Belgium, and Sweden.”

The next moment is bittersweet.

Because for one second it doesn’t matter that she got snubbed, and that she didn’t want to present in the first place, because looking out into the audience, in her long flowing dress...Maggie can’t believe she’s presenting an Oscar.

And the next second her mood falls again, as she remembers the months of effort and the year of wait just to have her hopes thrown back in her face, for a probable reason that hurts just as much as it did when she was a teenager. She’s a lesbian and that’s not a good look, according to them.

“Here are the nominees for best foreign film,” she says finally.

 

 

 

Maggie returns to her seat during the next commercial break.

She make her way to her row, the skirt of her dress in her hands as she navigates the steps in her heels. When she finally sees Alex, all red hair and red dress, it feels like a breath of fresh air.

She sinks back into her seat, her mood somehow back to where it was when she didn’t hear her name called out that morning. Suddenly, cold fingers touch the back of her hand.

Maggie swivels her head to look as Alex grabs her hand.

She forces a soft smile on her face, thinking that they must be getting back from break, or some other photographer must have their lense on them, but as she looks around...she doesn't notice a single camera. Alex offers her a supportive smile, and Maggie lets out a breath, lets the false joy slip from her face as she allows herself to take this moment of comfort.

It’s real. And she needs it.

They come back from the commercial break.

And between their bodies, hidden by their dresses and out of sight of any cameras, Alex keeps rubbing her thumb over her hand.

 

.

.

.

 

Best-Foreign-Film

 

.

.

.

 

“I’m not feeling well,” she mentions, as the car drives away from the Dolby Theater.

“You okay?” Maggie asks, her hand immediately finding a place on her back, and Alex feels a slight twinge of guilt for lying, coupled with the flutter that always seems to rise in her gut whenever Maggie touches her.

She exhales.

“I just-” she blows out a breath, looking out into the streets of LA. Her apartment is still her own. She could go there. But she doesn’t think she needs the memories. Back to the hotel it is. Its nondescript white hallways and elegant red sheets were exactly the type of wildly different scenario that might help her clear her mind.

(Wildly different now, that she’s spent months living in New York City, without getting drunk every night and renting out rooms to spend the night. If she hadn’t gotten Nightingale …Well, she wouldn’t be here.)

“You just…” Maggie trails off, and Alex meets her eyes. She shrugs.

“I just don’t feel like partying right now,” she tells her. “I’m sorry.”

Maggie nods. “I don’t either, believe me, but….” She shakes her head. She seems to swallow whatever it is that was going to leave her mouth. “You don’t have to apologize -it’s fine. I just thought we’d be walking in together, that’s all. I can call M’gann…”

“Thank you.”

“Sure, Danvers,” Maggie tells her, and then she’s grabbing her cellphone from Winn’s hands. He’s been so conveniently quiet in the front seat, Alex had almost forgotten Maggie’s assistant existed.  

Alex looks out the window as Maggie makes her calls.

It’s not just that she doesn’t feel like attending a celebration.

She doesn’t, she can’t stomach having to fake smiles and pretend to laugh, and for all intents and purposes act the entire night, and it’s not even the prospect of walking around and being asked about their relationship, of having to talk about dating Maggie while the woman in question was right beside her, or of having to lie, in a myriad different ways.

It’s also because of the reason why. She didn’t receive an invitation for the party. Maggie received an invitation, and she’s going as her plus one. And when she pointed that out to J’onn in one of their emails about the show, he’d mentioned maybe she could be Kara’s plus one, if Mon-El had been invited.

And that’s the thing. She doesn’t want to be there because of her sister, or because of her girlfriend -her fake girlfriend, at that. Alex has always wanted to get places because of herself.

She tried as a teenager, attempting to build a name apart from her father’s accomplishments, and she tried like hell in college, thinking that maybe her path was to follow her mom and stay away from the lights. But she failed, both times. And she isn’t entirely sure what she’s trying to do now. It almost feels like cheating, to be backed by